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  • Writer's pictureArmand

Ari's Safe Space, Lovely's Solace

Thirty-something LOVELY DE LEON is a 2009 Organizational Communications graduate of

De La Salle University. She is also a single mom to a four-year old boy, ASHER ARI, or Ari for

short. In Hebrew, Asher means"blessed" and Ari means "lion." Her blessed lion means the

world to her. Lovely spends most of her waking hours either at work or with Ari. She currently has two jobs. She works for up to four hours at night as an Online Virtual Assistant

for a client based in Seattle, USA. She is also on call as a Production Coordinator (on

engagement with a local firm) for the popular reality television franchise Survivor Europe.

It’s likely that having a second job might seem unusual to Pinoys like me who belong to an

older generation (full disclosure, I am literally at the tail-end of the baby boomer

generation). Not so for younger people like Lovely; the latest data shows that an

overwhelming majority of her generation of Filipino Millennials as well as Gen Zs are part of

the “gig economy.” The results of the Deloitte (Philippines) 2023 Gen Z and Millennial

Survey released last June show that 71% of Filipino millennials (compared to 37% of global

millennials) and 65 % of Filipino Gen Zs (compared to 46% of global Gen Zs) have taken on

either a part- or full-time paying job on top of their primary job. Asked why they decided to

take on a side gig, 66% of millennials and 56 % of Gen Zs, respectively, said they need a

secondary source of income. More than half of the respondents from both generational

cohort (58% for millennials and 59% for Gen Zs) admit to living paycheck to paycheck and

worry they won’t be able to cover their expenses. Some may speculate that it might be more

of a “want” in some cases (e.g., lifestyle choices), but for Lovely in particular, having a

second job in order to augment her income is definitely essential.

Two years ago, Ari (who was then two years old) was diagnosed for Level 2 Autism

Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Without going into details, the financial cost for the management/treatment of Ari's condition is and remains substantial. Related to said cost

are, among others, post-diagnosis interventions, including therapy, education, medications,

and developmental evaluations. The good news, though, is that Ari has made significant

progress. His ASD has gone down to Level 1 as a result of post-diagnostic interventions

such as regular therapy sessions. Persons with autism, especially children like Ari, need

space around them. Many are uncomfortable being in enclosed spaces and can't handle

clutter and crowds. Ari can also be finicky with food, which is actually typical for most kids

his age. He usually prefers Filipino home-cooked style food. Since Ari was diagnosed for

ASD, Lovely has managed to set a routine where they do certain things together on a

regular basis, which has provided a stronger sense of stability for her son. One favorite

activity for Ari is for them to take a leisurely stroll from their home to eat and hang out at

JT's Manukan Grille at Granada St. in Brgy. Valencia, Quezon City. The place has a spacious

layout with an exterior dining section that flows out into an open space. An ideal environment for Ari where he feels very much at ease. Lovely describes the ambiance as

"homey." It is where Ari's mood and appetite are at their best, an outcome made possible by the quality of the food combined with the laid back vibe. A much desired result for the mom. Lovely also finds the food healthier and less oily. She had been advised by her doctor after a gallstone removal procedure five years ago to cut down on oily food. She first checked out the food place, a ten-minute walk from her home, upon the suggestion of a family friend. That was around two years ago. This somewhat speaks to the adage about

finding comfort and solace in the most unlikely or the most ordinary of places. Since that time, JT's Manukan Grille at Granada St. has become a safe space for Ari, an unexpected source of solace for Lovely and a bonding place for mother and son. Lovely is happy knowing that they would always have it as their special place. Being there has a relaxing effect on both, one that Lovely described as..."therapeutic."

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