A Story of Perseverance, Faith, Hope and Love in the Life of a DAR Retiree

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family“Masaya and no regrets, thanks DAR.” These are the exact words of 61 year old retiree Ate Luz, when asked how she would describe her 37 years of service in government. With her ready smile and vivacious personality, it is hard to imagine that she has faced and experienced inconceivable challenges in life.

A native of Iloilo and the eldest among 11 siblings, Ma. Luzviminda Sodoysodoy-Ringor grew up knowing only adversity. “Minsan kanin at asin lang,” she recalls of their family meal. “Hanggang ngayon di ko alam kung paano ko nairaos araw araw ang baon kong 40 centavos. Hindi ko rin lubos maisip kung paano ko naitawid ang high school gamit ang iisang pares na sapatos,” she says. She also vividly remembers how she and her family would cram in their bamboo hut and share the little that they have.

Ate Luz, at a young age, knew she needed to stay determined and focused. The death of their father when she was only in high school made her value hard work and dedication. “As the eldest, I have to focus on my goals,” she says. This led her to attend school and work at the same time.
With that, she graduated high school and managed to enroll in the University of Iloilo to pursue a Secretarial Course. However, due to financial issues her plan of earning a degree was brought to a halt.

With sheer desire to finish her studies, she left Iloilo in 1975 and went to Manila to seek for a job. During that time, a good natured relative took her in. To reciprocate her relative’s goodness, she volunteered doing household chores for the family. This somehow kept her going.

Through the help of her relative, she started working as a contractual employee in the Center for Operation Land Transfer (COLT) of the National Computer Center (NCC) on September 1975. Her main assignment involved the processing of Certificates of Land Transfer (CLTs).

With the change of administration in 1988, the CLT function of NCC, including its contractual employees, were transferred to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). This brought significant changes in Ate Luz’s life. From holding a senior position in NCC she got a clerical position in DAR. While other people would have ranted and would have felt disheartened about the turn of events, Ate Luz saw this as a blessing and an opportunity for growth. About this time, Ate Luz was already married to Avelino with whom she had three kids - Angelie, Gelly Ann and Jerome. It was also around this time when her relative migrated to the United States and left her as caretaker of their house.

Ate Luz’ experience in NCC proved to be an edge. Because of her knowledge on tenancy issues and skills in processing CLTs, she was assigned as overall coordinator of a team composed of legal officers and senior staffs who were deployed in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to monitor and conduct an inventory of all administrative cases/orders related to cancellation of CLTs routed through the Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance (BALA) of DAR.

As overall coordinator, she had to travel to help and supervise the team. “Kaya siguro ako pinangalanan ng tatay ko na Luzviminda. Nakita nya na babagay ang pangalan na yon sa magiging trabaho ko,” she says with jest.    

Despite not having a Law degree, she accepted all the challenges that came with the job. To hone her knowledge and skills, she allotted daily reading and study of decided cases related to cancellation of CLTs. Her eagerness to learn was a great factor in this chapter of her life. Clienteles even started addressing her as “attorney”. At times, she would represent her office to court summons and hearings involving landowners or tenants.
Her superiors were evidently aware of her potentials because she was given another special assignment to work on the authentication of land titles in ARMM and other areas in Mindanao under an Inter-Agency Committee of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC).

The trust given by her bosses grew even more after these assignments. Demonstrating flexibility in various situations, she attended seminar-conferences and assessment and planning sessions with CARP Implementing Agencies (CIAs) in behalf of her bosses. This spoke volumes of the level of confidence her higher-ups has on her.

When asked how she coped with these responsibilities, “Lakas ng loob, tiwala sa sarli, at trust na ibinigay ng mga superiors ko,” she replies. “My strong foundation in my faith and having a strong relationship with the Lord also helped me a lot,” she adds.

According to Ate Luz, her Christian life was an influence she got from her husband. Having a personal relationship with the Lord, has definitely helped her through difficult times. One of this trying times was the death of her husband in 2001 due to a recurring ailment. “Para akong napilayan,” Ate Luz describes the feeling of losing her other half.

