Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan: Meet social workers who extend kindness despite challenges

It’s one thing to help immediate family, close relatives and friends and others we may truly love, but it’s another thing to help people that are not in any way related to us. In the February 20 episode of Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, we feature individuals who have provided genuine service to people despite all the challenges and struggles they bravely faced in life, which is one of the greatest fulfillments one can have.

Ader Lepara currently works as a peer educator in a non-government organization. But before attaining success, he had to experience how terribly difficult life can be. He was only three years old when his father died because of an ambush. His mother didn’t know how she could provide for him and his sibling during that time. Ader’s mom eventually found another partner and because of this, he had to live with his grandmother.

He would always feel that there was always something lacking during that time. He started to act rebellious, an attitude that worsened when he went back to his mother and his stepfather, who always physically abused him. Ader went in and out of the jail even when he was as young as a teenager. He almost got sentenced for 15 to 20 years of imprisonment when he hit his victims, who eventually became paralyzed. Fortunately, Rufie Espanto, a registered social worker, saved Ader from his evil ways.

Ader would then become interested in the activities of Rufie’s organization and because of this he later joined the group. Little did he know that his principles and outlook in life would change with that decision. According to Ader, he didn’t believe that he could do what other social workers could do but Rufie told him that he had the capability to do so. Through the help of Rufie and everyone around him, Ader was able to lead other people, other children, who greatly needed his help. Since then, he has been working as a social worker and community organizer who teaches and guides children on the streets. To show his gratitude and appreciation for Rufie’s guidance, Ader gave him a hoodie, which according to Ader, he can use when in helping and serving others.

Rufie comes from a family who always had love at its core. He said that they may not have a luxurious way of living, but his family especially his mother has always taught him how to be compassionate to other people. His mother was a leader of their community and he witnessed all the humanitarian and outreach activities his mother did. This motivated him to do the same things and even went further. He became a social activist who bravely voiced out all the inequalities present in the country at that time. He was present during the bloody Mendiola Massacre in 1987 that killed farmers and protesters. Rufie was very fortunate to be saved from the brutality of the policemen during that time because he was able to escape from their clutches. Concerned with his ominous situation, his parents decided to take him to the province where Rufie worked as a parish worker. There he met Jo, the girl he eventually fell in love with.  Jo was his inspiration to serve other people and the reason why he became more motivated in being a social worker.  

Rufie and Jo eventually tied the knot and raised a beautiful family. But just when he thought that he was already starting to create a new chapter with his family, Rufie faced the most challenging phase in his life. He was first diagnosed with psoriasis which later on worsened and became psoriatic arthritis. His lower body got paralyzed. Because of that, many changes came to his life. Other people started judging him while he became jealous and insecure because of his condition. His wife had to work abroad to provide for their family. And that’s when Rufie thought that he needed to do something. He decided to go back to his first love, social work. He met Adelina San Miguel who believed in him despite his condition and assisted him in his return, which made him continue his mission in serving other people.

Nanay Lina is a social worker for street elders and street children. She was a very obedient, reliable, and responsible daughter to her parents, who despite being  very religious, didn’t allow her to follow her perceived calling, which was to be a nun. Her parents gave her two choices - to get married or to go abroad. Nanay Lina didn’t want to get married that’s why she chose to work in another country—in Washington, DC, USA.  But she didn’t expect that she would still find a partner, who she later married. But this marriage became a nightmare—Nanay Lina’s husband physically maltreated her. 

When she was on her way to a work emergency, Nanay Lina figured in a head-on collision that made her disabled for 18 months. During that time when she was incapacitated, her now ex-husband sexually abused her repeatedly. While this was the lowest phase in her life, it became her turning point. She would stand against her husband, seek the assistance of authorities against him, and leave him. Her children stayed with her and she responsibly raised and provided for them, until they led their own lives. 

Nanay Lina would then return to the Philippines to fulfill her goal of helping others through social work. She founded the Tahanang Balik-Alay which became home for the street elders and street children. During the pandemic, it became hard for the organization to provide for them but they were very blessed to receive help from Chesca Persia, founder of Zero Hunger PH. She volunteered to help the organization in taking care of the elders and the children during the pandemic. Nanay Lina gave her a certificate of recognition, which gives huge appreciation to the generosity that she has given to the children and to the elders.

Chesca Persia is currently a communication student at the University of the Philippines and a Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officer in their community. Both Chesca’s parents worked hard so they could provide for their family. Because both of her parents were working, Chesca and her sister were often left in the care of their neighbors, with whom she would witness genuine generosity. That’s where she was inspired to pass on this bigheartedness to other people in her community. In 2018, Chesca decided to run for the SK. Her team worked so hard during the election campaign and all the efforts paid off when she won the SK race. Her aim was to bring change to the SK. She wanted to show what real service to other people means. Chesca is currently the Committee Chairperson of the Gender and Development Committee. In March 2020, she launched Zero Hunger PH, a national youth-led movement which aimed to provide food assistance to those who lost their jobs during the pandemic. 

But while she helped other people, Chesca’s health was also put into risk. One of her co-councilors tested positive for COVID-19 and that brought so much anxiety to Chesca and her family. She thought that if she also tested positive, she could have also affected all the people that she was able to help. But when COVID-19 tests yielded negative results, she was very thankful. For Chesca, our purpose in life isn’t only to fulfill our dreams but also to give help to other people.

Chesca’s zeal in helping others led to extend her kindness to Nanay Lina, who would inspire Rufie to return to social work and in turn aid others in need. This includes Ader, who would to renew his life and also help the needy in their own journey to reform their lives.

Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, hosted by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo, airs Saturdays at 7pm on the Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live and A2Z Channel 11.