Mayette Castueras: Epitomizing a mother’s devotion to her children

by Monica Mirjana Cruz

These days, Mommy Mayette frequents the Physical Sciences Building (PhySci) of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). Wearing denim jeans, t-shirt, and a backpack, she may even be mistaken as a student. But Mommy Mayette is in UPLB not to earn another degree, but to help his son Carl Adrian earn his BS Computer Science degree and live his dream.

Photo by MMCruz

Since 2011, Mommy Mayette has accompanied Carl Adrian in his classes. As students scurry for their next class, Mommy Mayette pushes his son’s wheelchair out of the crowd and on to his next class. In between classes, she spends most of her time in building corridors outside her son’s classrooms. She passes time by catching up on her reading and making calls to her family to keep in touch. When she is allowed to sit in classes, she encounters familiar concepts and is able to answer some of Carl Adrian’s  questions about his lessons.

Carl Adrian has been diagnosed with duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a rare disease occurring primarily in males and is characterized by rapid and progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles.

Carl Adrian dreams of becoming a computer scientist someday. His family is committed in helping him pursue his dreams. Their day starts at around 5 AM in their Brgy. Batong Malake apartment to prepare for his 7 a.m. class. Mommy Mayette and Carl Adrian spend the weekdays in Los Baños and the weekends in Batangas City. Mommy Mayette is a mother of three. She is blessed with a daughter and two sons. A former market research analyst in a big corporation, she stopped working and has since dedicated her time nurturing her family.

Carl Adrian was seven years old when Mommy Mayette noticed that he was often tiptoeing and wobbling. At first, the family thought that his condition only needed corrective shoes.  But a doctor told them that Carl Adrian has DMD.

It was a family decision to help Carl Adrian live a normnal life despite his condition. The family knew that it would be far from easy. When Carl Adrian was in grade school, Mommy Mayette accompanied him to school and fetched him at the end of the school day. It was only when Carl Adrian reached sixth grade that he needed to use a wheelchair. It was also the time when she already hired someone to assist her son in school.

Mommy Mayette admitted that it was difficult for her to accept that there is no cure for her son’s condition. She is worried about the difficulties that Carl Adrian would encounter in the future. “I just had to keep in mind that he needs assistance [and] that I should always be there for him to not lose hope or drive,” Mommy Mayette said.

Although there are times when worries seem to overcome her, she just remembers Carl Adrian’s determination to reach his dreams. For Mommy Mayette, this is enough for her to face another day. Mommy Mayette said it was Carl Adrian’s decision to study in UPLB where his older sister is also studying to become an electrical engineer.

Mommy Mayette also sees her son’s determination to become a professional. There are also times, however, when he is panic-sticken with the requirements that he has to complete, especially during “hellweek”.  Being a UP alumna, Mommy Mayette is familiar with the demands of a UP education. She said that  it is during these times that she should be there for him. She explained that their relationship is give and take– her son draws courage from her but she also draws courage, inspiration, and drive from her son and her whole family. “Very caring, responsible, and willing to sacrifice for us,” this is how Carl Adrian describes Mommy Mayette.

Although the buildings in UPLB are not suited for people with physical disabilities, Mommy Mayette shared that the faculty members and staff make up for this. She said that there were instances when they were able to negotiate for the transfer of a class in a room located in the first floor. She added that faculty members have been understanding and considerate.

For group meetings, Mommy Mayette would volunteer their apartment to be the meeting place if they could accommodate the group. She added that she makes it a point that there is someone to assist Carl Adrian when he goes to activities like film showing at the D.L. Umali Auditorium as there was an incident when he almost fell.

The family’s dedication has paid off. Carl Adrian has consistently been in the list of honor students in the University. In the first semester of academic year 2013-2014, he garnered the ninth highest general weighted average (GWA) among BS Computer Science students. For his internship this summer, Carl Adrian was accepted in a company based in Taguig City.

Mommy Mayette shared what has kept her going through the years: “…He [God] will not give me something that I cannot handle; support and understanding extended by family and friends; and the great courage that my son has.”