Major adjustments had to be done. Raising three children alone was a daunting task. She knew she needed to be strong for her kids and the only option was to hold on and move forward. By this time, all of her kids were already studying (college, high school and elementary, respectively).
Ate Luz’s determined attitude and her goal to give her children quality education and a comfortable life led her to seek additional sources of income, taking on seamstress jobs (sewing of garments, curtains, bed covers, etc.), make-up artist, insurance agent, and direct seller of everything. “Basta uso, may tinda ako”, she laughs.

Knowing the value of education, Ate Luz made it a point to enrol her kids in esteemed private learning institutions during their primary and tertiary years. According to her, this prompted her membership to the “Xmen” and “Londonaires” club in DAR. “X ang nakalagay sa payslip dahil walang natira. Loan doon-loan dito,” she quips.

She refused to talk about money problems with her children when they were still studying. “Huwag nyong alalahanin ang pang gastos at tuition nyo, it’s my business, not yours. Ang responsibilidad nyo ay mag-aral ng mabuti,” she recalls telling her children.

She gave a hearty laugh to her very unusual sources of earnings aside from being a solid government employee - like her participation in running and dancing competitions. “Sayang, pandagdag din ang Five Thousand Pesos, tatakbo lang naman ako palibot ng Eliptical Road or sasayaw in ten minutes,” she jokes. She is particularly proud of the fact that all of her children finished their university degrees, debt free.

Most people would have abandoned their dreams but Ate Luz was an exception. Through her determination and a scholarship from DAR, she was able to attain a long cherished dream of becoming a Bachelor’s Degree holder. In 1990 she finished her BA in Public Administration.

“Hard work leads to blessing,” Ate Luz said. And blessings came indeed not only for herself but most importantly for her children.
All her three children are Registered Nurses (RNs). Angelie, the eldest daughter, earned a double degree in BS Accountancy and BS Nursing. Currently, she heads the Billing Department at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City. Meanwhile, her second daughter Gelly Ann, a Cum Laude - Bachelor of Nursing graduate, is now working and holding an immigrant visa in Texas, USA. Her youngest Jerome, also a BS Nursing graduate is currently working at St. Lukes Medical Center, Bonifacio Global City. “Tinupad lahat ng mga anak ko ang frustrations ng Papa nila na maging nurse,” she relates with mixed emotions.

Two years after retirement, Ate Luz is enjoying her life to the fullest. Being a retiree does not mean she is sedentary. In fact, it is the opposite. It seems her lifestyle has been more active, more colourful and more adventurous.

She maintains her membership in a fitness center where she participates in daily zumba classes. Since running has been a significant part of her life, she makes sure that she runs daily and participates in running events. She said that her current goal is to be featured as the oldest woman runner.

Aside from zumba classes and running sorties, Ate Luz continues to enjoy marathon dancing events. As if these activities are not enough, Ate Luz is also into mountain trekking. Her next goal? To reach the summit of Mt. Pulag.

Living a retiree life to the fullest, Ate Luz is going the rounds and enjoying the beauty of the Philippines and Asia through her various vacation trips. She is planning for a US and Europe tour in the future.
Now that all of her kids have already finished their studies and doing good in their fields, she knows that it’s time to give back and share. Through her help, a niece already finished her IT degree and is now working. Another niece is now taking Computer Technology with her support. Turning serious, she says “I wish to be a philanthropist, not only to my pamangkins but to anybody deserving. Gusto ko makita sila na nakatapos at may maayos na buhay. Tulad ko, I am not rich but at least I am living comfortably.

Instead of losing hope and feeling sorry for herself, the challenges she had encountered made her more determined. Instead of crumbling in the face of difficulties, she became stronger in character and in faith.

“Poverty is not a hindrance in achieving one’s goals. Always persevere, hope, have faith and sow love.” She adds, “Don’t envy, don’t be bitter. Bless and pray for others. Always be true to yourself.”

“God is good all the time,” she further declares. And why not? Her family has long been living comfortably in a relative’s home within a well-secured subdivision without paying any rentals. Ate Luz is beaming with excitement at the thought that soon, she can call the property as her own. The relative-owner of the property is considering to sell the property to Ate Luz at a bargain price.

While she was already featured in a TV program for a segment on “Coping Midlife Crisis”, her ultimate dream is for her life story to be dramatized in Maalaala Mo Kaya or Magpakailanman.

Well, dreams do come true for those who always persevere, hope, have faith and sow love!