Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan: ‘Amalayer Girl’ turned pastor-mental health advocate overcomes ordeal to help others

Painful experiences can be so traumatic that they can deeply affect us. But, with the help of people who support us, it is with inner strength that we learn to stand up and recover. We feature four individuals who faced such torment, yet emerged even better with the kindness and virtuousness of others.

Marinella Pineda grew up with her grandparents guiding her. She wasn’t able to meet her biological father, and at the same time, she didn’t get to build a close and strong relationship with her mother. During special occasions or school events, only her grandparents would accompany her. Marinella admitted that there really would be times when she envied her classmates for having a complete family.

Although she’s longed for the love of her parents, Marinella was very thankful for the love of her grandparents. That’s why she thought of giving back to them by being a working student. However, her boss at work made sexual advances and harassed her repeatedly. Marinella was traumatized and she chose to keep that to herself for a very long time. Eventually, her biological father contacted her and reached out to her. He was the one who supported her while she was studying at that time until she graduated from college. After finishing school, she immediately found a job. Just when she thought everything was going smoothly, Marinella met an accident. She had minor surgeries and she was confined for more than a month.

It was during that time when Marinella had flashbacks of the trauma that she experienced before. It was one of the most depressing points in her life. But she was very blessed to meet Pastora Paula Salvosa who inspired her to seek help from a psychiatrist regarding her condition. Marinella considers her as a very good friend because she was there to support her when she was at the lowest point of her life. To show her appreciation for Paula, Marinella gave her an essential oil, which she can use whenever she’s stressed or having a bad day. Paula is preacher, pastor, and a mental health advocate.

Who would believe that Paula, Marinella’s evangelist and savior, is actually the viral “Amalayer girl” years back? Paula is an only child but like Marinella, she grew up with her grandparents. Although her parents didn’t have a stable relationship, Paula could say that she was loved very much by her grandparents. Her grandfather was a lawyer and her grandmother was a teacher. And she owed her success in academics to them. However, they passed away too soon, and when Paula lost them, it became one of the most depressing moments in her life. She stayed with her dad but she felt like she needed the presence of her mother. However, she kept on reaching out to her mother but she would always end up being ignored by her.

And that life-changing incident at an LRT station came. That particular clip of her encounter with a ladyguard went viral on social media, eliciting angry reactions from netizens. After Paula’s uncle informed her of the viral video, she checked it and saw all the hate comments, which were all mean, degrading, and hurtful.

Paula’s life turned miserable after seeing the post. She felt like the whole world hated her so much. However, her dad and her friends were there to comfort her and alleviate her pain. Paula wanted to hear from her mother but when she reached out, Paula still didn’t hear a thing from her. One of her professors advised her to seek professional medical help because she had almost failed in class. She was informed that such treatment would cost around 11,000 pesos. Paula contacted her friend Philip Arandia for assistance. Philip then told her that she didn’t need to pay him. Paula and Philip met in a seminar, where their friendship started. Paula shared that he became very instrumental in her healing and in her growth. Paula gave him a blazer which symbolizes how he gives comfort to her and to other people.

Philip comes from a very religious family. He also became active in church especially when he was still in high school. However, he started questioning if God really loves him because of his gender identity and because of what the church tells him about it. But he was assured of God’s love for him when his mother told him that who he is has always been God’s gift. But there came one of the darkest times in Philip’s life. When was enrolled in summer classes, he rode a tricycle to go to his mother’s office one night to get school allowance. But while on the way, the tricycle stopped at a very dark place and he felt there was something injected to him. Later on, he woke up and found himself in a room with two men he didn’t know. One of them called his mom and asked for 100,000 pesos as ransom. Philip begged them to let go of him because they couldn’t afford to give that huge amount of money.

Although he survived that experience, Philip was greatly traumatized by it. He even stopped school for one year after that incident. He would also have panic attacks whenever someone hugs him. He also stopped commuting after that traumatizing experience. Thankfully, Philip’s uncle who was a pastor would always pray for him. That’s also when Philip started having counseling sessions. Eventually, he realized that he could use his experience in helping other people who also were going through pain. Aside from his family, Philip was also thankful for his friends including Elaine Salan who helped him recover from his trauma and gain his strength back. She was always there for him to encourage him to conquer his fear no matter what. Philip gave her a journal which she can use in documenting their adventures together.

Elaine, also a psychologist-in-training just like Philip, is an only child. Her dad was the one who works and her mother is a housewife. Elaine grew up to be a very diligent student. She was always among the top students in her school and went to the University of the Philippines for college where she pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. But during her college years, Elaine experienced traumatizing heartbreaks from her past relationships. Her first boyfriend cheated on her. And what he learned from that relationship was to not ignore the ‘red flags’ in the relationship or the signs that something isn’t right. But Elaine admitted that she didn’t get to imbibe that learning in her next relationship. Her next ex-partner also cheated on her and manipulated her many times in their relationship. The guy even isolated her from her friends and family. Elaine felt like she lost herself in that process, and it really became hard for her to move on. But what she was able to realize was that you really need to process that certain experience so you can work on yourself again and know yourself better.

Elaine’s wisdom gained from all her hurtful experiences guided Philip in eventually overcoming his personal trauma. As Philip learned to conquer his fears, he would pass that on to the dejected and depressed Paula, who would use Philip’s support to recover from the lowest point of her life, and help others as well. This includes Marinella, who with Paula’s help, also emerged victorious over her past setbacks.

Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, hosted by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo, airs every Saturday at 7pm on the Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live, and A2Z.