Marlyn “Nene” Dampog…young mother at 16, successful businesswoman at 53
and proud mother of Notre Damians
By Apolinario Villalobos
There’s more to the smile of Nene who sells any fruit in season along the highway going to barangay San Pablo of Tacurong City. She had been through the harrowing trials as a young mom at 16 and a single mom before she reached 20. Her parents were from Iloilo who migrated to Kapingkong a rice growing barangay of Tacurong.
Looking back her younger days, she told me that to be able to help her parents, she became an itinerant vendor when she was in Grade 3. She sold just anything, such as balut (boiled unhatched duck egg), rice cakes and fruits. She confided that she used to climb the high fence of the National Food Authority (NFA) instead of taking the circuitous footpath that led to the compound’s gate to be able to bring her basket of goodies to the employees quickly. Despite all the hardship, she was able to finish her high school, but fortunately, settled down at the young age of 16.
She doubled her effort as a vendor when she became a single mom. During the early 70s, she did not need much capital as her supplier trusted her with the then, prevailing “alsada system” or consignment. That was how she was able to earn and save more money to expand her “business”. She would also carry on her head sacks of fruits, herself, to save on the porterage. During the time, her three daughters were in high school and as they would transfer from one rented shack to another, one of her daughters tearfully told her that in school, she was taunted that they lived like chicken. She consoled her daughter not to mind her classmates who looked down on her. To save on food, Nene and her daughters subsisted on a “pastil” each (a one-dish meal of rice topped with a spoonful of shredded chicken and wrapped in banana leaf) as breakfast.
As a single hardworking mom, she almost spread herself too thinly…and there were times when she felt like giving up. But, seeing how her daughters diligently pursued their studies despite financial difficulties, she more than doubled her courage and effort. She confided that did not attend a single meeting in school because her time was devoted to earning their daily subsistence. All her daughters graduated from the Notre Dame of Tacurong Girls’ Department, today, Sienna College and it was only during such occasion that she really took time to show herself up in school.
She is consoled today by the thought that she did not buckle down despite various pressure in her life and instead, has been able to have two daughters finish Nursing course, with the third, that of BS Commerce. Still selling fruits at 53, Nene, does not mind as her weariness at the end of the day is vanished by the giggles of her four grandchildren. They have their own big house in barangay San Pablo. She ended our conversation with her parting words, “nobody should be ashamed to work hard in order to survive”.