Marianeth’s teachers and classmates did not heed the “signs”

Daisy Jane Mambulao, Marianeth's classmate, said they were still on second grade at Maa Elementary School when her friend confided to her that she wanted to end her life because "she was tired" of the pain her poor family go through every day.

"I thought Marianeth was only kidding," Mambulao told reporters.

Mambulao said she and her classmates thought that the idea of committing suicide by Marianeth was "all talk,” part of their youthful innocence. She said she did not bother to report it to her teachers.

Unaware, Mambulao and her teachers continued with their daily lives until they heard the grim news.

Last Nov. 2, after enduring their poverty for four more years, Marianeth ended her life. Her limp body was found hanging in their house in Maa by her younger brother, Reynan.

Her death shook the country as it tried to come to terms with the story of Marianeth and whose death drew the attention to the effects of urban poverty where, according to a Social Weather Station (SWS) survery, eight million Filipino families considered themselves as poor in 2006.

Gail Ilagan , a professor of psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University and Mindanews columnist, said the Philippine educational system had failed Marianeth.

Ilagan said Marianeth's teachers could have detected the "signs" had they been properly trained. She said even guidance counselors in private schools are not trained to deal with the emotional problems of their students.

"If the teachers had enough training, they could detect students who experience conditions of schizophrenia or "temporary disorganized thoughts or disillusion," she said.

Ilagan said Marianeth's parents could not be blamed since they were busy trying to feed and raise their three children. There are ten siblings in their family but three got married and live separately. Three of the children died earlier.

Ilagan said her coming of age of puberty and the advent of Christmas season when media bombarded the airwaves with goodies and clothes to buy could have been the final straw for Marianeth.

"We can not just jump into conclusion that poverty caused her to kill herself. It could be just one mitigating factor," she said.

Ilagan said there are studies that indicate a high level of depression among the poor especially in the advent of Christmas season.

She said an indication that Marianeth tried to escape the daily rigours was her admiration to GMA 7's "Wish ko lang" TV program.

"All you need to do is wish and it will come, but what if it does not?" Ilagan said.

She said Marianeth is a wake-up call for the Davao City educational system to take preventive measures to deal with the emotional problems of the students.

In the end, Marianeth was buried in a pauper's funeral. Her white coffin was laid to rest in the tomb of her sister whose remains was set aside to make room for Marianeth.

It was an emotional farewell for her parents, relatives and classmates who have to bear the psychological strain of losing somebody they loved.

"Hinaya, ayoha intawon. Maneth, Maneth, anak ko!, (Slowly, carefully, Maneth, my daughter) " her mother,Magdalena, bade farewell to her daughter. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)