Jona Marie Visitacion looks like a typical college student who works hard to earn a degree, but the truth is, this 24-year-old Atimonanin had to overcome so many struggles to be where she is today.

She always dreamed of becoming a teacher but at 17 years old, she was forced to take a bigger, more important role when her mother left her and her three siblings with her grandparents.

It proved to be a challenging time for the family because her grandfather, who works as a fisherman, was not earning enough money to raise them. As the eldest, Jona had to step in and help.

She looked for jobs in her hometown, but the limited opportunities forced her to seek greener pastures away from home. She took in different jobs – first as a food attendant at a burger stand, then as a caregiver. Later, she had the chance to be a therapist on a massage parlor.

Through her hard work, she was able to give the basic needs of her siblings and send them to school.

But at 22, she hit another bump in the road. She got pregnant out of wedlock and was eventually abandoned by the father of her child. This compelled her to go back to Atimonan and reunite with her family.  Even when she went back to her hometown, giving up did not cross Jona’s mind. After all, she now has a kid of her own to raise.

When she heard about the opportunity to become a professional massage therapist, she knew she couldn’t let the chance pass. Armed with her experience and with big dreams for the child she was carrying in her womb, Jona joined 19 other Atimonanins who underwent an intensive training conducted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in July 2018 and got certified as a professional massage therapist.

 

Jona Marie Visitacion, one of the therapists of Heavenly Touch Therapeutic massage, while providing a home-based massage service to one of her clients before going to school.

 

The training is under of A1E’s livelihood and enterprise development program focuses on capacity building and job creation for the Atimonanins.

As part of the first batch of professionally trained massage therapists in Atimonan, Jona is also a pioneering member of Heavenly Touch Therapeutic Massage Association.

As a freelance massage therapist, she now has a main source of income close to home that helps her meet the basic needs of her family.

She has since given birth to a baby girl and her younger sister now helps her in financing her other siblings’ studies.

Even with a good job and a kid of her own, Jona never stopped dreaming. She used a portion of her earnings to pursue yet another goal.

Jona enrolled at Leon Guinto Memorial College, where she is taking up a degree on Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education.