In the evening, 11-year-old Marlon and 9-year-old Melvin Mendoza can be found over walkways in the Q.C. North Triangle, selling sampaguita mini-garlands.
As many passersby have noticed, the brothers usually have their school-books out on the floor while they sell the flowers. They always make time to study for their classes the following morning. Just another day in their daily routine.
After Marlon's Grade 5 classes at a school in Brgy. San Antonio, the two school kids will commute with their mother Rochelle towards the busy Quezon City streets close to two big malls.
Rochelle Asadon, 37, carries a small cooler full of small sampaguita garlands which are typically hung on rearview mirrors and adorned on Catholic icons. The brothers, while still wearing their school uniforms, carry their backpacks.
Rochelle and her boys then divide the flowers among themselves and go on to find their respective places to sell. Rochelle sits on a sidewalk on North Avenue while the brothers position themselves in separate overpasses.
Marlon will take out his textbooks and do his homework while the sampaguitas lay neatly beside him - waiting to be sold. They have to be sold because the money from those garlands are Marlon and Melvin's daily allowance. The brothers get around P50 each from the potential P300 they might earn.
“What’s your favorite subject?” ABS-CBN asks Marlon.
"Math po" he responds “Mag-a-accountant po kasi ako. Sabi kasi ni mama maging ganoon na lang ako"
Rochelle used to be the only person in her family who sold sampaguitas. Two years ago her husband, who used drugs, was imprisoned for drug related crimes. She says her husband was framed and that they visit him every Sunday. Rochelle reveals that she was taught by her sister-in-law how to sell the flowers.Eventually the boys asked if they could help their mother.
"Dati po kasi si Papa naghahanapbuhay sa'min." Marlon recalls "Ngayon wala na si Papa, kami na naghahanapbuhay"
Despite the possible dangers and the illegal nature of their business, Rochelle says she doesn't force her kids to sell the garlands and makes sure they're safe at all times. Sometimes the family is turned away from the area, but they return every night to try their luck then.
“Hindi ko sila pinilit o inobliga. Sinisigurado ko na ligtas sila at ‘di mapapahamak" she says.
The boys are a trending topic online, with many netizens offering their sympathizes and support. After they went viral, the Department of Social Welfare and Development sent their social workers to talk to the family. They offered to shelter the brothers which Rochelle strongly refused. The DSWD said the family is under consideration for Educational Assistance and 4P's programs (government cash conditional transfer for the poor).
“Sobrang halaga sa akin ‘yon para makapagtapos ako" Marlon says in the interview with ABS-CBN, referring to both his studies and the bit of money he makes selling flowers.
What an inspiring tale! What are your thoughts on this?
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