Home at Last: Tatay Jojo shares joy in finally having a place to call home.

Prudencio C.

Homeowner
-
Manila, Philippines

While others had the opportunity to be educated for success, Prudencio Jr., affectionately known as "Tatay Jojo" by his loved ones, did not. Thus, with sheer perseverance and unwavering dedication, he worked toward his goal of improving their living conditions. Tatay Jojo previously lived in rented houses in Metro Manila and Cavite, but he and his partner Amalia recently purchased their own home and lot. He is now 43 years old and enjoying the fruits of his labor with his wife and two children.

Tatay Jojo, a Mindanaoan, was born and raised in Zamboanga. Unlike most kids who were busy with school, his early years were dedicated to tending to his family's farm and taking care of carabaos. Education was considered a luxury his family couldn't afford, leaving him with just the ability to read and write his own name.

In an unexpected turn in his life, at the tender age of 12, Tatay Jojo found himself shouldering the responsibility of caring for his two younger sisters after the untimely passing of their mother. This heartbreaking twist dimmed his hopes for a normal childhood and pushed him to mature beyond his years. He also had to work as a rice mill attendant, earning a small weekly salary to help his family meet their basic needs. Once again, he had to put his aspirations for a proper education on hold.

Years later, Tatay Jojo, now 16 years old, decided to move closer to his town's vibrant marketplace. Here, he worked as a ‘kargador’, or rice porter. Little did he know that, within the hustle and bustle of his daily tasks, he would cross paths with his future wife.

As time passed, Tatay Jojo saw the opportunity to increase his income by working as a driver, delivering copra to more distant destinations. But there lies a reality check for him—he needed to learn to drive and secure a driver’s license but couldn't do so because of his inability to read traffic signs or fill out an application form. Undeterred and motivated, Tatay Jojo looked for someone to assist him in securing a license, including a coaching driver who patiently guided him through understanding road signs.

Tatay Jojo felt ecstatic when he finally obtained his driver’s license. The long delivery journeys and the strenuous task of lifting heavy sacks did not bother him, as he was paid generously by his employer, not only for routine duties but also for earning their trust. To him, the license symbolized more than a mere ID card—it was a ticket that opened doors to realizing his dreams despite the limitations imposed by his lack of formal education.

Fast forward to his married life at 19, Tatay Jojo felt the need to embark on different professions, which included driving a jeepney, working as a store merchandiser, and eventually going back to farming. Despite his best efforts to provide for his family, the need for a larger household budget arose with the impending arrival of their third child. Driven by the desire for a better life for his growing family, Tatay Jojo made tough decisions – sell their farm animals, say goodbye to his family in Zamboanga, and relocate and find work in Manila in 2013. In return, the potential for a fixed salary of up to Php 17,000 per month eclipsed his earnings of Php 10,000 per month as a farmer in Zamboanga.

Yet, the bustling city presented a challenge for Tatay Jojo, who struggled to find work due to a lack of formal education. The strain took its toll on his marriage, which eventually ended. Nonetheless, his dedication to supporting his children back at home was unwavering and he worked tirelessly, never letting his own hardships deter him from giving his children a better life.

But fate had other ideas for Tatay Jojo. He found love again when he met Nanay Amalia, a widow with three daughters. With Nanay Amalia's encouragement, he accepted the opportunity to work as a mason to secure a steady income. Up until today, Tatay Jojo continues to work in the construction field.

As their household income fell below the average for Filipino families, the couple faced significant hurdles. One notable moment was the repeated rejections they encountered from home credit providers as they sought to qualify for a loan for a modest phone priced at Php 11,000. They attempted eight times but ended in disappointment each time. Such setbacks could have easily dampened their spirits, casting doubt on the prospects for any future loans, whether it be for a motorcycle or the ultimate dream - a home of their own. 

Despite the discouragements, Tatay Jojo and his wife remained determined and refused to surrender to their challenges. In a surprising turn of events, their ‘never give up’ attitude worked out when they successfully secured a loan for a motorcycle with the help of a friend. This achievement became a pivotal moment, not just in obtaining a mode of transportation but in changing their idea of what was achievable. 

Tatay Jojo recounts the story of being rejected in their home credit applications eight times, “Walang tumatanggap sa amin na home credit, ma’am. PHP 11,000 na cellphone lang iyon. Ilang mall na ang napuntahan namin, hindi kami tinanggap, lahat reject. Pero bakit na-approve kami sa pagbili ng motor? Bakit kami na-approve sa [pagbili] ng bahay? (No home credit company approves our loan application loan for a Php 11,000 worth of phone. We went to multiple malls but got rejected every time. If that’s the case then why was our loan to buy a motorcycle got approved? Why did we get approved to buy a house and lot?)” 

With the motorcycle paid off, Nanay Amalia began to entertain the idea that their dream of owning a house might not be entirely out of reach. Then came 2021 when the couple decided to actively look for a house and lot property they could afford. Nanay Amalia scoured Facebook for potential opportunities and stumbled upon Agent Josephine from Lhoopa.

Having lived in rental houses since 2014, Tatay Jojo knew that paying for a house every month without eventually owning it felt like ‘throwing money away.’ For him, the idea of buying a house wasn't just about shelter; it was a legacy for his children. Kung palagi tayong magre-renta, habang buhay, hanggang sa tumanda tayo, hindi natin makikita [kung] saan napunta lahat ng pinaghirapan natin. At kung magtanong ‘yung mga anak natin kung saan napunta ‘yung pinaghirapan ng tatay nila, may maipapakita ako. (If we continue to live in rental houses until we are old, we won't be able to see where all of our hard work has gone. And if our children ask where their father's hard-earned money went, I'll have something to show.),” he emphasized.

Similar to Tatay Jojo’s experience in obtaining his driver’s license, the challenges of buying a house were immense, especially for someone with limited literacy skills. Agent Josephine from Lhoopa became a guiding light. Despite their initial hesitations, the agent put them at ease through continuous face-to-face meetings and consistent guidance throughout the process.

However, the struggles with compliance and paperwork were real. Tatay Jojo exhausted his leave credits as he navigated the complex process of home-buying, with his income documents as the major hurdle.

Then the most anticipated day came in 2021 when Tatay Jojo and his wife found their dream home in Tanza, Cavite. On September 9, 2023, the property was thankfully turned over. Upon moving in, Tatay Jojo addressed his children, "Hindi ito para lang sa akin, para sa inyo ‘to. Para maniwala kayo, ise-send ko sa inyo, para na rin makita niyo kung nagustuhan niyo ba o hindi. (This house isn’t just for me, but for you as well. I’ll send photos of it for you to decide if you like it or not.)" The response from his children echoed joy and appreciation.

Now that they have a home of their own, Tatay Jojo is determined to give Nanay Amalia the retirement she deserves. Looking forward to the end of the year, he hopes to start a small business within their new community—an aspiration eagerly shared by Nanay Amalia.

As a man of humble demeanor, Tatay Jojo exemplifies unwavering love, determination, and dedication. Despite being a "no-read, no-write" individual, he learned the values of perseverance and hard work from a young age. Confronted with life's challenges and hindered by a lack of education, he held fast to his belief in diligent work and dedication to turn his dreams into reality. From getting his driver's license and riding on his now fully paid motorcycle to getting a full-time job and, eventually, realizing his dream of living in a home he can proudly call his own with his partner, Nanay Amalia.

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