With the chain of consequences brought about by the coronavirus pandemic for the past three months, families were served with an eye-opener. For the privileged, the lockdown was a wake-up call to appreciate the blessings they unknowingly ignored for long. But for the homeless, the beggars who live through a hand-to-mouth existence, the crisis was nothing but a glaring reminder of poverty’s ruthless nature.
Taking shelter from a small kariton along the streets of Santolan in Metro Manila, Helen and husband Salito and their two little kids survive their daily sustenance by selling sari-sari items to drivers and commuters. At night, Salito would pick garbage for additional earnings. The quarantine policies sparked bigger struggles for them. With their minuscule savings running empty and their jobs suddenly coming to a halt, Helen’s family plunged into extreme hunger. Yet, they never lost hope, expecting that the hard times will eventually come to pass and that their children will someday have a better life.
Twenty-year-old Helen is a hapless victim of injustice and poverty since she was a child. According to Helen’s narrative, her mother was drugged and raped, and she was born of that sexual assault. Helen grew up under the care of her strict and violent Papa Roger. She was brutally beaten up as a child and the whip marks on her skin are still there to remind her of a miserable childhood.
At the age of 16, Helen migrated to Manila with her mother to look for better opportunities. They sold cigarettes along the streets of Cubao and that was where Helen met Salito, one of their constant customers. Nanay Lydia disapproved Helen and Salito’s relationship, tagging the latter as drunkard and womanizer. Despite Nanay Lydia’s negative assumptions, Helen saw something good in Salito and decided to elope with him.
Now raising her own children, Helen realized her mistakes. She prays that her kids wouldn’t grow up rebellious like her. Besides a good life, she also prays for continuous guidance and help.
Helen’s prayers were answered through the charity of a stranger, in the person of pizza delivery rider Raymund Papellero who gave away pieces of bread to homeless people amid the quarantine period. Helen broke into tears as she faced Raymund again and thanked him for the generosity. As a token of gratitude, she handed Raymund a facemask so he may always stay safe while working and roaming around for his little acts of charity.
Raymund’s good deed was rooted from empathy and that familiar feeling of struggling with starvation. Raymund was ten when his parents moved to Manila to look for bigger earnings. His mother worked as a housemaid while his father landed a job in a construction site. Life still wasn’t smooth-sailing. There were days when Raymund and his family would eat only once a day. Rice without viands is all their pockets could afford. Sometimes, rice is paired with sugar just to fill in their stomachs and convince their mouths of the make-believe sweetness.
Raymund and his two younger siblings eventually followed their parents in the city. Raymund worked as a staff in a small canteen, earning him fifty pesos a day. With a high school diploma and overflowing perseverance, he jumped from one contractual job to another. He used to work as a helper in a bread factory, billiard attendant, utility in a construction site, and dishwasher in a canteen. He would take all the chances just to be able to provide for his family.
There was a point in his life when problems started to pile up. The lack of documents and finances was a hurdle to Raymund’s job-hunting. He was on the verge of losing hope. Fortunately, he passed by a construction site and met Jojo Ducusin, Jr., the heaven-sent stranger who was considerate enough to hire him despite the lack of requirements.
Jojo was the instrument of new beginnings in Raymund’s life. Jojo was there to help Raymund step by step, from working in the construction site until he landed a permanent job as a pizza delivery boy. From strangers, they became family. To symbolize their journey, Raymund gifted Jojo with an ID lace from his current company.
Jojo hails from La Union and just like Raymund, was lured by the good stories about the big city. “Ang tingin ko sa Maynila noon, para siyang minahan – minahan ng ginto, silver, tanso.” Equipped with ambitions and tired of the ‘buhay-probinsya,’ Jojo tried his luck in Manila as a utility messenger in a construction site.
Still craving for a bigger fortune, Jojo was tempted to grab the offer of working in Malaysia, unaware that he was dealing with an illegal recruiter. His resources were limited, so he volunteered to act as the recruiter’s helper to gain discounts on his placement fee. But this pure motive would eventually send him in jail after having been used as bait in an entrapment operation.
The incident brought Jojo in his life’s darkest season but he faced the situation with acceptance and prayers. His family worked altogether for his release. They kept on running to people who could provide them with assistance. Jojo’s sister thought of seeking the help of a friend who led them to Attorney Glenda Litong.
Jojo implored the heavens for help, so the Man above sent him Glenda. After more than a year, Glenda was able to take Jojo out of imprisonment, provided him a new job in her law office, and sent him back to school. As a token of his deep gratitude, he gifted her with his homemade spiced vinegar. Jojo compared himself to an empty bottle that Glenda bit by bit filled with hope for a ‘flavorful’ future.
Glenda’s faith in the human capacity to love and give has long been instilled by her parents, besides the strong emphasis on the value of education. As a human rights lawyer, she is devoted to helping people exercise their freedom while juggling her profession with her mommy duties.
Before leaving for the United States to pursue her studies, Glenda was blocked by a dilemma concerning her child’s health. If not for her mother-in-law providing her the much-needed support, Glenda would’ve been forced to let go of her dreams and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She pursued her Masters of Law in the United States while her mother-in-law took care of her child. To express her gratitude, Glenda gave Mama Enriqueta a red gumamela brooch, which symbolizes their kinship.
In their fight against their personal battles, Helen, Raymund, Jojo, and Glenda crossed each other’s paths and demonstrated the pivotal roles played by unity, camaraderie, and kindness in our society.
Watch out for more inspiring stories in the next episodes of Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, Sundays, 6:45PM on the Kapamilya Channel.