Some love stories begin with how a man meets a woman. This story, however, starts with a woman’s heartaches, pains, and frustrations.
“[This] is not about the amount of love I received, but the love that I can give,” says Joy Guban, a 24-year-old church worker in the Diocese of Virac in the northern Philippines.
At a very young age, Joy assumed parental responsibility for her four younger siblings after her father died in 2019.
Joy still remembers sitting in the hospital for hours, not wanting to go home because “I didn’t know how to tell my siblings that our father died.”
Joy witnessed how her father earlier agonized over a failed marriage, which, the young woman said, made her father a workaholic and an alcoholic.
“He worked so hard during the day and he drank too much at night,” she recalls. “Maybe he wanted to forget the pain to the extent of forgetting everything else.”
Her mother left the island province of Catanduanes to work as a household help in Manila, supposedly to augment the family’s income.
“It was the start of our lives falling into pieces,” recalls Joy.
Her father, a farmer, tended to his small piece of land and tried to provide for his five small children.
Her mother never came back. After nearly two years, Joy received the news that her mother gave birth to a baby girl and was living with another man.
Joy was left to raise her siblings.
She worked in her local parish church to provide for them, including her twin sister — a single parent with a three-year-old daughter — and send them to school.
At the height of the pandemic, Joy even violated quarantine protocols to rescue the 11-month-old daughter of another sister, who, at 21 years of age, could not provide for her child.
“I can’t stand seeing the child cry because of hunger,” says Joy, adding that her sister was not ready to become a mother.
“[But] the child cannot suffer just because her mother is not capable and not willing to take care of her,” Joy adds.
Many times Joy asked God why she had to face all the hardships and heartaches.
“I asked Him, why me? But He didn’t answer, at least I didn’t hear His voice,” she says.
One day, she assured herself that maybe God had already answered her questions in ways and instances that she did not recognize.
“He gave me a job that requires a lot of love and patience,” she says.
“God wanted me to become strong and to understand the meaning of love and compassion,” says the young church worker.
Joy started work with the social action arm of the Diocese of Virac as coordinator of the Youth Servant Leadership and Education Program.
She later joined Caritas Virac in October 2018, a year after getting her Bachelor of Science degree, to take care of at least 50 scholars of the diocese.
Joy says she finds hope in the eyes of the students who try their best to get an education despite the poverty.
For the scholars, Joy is an elder sister.
“She communicates with them in a very personal manner and guides them whenever they face personal problems,” says Father Renato dela Rosa, director of Caritas Virac.
In November, Joy mobilized the students as first responders and volunteers after a series of strong typhoons hit the province.
She says she wanted the students to realize that they have the responsibility “to give back every blessing they receive to the community.”
“When we receive something, it is our role to share it with everyone else,” she says. “It is our obligation to give it back or pay it forward.”
Joy’s life story has become an inspiration for students who see in the young lady “a witness of true and unconditional love.”
When asked what motivates her work, Joy says “Problems and sufferings will come but I know I can overcome because I know what love means.”