Two persevering women’s tale

Nena Cesario of Mila’s Lechon

The difference between them may be extreme, but the one thing they have in common is their perseverance to go on with their lives, though hard it may seem, but always content with what they have.

Nena Cesario, 92, owns the popular Mila’s Lechon which she founded, while Maria Ivy Alano, 52, is an “all around” help at a resto-bar on Scout Borromeo St., both in Quezon City.

Aling Nena,” as she is known to friends and “suki” (loyal customers), grew up selling food on the streets as a young girl in Quezon province.

Just like her, Alano grew up in a poor town — Rapu-Rapu, Albay in Bicol. She came to Manila at age 19 to work as a house helper. She wished for a better life but ended up living in with a 37-year-old lazy, jobless drunkard in an informal settlers’ colony on Scout Tuazon St.

“I scavenged, I worked as a sales girl to survive,” Alano told the Daily Tribune in Filipino during her break at the Dapo Resto Bar.

Their relationship of 30 years bore two daughters now aged 26 and 23. Thanks to the Carmelite Missionary Sisters who have a convent on Scout Tuazon, their elder daughter DollyAnn is now a teacher working with nuns in Bicol.

Facing hardship

“I encountered so much hardship. I was the mother and father to my two children. But my persistence and perseverance and my faith in God are what I clung to,” Alano said.

Cesario, on the other hand, sold corn. From that, she was able to save P700 with which she bought four kilos of pork that she roasted. Thus began her litson business, selling the Filipino favorite in front of the La Loma cockpit. Later, she was able to buy the lot and store she was selling in front of and that houses her original store up to now.

She caught the attention of a Batangueño, Serafin, who was in the trucking business after he tasted her delicious lechon.

“We became partners. He left his business for my lechon and we started the business,” Aling Nena said. She put up Mila’s Lechon in 1968, taking the name of her youngest daughter Milagros.

“Patience, prudence, courage, and faith in God are what gave me strength,” Aling Nena said in the vernacular.

That’s not to say that along the way she did not meet people, some of whom took advantage of her and swindled her.

“I just got up and kept going. I would start again slowly. That’s life,” she said.

Ivy Alano, meanwhile, lost her partner when he died of diabetes complications. But fate blessed her with another man — this time a loving construction worker named Florentino who married her. Today, three years later, the couple have a baby boy they named Kenneth James.

“Being a woman is not a barrier. We just have to fight hard,” Alano said.

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