The Secret to Pinay Caregiver Camille Jesalva’s Bravery: Gratitude and Single Motherhood
This is how Pinay Caregiver and single mom Camille Jesalva’s gratitude towards her employer fuelled her bravery.
“How can I leave her when I promised to stay with her [Nitza] until she goes?” replies Camille Jesalva during a Zoom conference when asked about what made her brave enough to negotiate for her and her employer’s lives.
But the bond between 95-year-old Nitza Hefetz and 31-year-old Pinay caregiver Camille Jesalva runs deeper than that between an employer and employee. It was one built on gratitude; one that came from a single mom and the relief and joy in a chance that allowed her to support her six-year-old son.
“Ayoko pa siyang makitang mamatay pa talaga. Siya ‘yung dahilan nasusuportahan ko ‘yung anak ko bilang single mom,” she adds, referring to Nitza. (“I can’t bear the thought of her passing away. She’s the reason I can provide for my child as a single mother.”)
Vowing to uphold her promise, Camille continued to stay even when the war came knocking on their doorstep.
The Fuel Found in Her Son’s Words
There’s no telling what can happen at gunpoint. That split second fills us with fear that paralyzes us as our life flashes before our eyes. The sudden heartbreak sets in when we realize who we’ll leave behind when we die, leaving our minds in a frozen state of anguish and regret. But there is something stronger than that; it’s knowing how tied our lives are to our children’s lives. Camille Jesalva recalls that it was her son’s words that fuelled her determination to stay alive.
“Ayaw ko pa pong mamatay. Kawawa ‘yung anak ko. Tapos sabi po ng anak ko the other day, ‘Mommy, pag namatay ka, mamamatay ako.’ Kaya po ‘yung bata, feeling ko talaga hindi okay. Sabi ko kayla Mama, ‘Mama, hindi okay ‘yung anak ko… Hindi na ngumingiti katulad ng dati,’” she admits. (“I don’t want to die yet. My poor son. My son even told me the other day, “If you die, I die.” It was then I realized that my son wasn’t feeling okay. I told my mom, “Mama, my son isn’t okay. He’s not smiling like before.”)
Although she lost her savings worth $350, it was a small price to pay for Camille. Ultimately, she got what she wanted: her and Nitza’s lives — ones that she considers their “second life.” It’s also with this life she intends to devote to two people: her son, as both his mom and dad. And to Nitza, whom she promised to stay with until it was her time to go.
No Pain Worse Than Knowing We Can Destroy Our Kids
This is the pain and risk that many OFW parents face every day. Although they bring home more dough by working in foreign countries, it also comes with its equivalent risks. Besides war, not being able to protect their kids from those who may want to hurt them at home, or missing out on some milestones, it’s these heartbreaks that push them to keep going so that they may one day spend a happily ever after together with their children. It’s also those same heartbreaks that prompted Camille Jesalva to make another promise, this time to her son:
“Huwag ka nang mag-alala. Okay na si Mommy. Saka hinding hindi ako mamamatay. Gagawin ko lahat. Ibibigay ko lahat, mabuhay lang tayong dalawa. Hindi ka mamamatay, anak… Kapag namatay ka, ako din mamamatay,” she said. (“Don’t worry. Mommy is okay now. And I will never die for your sake. I will do everything, give everything, just for the two of us to stay alive. You will not die, son… If you die, I die.”)