Inspiring other mothers,  Mommy Mayette said that, “Lahat naman tayo may pinagdadaanan at kanya-kanya din tayo ng faith. Kung nakikita mo na yung sinusuportahan mo positive naman siya, so dapat positive ka din para mag-tuloy tuloy din siya (All of us face challenges and rely on our faith. If we see that the person we are supporting remains positive, we should also remain positive so they would go on).”

Just like other mothers, Mommy Mayette would like to see his son reach his goals in life. No matter how difficult the future might be, Mommy Mayette will always be a constant source of inspiration for Carl Adrian and her family.

BFPO launches programs on fire safety in observance of nat’l fire prevention month

by Monica Mirjana S. Cruz

“Isulong ang kaunlaran, sunog ay pwedeng iwasan, kaalaman at pag-iingat ang kailangan.” This is the theme for this year’s National Fire Prevention Month.

According to Chief Inspector Eric G. Tioco, fire marshal of the Los Baños Bureau of Fire Protection Office (BFPO), reported fire cases in the municipality increased from 24 in 2012 to 30 in 2013. As of March this year, there have been six reported cases of fire-related incidents in Los Baños.

Based on the BFPO reports, the most common cause of fire in Los Baños, especially in 2013 was grass fire. Other cases were structural fires, which were mainly traced back to children playing with matches, unmonitored cooking, faulty wiring, and arson. Fire Marshall Tioco, however, emphasized that cases of arson are rare.

BFPO assured the Los Baños residents that their office will be providing intensified service in their programs and campaigns for the fire prevention month celebration.

Tioco explained that there are four main programs under this month’s celebration, namely: interschool fire safety awareness and education for elementary and high school students, house-to-house fire safety inspection, ugnayan sa barangay, and fire drill in all government and private buildings.

These programs aim to increase the awareness of Los Baños residents and educate them about fire safety in order to avoid fire cases and casualties.

BFPO coordinates with various schools in Los Baños to schedule seminars on fire safety and field trips to the Los Baños fire station where students meet with fire fighters and get oriented on the parts and functions of fire trucks.

Fire Marshal Tioco explained that BFPO conducts house and office visits not only to disseminate information on fire safety but also to check for fire hazards in the households. The fire inspector examines if houses/offices have appropriate firefighting equipment such as fire extinguisher and a fire exit. The inspector also inspects the buildings’ electrical wirings.

In the event of fire code violations, building/office owner is given a week to comply with the requirements. Tioco explained that building inspections in different barangays are conducted all year round to ensure that these structures are safe for occupancy.

Under the Ugnayan sa Barangay, BFPO coordinates with the barangays to conduct seminars about fire safety. According to Tioco, BFPO distributes information, education, and communication (IEC) materials from the national office to the seminar participants from the barangays.

BFPO also conducts fire drills in different Los Baños institutions, both in the government and private sector. Fire fighters provide live demonstrations on what to do in case of fire in their workplace. The evacuation plan is also being presented and/or reviewed among building occupants to prepare them  in case of fire and other emergency situations.

Tioco emphasized the importance of parents allotting time to discuss the fire escape plan in their respective residences with the family members to avoid and/or minimize injuries and damages during emergency situations.

Fire Marshal Tioco advises Los Baños residents to familiarize themselves with the BFPO hotline (049) 536-7965.

DILG holds training seminar on legislation for brgy. council members

By Jeyneth Ann R. Mariano

The Los Baños Barangay Newly Elected Officers (BNEO) Training Seminar was held on February 24-26 at the Emiramona Garden Hotel in Tagaytay City. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Liga ng mga Barangay – Los Baños Chapter spearheaded the activity.

The DILG training seminar gathered the council members of the 14 barangays of Los Baños to update their knowledge on legislation and management. Through such activities, DILG aims to assist BNEO in performing their duties to their respective barangays.

The training seminar was was attended by 129 participants composed of the 14 barangay captains of Los Baños together with their respective council members including the barangay secretaries and treasurers. DILG Operations Officer from the different municipalities of Laguna gave the lecture about local legislation, budget allocation, conduct of meetings, and organization management.

According to Association of Barangay Chairman President and Brgy. Batong Malake Chairperson Janos Lapiz, the seminar is conducted every three years which is every after local elections to help the newly elected officials in their current term.


A year ago, Jona Anies would sleep an entire day away, then drink from dusk til dawn.

