This year’s commemoration of All Saints’ Day was more sorrowful because our fellow Filipinos who have long depended on their income from working inside the cemetery also experienced job loss, most especially because of the nationwide closure of cemeteries due to the pandemic. In this November 1 episode, host Angel Locsin and the Iba ‘Yan team provided assistance to these affected workers in the Manila South Cemetery.
One of them is Maribel Cagoyong, a caretaker and gravedigger for 19 years in Manila South Cemetery. Maribel was only 10 years young when she left her hometown Samar in order to work in Manila. She worked as a house helper and eventually met her husband. They raised their family in the cemetery because that was where they found their means of livelihood. Maribel admitted that their work as caretaker is hard but they have to do it so they can provide for their children. She only earns 100 pesos per tomb, and since the pandemic started, the situation has been a lot harder for them as they lost their jobs because of the restrictions in going to the cemetery.
Maribel admitted that she has already experienced seeing spirits while working in the cemetery. But what scares her in real life is not being able to provide for their children. Because they’re financially incapable of letting their five children continue online schooling, only two of them are studying now. She admitted that they cannot afford Internet access, much less purchasing gadgets for remote learning.
That is why Iba ‘Yan gave her 2 tablets, a pocket WIFI and school supplies for her children. Maribel also received a kabuhayan showcase for her carinderia. Iba ‘Yan also gave her additional cleaning materials for her work in the cemetery. A mattress was also given to her, plus a Christmas bonus, which amounted to her salary for one year.
Another caretaker in is Jose ‘Joy’ Bandera who has been working for 30 years already in the Manila South Cemetery. He started working as a bottle collector, but he decided to work in the cemetery because he realized he could earn more with that job. He earns just the same as Maribel and he admitted that living a life in the cemetery was hard for them because there was no electricity and water. That’s why Joy and his wife decided to leave the cemetery. They started a sari-sari store business, which eventually became successful. Now, they’re living a more comfortable life in a safer and more comfortable house.
Like Maribel, Joy has also experienced many hair-rising incidents while working in the cemetery, but the most unforgettable one, which still haunts him sometimes, was their encounter with an old woman. He shared that experience happened more than a decade ago. It was about five or six in the afternoon when an old woman approached him and his cousins and asked them to clean a tomb. That old woman gave them a hundred pesos and apples. But later on, they were frightened because she suddenly disappeared. But Joy said that what really scares him in real life is his children experiencing terrible hardship.
To help Joy, Iba ‘Yan gave him a tablet and pocket WIFI for the online schooling of his children, maintenance medicines for his wife, additional goods worth 10,000 pesos for their sari-sari store, and Christmas bonus.
Angel also met a hardworking mother who works as a gravedigger or “sepulturero”, and as a tricycle driver, Aurora Layug. She said that at first, she got worried about living in the cemetery, but eventually she wanted to live in the cemetery more than staying outside because it’s safer. However the burial chambers that she takes care of were lessened from 15 to just 8. The income that she gets from her work in the cemetery isn’t enough to provide for their family that’s why she and her husband decided to work as tricycle drivers.
Aurora wasn’t exempted from encountering frightening experiences inside the cemetery. But her experience was traumatizing as well. When she and her family were still living inside the cemetery, she would hear footsteps of someone walking and would also hear someone opening the gate. People told them that they should leave the place where they were staying because there were spirits who did not want to be disturbed. Those spirits also didn’t want the presence of children in that place. But Aurora didn’t believe them. One morning, when she woke up, she saw her baby child dead already. They even brought the baby to the hospital but his life couldn’t be saved.
Iba ‘Yan helped Aurora and his family by providing her maintenance medicines for her asthma, three tablets and a pocket WIFI for the online schooling of her three children, 10,000 pesos worth of groceries, and Christmas bonus.
Angel also met Raffy Mendez, the administrative officer of Manila South Cemetery, and she told him the good news that Iba ‘Yan would be giving relief packs and cleaning kits to all the caretakers of the cemetery. Iba ‘Yan also gave foot taps and alcohols for the cemetery.
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