Jescelle was born into extreme poverty in Albay, an agricultural region of the Philippines. As one of fourteen children, her loving parents struggled to earn enough money to put food on their plates. At a very young age Jescelle had to step up and contribute towards the household:
“I was about eight years old when I started to help my father with his work in farms such as ploughing the soil and growing root crops and other fruit-bearing plants. It was not so easy. Due to scarcity in food and money, I had to deal with laborious farm work under the baking heat of the sun to help sustain our daily needs. This was further intensified whenever a calamity, particularly a typhoon, struck our province which is often prone to this kind of natural disaster.”
She knew she was too young to be undertaking such hard labour, but it was the only way that Jescelle and her siblings could attend school and have enough to get by. But often there was no food at all, not even a cup of rice or scraps of vegetables. Her family had to resort to borrowing money from relatives or asking them for a small quantity of rice.
Her father, desperate to support his large family, would go out each day to find whatever menial work he could. Left to fend for themselves, Jescelle and her younger siblings would harvest anything edible from their small farm and go from one door to another selling bundles of leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and corn.
Amidst this bleak existence, a tragic event was to beset her youngest brother. The toddler accidentally drank a flammable chemical. As their home was several miles away from the city, they struggled taking him to the hospital but relatives came to their rescue and rushed him to hospital. Her brother eventually recovered but the family were thrown into more debt with hospital bills and medication to pay for.
In 2015, a teacher and former Sisters of Mary graduate in her primary school organised for Jescelle to sit the entrance exam for the school in Biga. She passed and started her education journey the following year.
“At the school I came to realise that I was not the only person who had experienced difficulties in life but there were thousands of young people who had struggled just like me. However, I believe that as students we leave as very different people from the ones that first entered the school. Now we are educated for future careers, we are dignified to become good citizens of our country and have the skills to be good leaders for the future generation.”
Jescelle is now taking her first steps of a new life.
“I know that this school had equipped me well to enter my dream career which is to join the military. I want to extend my service to the whole country. I will no longer be like that fat little duck of my past who is unable to soar up high because through the Sisters of Mary, I was able to have a clear picture of what I wanted to become and what I want to do for the future. I am able to spread my wings and soar like the eagle”