It didn’t matter if she was alone or with friends. If she was drinking hard liquor or beer. Only one thing mattered — alcohol in her system.

The 19-year-old former college student said she needed to drink. She had to.

She was not addicted though.

She had no choice.

She wanted to stop. In fact, she tried quitting. But instead of getting rid of the problem, she experienced withdrawal symptoms: cold perspiration, asphyxiation, and violent shaking, to name a few.

Jona learned to drink in high school. She met friends who would often invite her to skip class and drink instead. “Just this once,” she remembers her friends saying. And she would reluctantly agree.

Drinking “just this once” became a habit. She realized this only when her grades started slipping.

So she decided to avoid her friends and quit drinking altogether. Her friends, annoyed by her decision, started to bully her. It was a difficult phase in her teenage years, yet she triumphed over peer pressure, and managed to graduate from high school with honors.

Her friends, however, were not as lucky. They were expelled from school due to misdemeanor in their graduating year.

Jona would often wonder then how the brush with alcoholism made her strong.

That was then.

Unfortunately, her serious drinking ordeal began in college. Her freshman and sophomore years went by like a breeze. She liked her courses. The people she met were unlike her friends from back home, but she felt a sense of belonging with them.

She was focused on academics and looked forward to a career in medicine.

In her junio year, her parents underwent a difficult time in their marriage. The situation got out of hand.

Unlike her previous drinking episode, this time she thought she was helpless. There was nothing she could do to fix the mess. Her parents’ marital problems affected her deeply. She lost focus and her academic performance began to deteriorate. She was back in her drinking habit.

To her, alcohol was an emotional outlet. It numbed her feelings and dulled her senses.

“Beer kept me from feeling the full blow of my depression. When I drink, I momentarily forget and I get blissfully unaware of the turmoil my life has become,” she said. She reached the point of liquor-dependency. She said she could not function without alcohol. It gave her a false sense of self-esteem.

She kept her problem from her family and seldom went home. She was clearly bothered but her parents couldn’t understand why. To her close friends, it was clear enough, and so they decided to intervene. They told her family the extent of her drinking problem; her family decided to act.

After a lot of arguments, self-blaming, unsaid apologies and realizations, Jona agreed to get inside a private rehabilitation center. She has been staying there for the past three months, and is now on the way to full recovery.

Asked if she has any regrets in life, her answer was simple: “A lot, actually. I let my anger cloud my judgment and get the better of me. The only thing I could do now is to put it behind me, move on, and learn from the experience.”

Her advice to people undergoing the same rough patch she went through? “It can happen to the best of us. The first step is to recognize you have a problem. Tell the people whom you trust most and ask help. Understand that they might do some things out of genuine concern that you might not like. Do not feel guilty. Some things are just out of our control.” (Ana Catalina S. Paje)

PESO nagsagawa ng job fair sa Brgy. Maahas

Ni Noli A. Magsambol III at Christine Mae B. Santos

Dinagsa ng 209 residente ng Los Baños ang Public Employment Service Office (PESO) Job Fair na inorganisa ng konseho ng Brgy. Maahas sa pakikipagtulungan ng probinsyal na pamahalaan ng Laguna noong ika-27 ng Pebrero sa Brgy. Maahas Covered Court.

Nasa 69 na aplikante ang agad na natanggap noong ika-27 ng Pebrero sa job fair na ginanap sa covered court ng Brgy. Maahas.

Ang nasabing job fair ay nagsimula ng alas otso ng umaga  hanggang alas dose ng tanghali. Ayon kay Kapitan Ferdinand Vargas ng Brgy. Maahas, ang nasabing job fair ay una na niyang hiniling kay Governor ER Ejercito para mabigyan ng trabaho ang mga kabarangay. “Noong una talaga ay exclusive ito para dito sa mga taga Maahas ngunit noong nakapulong ko ang Laguna PESO ay minungkahi na ni Gobernor ER na gawing Los Baños-wide ito dahil na rin sa maraming kompanya ang nakipag ugnayan sa kanilang tanggapan,” ani Kapitan Vargas.

Dalawampu’t anim (26) na kumpanya at ahensiya ang nagbigay ng oportunidad sa mga taga-Los Baños na magkaroon ng trabaho. Ang ilan sa mga ito ay ang Coca Cola Bottlers, Philippines; CDO Food Sphere, Inc.; Goodwill; Global Expertise; SPI Corporation; East and West; Max’s Monte Vista; at Powerlane Resources, Inc.

