Many lives have been affected in this lingering pandemic, with many jobs getting wiped out. A countless number of Filipinos are struggling with their everyday lives.
This includes small business owners, especially eateries, whose loyal patrons have been unable to return due to strict quarantine rules. This specifically holds true for those eateries near college campuses and universities that rely on a steady stream of students who frequent them for their snacks and meals.
One such establishment is Heaven’s Touch Cuisine, managed by Ligaya “Nanay Gay” Piadoche, featured in the August 30 episode of Iba ‘Yan. It served as a favorite dining destination of hungry students of the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. Situated along Asturias Street near the university, this small carinderia has been providing sumptuous meals for Thomasian students for more than 14 years already.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and face-to-face classes were prohibited, Heaven’s Touch Cuisine might have lost a number of their regular student customers, thus losing a huge share their daily revenues, but Nanay Gay pushed on with their food business and instead focused on serving frontliners and the needy.
Nanay Gay, who hails from Negros Occidental, moved to Manila together with her sibling when she was 13 years old. She would then work as a domestic helper for her first employers in the city, whom she identified as her “Ate Nene” and “Kuya Rey.” She said the couple was very generous, kind and supportive, even helping her finishing her studies while overseeing her welfare, along with her sibling. By the time Nanay Gay had her own family, the couple also took care of her three children and supported their schooling. She said she would be forever grateful to them as she concentrated on providing for her children’s future.
In 2006, Nanay Gay started to serve as a manager for Heaven's Touch Cuisine. And her earnings from the carinderia helped her in providing college education to her children. Because of her hard work and dedication, and with the help of caring friends, Nanay Gay was able to send all her three children—Reggie, Alvin, and Alexa—to good universities. A loyal customer even raised the amount needed for the Alvin’s tuition payment. Heaven Touch Cuisine’s former owner also helped Nanay Gay in enrolling her youngest Alexa after she used all her savings for her daughter’s hospitalization due to a bout with dengue.
Her children all look up to the incredible and unbelievable sacrifices and love of their mother just to secure their future. Alexa said she’s very proud of her mom because of enduring everything despite what they’ve been through, and she’s even prouder of her now because she still finds ways to help other people in the middle of a pandemic. As Nanay Gay’s frequent patrons were mostly UST students, their graduation pictures are even seen posted on the wall of the carinderia. Nanay Gay shared that she considered them already like her own children. One of them was Dr. Jomar Silvestre who said that they would always come back to Heaven’s Touch because of the great and affordable food, and because Nanay Gay has always been very kind and accommodating to them. Jomar said that she served as his “second nanay” when he was still in school.
Although Nanay Gay decided to close the carinderia becuase of lack of customers, she still wanted to give back to the Thomasian community who has helped her sustain Heaven’s Touch Cuisine for 14 long years. And she and her children did this through food donations for frontliners and affected people in the crisis, including doctors, nurses, police, and the homeless and stranded individuals. Students, customers, and other donors likewise chipped in to support Nanay Gay in her food drive.
Host Angel Locsin also met Anthony Butiong who has also been a huge part of the food drive. He’s been the driver who brings all the food donations to the place of the frontliners. Anthony has also been a long time customer of Nanay Gay and he attested that she really has a huge heart for helping others as he himself received help during the times he needed financial aid. Anthony said it feels great to have been given the chance to help other people.
He’s a single parent to his two sons and he also dreams for his children to finish their studies. Anthony shared that he leaves their house at 7am to work and then he goes back in the afternoon. Jhon Anthony, his eldest, said that he’s very proud of his dad because of the hard work he does just to provide for them. Jhon Carl, his youngest, also said that he will also study hard so that he can be able to give back to his dad. Anthony became emotional when his sons remind him to always take care of himself and when they thank him for assuring their welfare.
Iba ‘Yan team gave more helpful essentials to Nanay Gay’s food drive for the locally stranded individuals at the North Port in Tondo Manila. These included hygiene kits, relief packs, and emergency bags. And to give appreciation for the service and sacrifices that they all give just to help other people, Iba ‘Yan team gave Nanay Gay and his children gloves, masks, hairnets, food containers and utensils, bottled waters, 20 sacks of rice, kitchenware and stoves, and personalized aprons which they can use for their future food drives. Anthony was also given emergency bags and relief packs. Moreover, he received a pocket WIFI and two tablets from Manila Mayor Isko Moreno for his children’s education.
Angel had another surprise for Nanay Gay. She was offered a whole day of relaxation and rest, after working tirelessly for her children and for other people. Nanay Gay was nervous and excited with this different kind of rest day she will spend with Angel herself. Nanay Gay was brought to a clinic for skin care treatments and pampering, an experience she truly treasured. She would then have a precious lunch date with her children. The whole family was given a sofa bed where they can rest after a long tiring workday. Each of Nanay Gay’s children also received gifts from Iba ‘Yan. Alexa received a noise cancelling headphones that she can use for her online job. Alvin was given a brand new pair of shoes, which he can use when going to work. The surprises didn’t end there as they were provided medicine, vitamins, and even a videoke set.
She was beyond thankful to Iba ‘Yan for giving her and her children a very special day they will never forget. Little did she know that there was still another surprise in store for her. Nanay Gay was able to watch sweet and kind messages from former students who frequented Heaven’s Touch Cuisine, and got the chance to talk to them through a video chat. They are now professionals are all happy for Nanay Gay’s achievements and they all wish her longer life and stronger health so she can still be a second mom to many more students.