Real Talk

Jana Berenguer: All for Alonzo

Content creator Jana Berenguer and her son Alonzo, who has cerebral palsy, show how strength comes in all forms.

This story about Jana Berenguer appeared in the Modern Parenting Mother’s Day and Father’s Day May 2024 issue.

“Expect nothing yet always express your best” was mompreneur and TikTok mom Jana Berenguer’s life motto growing up with her parents and five brothers and sisters. This is even more so now as a single mom to her now 3-year-old son Alonzo, also affectionately known as “Zo”, who received the life-changing diagnosis of Extrapyramidal Cerebral Palsy at one year old.

The disease would afflict Alonzo with hypotonia — a condition that prevents his muscles from flexing to let him stand, walk, and even eat on his own. Yet, his prognosis did not depress Jana. Instead, it challenged her — she believes that God gave him to her and knows that Alonzo didn’t choose to be born the way he was. But there were tears, blame, and the questioning of herself at first, she admits.

“That was a personal thing for me. But after all the tests, it showed that I wasn’t at fault naman. So, in front of my family, in front of the doctor — we were all, ‘Game! What can we do to help and make his life better?’”

Single mom struggles

Although it pained her to know that Alonzo wouldn’t develop like normal children, she remembers the fear of figuring how to help him go about basic things like feeding himself, bathing, relieving himself in the bathroom, that propelled her to find more ways to improve her son’s quality of life. “It was more of a ‘so what now?’ situation,” she elaborates.

Nawala na lahat ang expectations. Di ko naisip iyong ‘hala, paano na ‘yan? Paano na ‘to?’ It was more of, ‘Shucks, will he walk or will he not?’ I cut off my expectations so that I could focus more on how to make it work,” she adds.

Making a comfortable life for her son was one thing but affording them was another — an anxiety-inducing challenge that many single moms with special needs children like Jana face. Besides her various hustles, she would request loans from both the bank and her relatives.

“I’ve become a suki na of the bank,” she laughs. “But there were days na kailangan kapalan ko yung mukha ko, especially when asking my relatives like, ‘Can I borrow some money? I sell clothes, adobo flakes, and cookies… Don’t worry, I’ll pay you next week.’ Things like that.”

But Jana does her best to shoulder everything else like the yaya’s salary, the countless therapies and medical procedures, among many other things. “Some of these therapies, though, I have to be very careful. It’s been one of my major struggles to just accept them,” she admits.

“It’s beyond my comfort zone. But what a lot of people don’t know is that cerebral palsy has a limit of acceptance wherein anything beyond that limit is considered a miracle. That’s another thing I’m scared of: hanggang saan nalang si Zo?”

The Amazing Alonzo

Apart from Jana Berenguer reaching her milestones as a mother, Alonzo has begun to reach his, too. One such moment was the day before the interview, during Alonzo’s therapy, Jana recalls. “Without holding anything or anyone, he was trying to stand up on his own. When he sat down again, the therapist encouraged me, “Try again, mommy. Tell him that he’s safe. Tell him you’re there. Reach your hand out so that he knows if ever he falls, you’re gonna catch him.”

“So the moment I told him, “Come to mommy, stand up.” He did!” she beams, fighting back some of her tears of joy. “Nanginginig pa siya and parang gumaganito pa siya,” she says, demonstrating how he was slightly teetering from left to right. But he stood up [on his own]!”

It may be a simple motor skill for many, but it’s one Jana does not take for granted, as she sees Alonzo gaining confidence in his abilities. “There was one time I was working and then he was crawling towards the end of the bed. So, I took a video and asked, “What are you doing?” He shakes his head, telling me, “Nope.” I remind him, “You’re going to fall off the bed.” He shakes his head again but smiles after!”

The many snippets and videos Jana Berenguer posts starring her and her son are not just a celebration of his milestones but also show other parents that children with special needs are, in many ways, like everyone else. “These kids may not walk or talk, but they have a heart; they have a mind—you have to
communicate with them in every way you can.”

Dear Zo, Love, Mom

“Hi Zo, if you’re reading this, I just wanna say, wherever you are right now, I hope you’re happy. No expectations! Hopefully, you learn to read this or talk or walk. I just wanna say that this is our journey and now, it’s yours na. Mommy helped you reach this far. Take care of yourself and make sure you love someone who will take care of you as well as mommy did. I’ll make sure of that naman, haha!

But wherever you are, achieve your dreams. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big. A lot of people helped you; this is not utang na loob but, learn to help. I hope that you’re helping other kids like you, to inspire other kids like you to become as successful as you. Mommy’s got your back all the way. So kahit matanda ka na, dito lang ako. Love you, Zo.”

For our Mother’s Day and Father’s Day issue that launched on May 23, 2024, there was a misprint in the article featuring Jana Berenguer and her son, Alonzo (pages 55). Alonzo is only 3 years old, not 13 years old. We apologize for this error.

To read the full article, grab a copy of Modern Parenting’s special Holiday 2023 Print Edition—available on Download the e-Magazine from Readly or Press Reader for more exclusive features and stories.


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