Creating Herstory: An Icon of Woman Empowerment

FEU Advocate
March 27, 2023 15:12

By Ma. Emilia Nicole Bertulfo and John Vincent Cruz 

The significant month of March holds the historical commemoration of International Women’s Day, acknowledging the arduous and well-earned fight against women's suppression. 

Its annual celebration is a tribute to women’s often dismissed achievements by overcoming dire struggles and breaking glass ceilings in society.  

Like many strong and goal-driven women that have come before, Edna Mallari (Ate Edna) reflects the story of a zealous and dedicated serman (maintenance staff) working at the University. 

Ate Edna’s selfless and sacrificing love for her family as a single mom and her devoted sense of duty and dedication to her honorable work as the breadwinner are testaments that love conquers all hardships—so resolute and unwavering despite the what-ifs and buts in between. 

For her and the many faces of resilient women, the celebration of women's empowerment is not just a matter of one day or a monthly affair in a year, a singular event that comes and goes, but one that is embodied every single day.

A strong and independent mother

Her main inspiration to brave through her almost unbearable predicament is none other than her own flesh and blood—her family. 

A single mother of two, Ate Edna continues to make sacrifices for her children. When asked about the things she had done for her family, she responded with laughter. 

"Ah… Marami. Lahat sa bahay s'yempre babayaran mo, mga pagkain pati para sa school at project [ng anak ko]… lahat yun sa akin po (Ah… A lot. Of course, you will pay for everything at home, food, even for [my daughter's] school and project... that's all mine)," she shared. 

Instead of resting immediately after work, Ate Edna serves as a hero for her 10-year-old daughter, Bena Rose Morales. Aside from doing all of the house chores herself, the serman makes sure that she fulfills her role as a mother by regularly checking on her children.

She owes it all to her parents who taught her the importance of being kind, which eventually would be passed down to her daughter. 

Her eldest son, Ara Clark Mallari, continues to support Ate Edna financially. However, the single mother insisted on helping him back since he already has a family to attend to.

Although she serves both as a mother and father to her children, Ate Edna does not mind as she never sought the help of her estranged husband, whom she had parted ways with five years ago. 

"Wala naman po siya binibigay dahil hindi ko naman po siyang inobligahan na mag-support sa anak kasi kaya ko naman siya kahit pagod na ako sa sarili ko. Hinayaan ko na lang, kung may maibigay siya o wala (He doesn't give me anything because I didn't oblige him to support my son because I can handle him even though I'm tired of myself. I just let it go, whether he can give something or not)," she explained.

Her story is one of many, where women of our generation carry the heavy weight of being single parents. In reality, there are no damsels in distress—only strong females who continue to persevere for their families.

A heart ready to serve

Ate Edna’s love and dedication for her steadfast service radiate from her switching work assignments as an elevator operator and as a cleaning aid at the university. 

This serman’s positive outlook comes from her sheer hard work early in her life, when she had to grapple with life’s challenges. She had to work even at a young age in her province, like planting corn, nuts, monggo, and alike, to make ends meet due to financial constraints.

Her resilience is unlike any other. After losing her mother many years ago and being separated from her husband, she needed to step up and became her family’s sole breadwinner. She has to work all throughout the week, earning P570 a day to provide for her family’s needs. 

Ate Edna’s days are filled with long hours of working in the cramped space of the elevator filled with students and the endless tasks she has to accomplish within the day. Despite these hardships, her energetic demeanor never faltered. 

She also has to dabble in many jobs to provide for her family. While we all celebrate holidays and get stoked for “Walang Pasok” announcements, Ate Edna has to worry about other ways and means to fill in that lost salary.  

Katulad noong nakaraan one week na walang pasok, naglalaba po ako at nagtitinda. Nagtitinda po ako ng mga meryenda tulad ng banana cue, camote cue, biko. Tapos sa almusal, sopas, pancit, at spaghetti. Nagpopost po ako online kung sino may gusto bumili (Like last week with no classes, I had to take on other jobs like laundry or I sell snacks like banana cue, camote cure, biko then for breakfast, sopas, pancit, and spaghetti. I post them online to know who wants to buy),” Ate Edna shared. 

Her pursuit of service for the FEU community and beyond is a true testament to a woman laser-focused on providing for her family through sheer perseverance and dedication. Despite the long hours of work, her determination powered through—a reflection of a strong, empowered woman.

A genuine and kind heart to students

Ate Edna's passion and hard work go beyond doing the bare minimum—she could have just done her job by simply pressing elevator buttons and cleaning comfort rooms. Instead, she puts on a warm smile, greeting every person that walks in and out of the elevator. 

Other sermans may be just as hardworking as her but Ate Edna's comforting energy sets her apart—making her easily identifiable by students and other personnel. 

"Para sa akin, hindi naman siya nakakapagod [maging mabait] kasi mula pa noong bata pa [ako], kailangang igalang kung sino man ang nakakatanda sa iyo, kahit hindi maganda ang gawin sa iyo (For me, it's not tiring for him [to be nice] because since I was young, you have to respect whoever is older than you, even if they're not nice to you),” she said.

Little did she know, her acts of kindness would soon land her to generous people who remember her as a ray of sunshine that never fails to brighten the mood of everyone she crosses paths with. 

Made With Love, a charity group, decided to extend help to the sermans by giving away grocery goods last November 2022. Founder and Institute of Accounts, Business, and Finance (IABF) faculty member Lady Dianne Madrid-Co posted on Facebook how much she respects the hard work of the maintenance team. 

But the good samaritan specifically mentioned Ate Edna in her post, calling the serman "full of energy" and feeling that she "had a friend in her." The two ladies often interacted with each other inside the elevator. 

"Maybe because we are both working moms, I can easily relate to Ate Edna’s story. Those exchanges from two mothers are full of love that at the end of the day, we have to be great moms and women so that our daughters will draw strength and love from," the faculty member shared. 

Surprised and thankful, the 44-year-old does not take these acts of kindness for granted.

"Pati yung anak ko po pag binubuklat 'yung bag ko tapos magtatanong 'mama pasalubong' pero galing 'yun sa prof o estudyante. Kaya nagpapasalamat po ako (Even my son when opening my bag will ask "mama pasalubong" but that comes from a prof or student. So I'm thankful)," she highlighted. 

The love and service of Ate Edna and her co-sermans should be recognized, even in our own small ways. Let us reciprocate this love and acknowledge their efforts, as they are equally the pillars of the Tamaraw community. 

Truly, Ate Edna is the epitome of a woman full of strength and dedication. Her genuine service to the FEU community and unconditional love for her family are traits of a true, empowered woman with capabilities beyond the unthinkable.