Ang mga posisyon ng driver, sales agent, at factory worker ang kalimitang hinahanap ng mga kumpanya. Mayroon ding mga ahensiya na nangailangan ng mga manggagawa para sa mga kumpanya sa ibang bansa.

Ayon kay Mary Jane Corcuera ng PESO, ang nasabing job fair ay isa sa mga inisyatibo ng pamahalaang lalawigan upang mabigyan ng trabaho ang mga tao at maabot ang zero unemployment rate.

Si Jeff Escobin, residente ng Brgy. Mayondon at fresh graduate ng BS Education, ay isa sa mga nag-apply ng trabaho. Aniya, maaaring makatulong ang job fair sa kanya habang inaantay niya ang kaniyang pagdedemo sa pampublikong paaralan. “Target ko ‘yung pagiging sales agent kasi sa June pa naman ‘yung inaantay kong trabaho,” dagdag pa niya.

Para kay Girlie Pamulaklakin mula Brgy. Maahas na kumukuha ng kursong BS Tourism, ang job fair ay malaking oportunidad ang job fair para magkaroon muli ng hanapbuhay. “Kakatapos lang kasi ng kontrata ko sa inalisan kong trabaho at kailangan kong makakuhang muli para masustentuhan ko ang aking anak,” ani ni Girlie.

Ayon kay Kapitan Vargas, ang pagkakaroon ng trabaho ng kanyang mga residente ay makatutulong upang magkaroon ng sariling pagkakakitaan ang mga tao. Maaari na rin na maiwasan ang mga krimen tulad ng nakawan. “Mababawasan na rin ang mga taong umaasa sa tulong ng pinansyal ng barangay at para na rin magkaroon sila ng sariling sikap,” dagdag pa niya.

Para sa iba pang detalye ng PESO Job Fair, maaaring makipag-ugnayan sa kanilang opisina sa numerong (049) 501-4177.

Discrimination against LGBTQs

“I grew up in a small, close-knit town where everybody is a familiar face. The townsfolk practically knew each other. Gossiping was not uncommon, it was inevitable,” Gerozel said.

It did not come as a surprise when people began talking about her and her family behind their backs. It was a big deal in a small town like hers when she openly declared her sexual orientation in their local high school.

Gerozel Cabangon is a lesbian, or, as she refers to herself, a female woman-lover.

She has been so in the past 12 years.

The 28-year-old call center agent has been in same-sex relationships in the last couple of years. “Nobody forced it upon me. It was my choice and I am happy I made it.”

However, one thing she is not happy about is how society and her immediate community perceives her homosexual relationships.

Countless companies have refused to hire her upon finding out her gender preference. “Simply immoral. It’s against company protocol, the employer would say. I don’t know about them, but I am quite sure that my preference has no direct implication on my competence as an employee,” she said.

Even in her current workplace, she still gets degrading stares from her co-workers when her girlfriend visits her at the office. “Take it somewhere else. Nobody wants that here. You’re disgracing all of us,” she recalls one elderly officemate saying.

Often, in public spaces and vehicles, she gets snide remarks from random strangers for holding hands with her girlfriend. She feels less of a person by the way they treat her, although she she is never ashamed of her relationship. “I love my girlfriend. And there is not enough hatred in the world to make me unlove her.”

However, Gerozel says she is most affected when discrimination comes from loved ones. “They’re usually the people we turn to for comfort; they know us personally. So it hurts all the more when they are the ones to judge us.”

She thinks her parents felt they lost a daughter when she came out of her lesbian closet. “In their eyes, I am still the little girl I was decades ago. But I have grown up. I’m still their daughter, and Iove them very much. I want them to be proud of me.”

Gerozel has never felt any anger against the people who treat her differently because of her gender preference. She knows they are not to blame. She believes that society has instilled in us a hatred for things we cannot comprehend.

She hopes that someday soon, all people will understand that stereotypes and labels do not categorize people; they alienate.

“Yes, I am a lesbian. But I am a person, too,: Gerozel said. (Ana Catalina S. Paje)