by Jasna Claudine C. Nicolas
In today’s world where success is often measured with money, status, titles and glamour, it is refreshing to find a person who does not care about all of these superficialities. Instead, she finds happiness in helping others. Talk about authentic love!
She is Mrs. Lilia Bejer or “Tita Lilia” to me. She heads the livelihood program of the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. or KKFI. She is also a master healer, a top practitioner and trainer of massage therapy.
Ate Lilia teaching massage therapy at the KKFI compound. Photo credit: Ernie Gagno
Tita Lilia’s kind of love is manifested through her service to humankind. She heals broken (physically, emotionally and spiritually) human beings by spreading hope and kindness through her touch using massage therapy techniques. She spreads hope and warmth to her “queendoms”—the different communities. There, she has touched thousands of lives.
Three years ago, Tita Lilia asked me to teach kids in Tondo, a depressed district in Manila. Tondo is notorious as the lair of all sorts of criminals—from petty thieves to drug traffickers. I admit I was a bit fearful for my safety, but I found myself saying “yes” to Tita Lilia, nevertheless.
Thus, I became her assistant teacher as we visit marginalized communities a couple of times each week. That was the start of a special bond between us. That was also my opportunity to get to know how golden her personality is.
Tita Lilia has been with KKFI for the past decade. She had an opportunity to work for a commercial firm that offered to pay much more; but her calling is to help the poor. So she chose to stick to KKFI. She knew that a high salary could never give her the kind of joy she gets from helping the poor.
This exceptional woman has allowed thousands of residents of poor communities to not only acquire gainful skills in massage therapy but something more valuable—self-confidence. She has transformed them from being hopeless to hopeful. She touched their lives in a magical way.
Despite everything, she remained unassuming. Admirable, indeed! In our age, people are so self-absorbed. Modesty has become a vanishing trait. That’s why I appreciate her someone like Tita Lilia.
Being down-to-earth is not an easy path to tread, but the correct one. It is a nakedness that makes you vulnerable. But I see the peace inside her heart that a lot of rich, proud people could never possess.
Why? I guess it’s because they rely on their resources alone, while people like Tita Lilia cast their burdens upon “Someone” who is far more powerful than themselves and far greater than anything?
I remember one serious nugget of wisdom that I got from, ironically, a comedian by the name of Danny Thomas. It says: “Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”
Looking at the works of Tita Lilia, I would Mr. Thomas nailed it.
(Jasna is a volunteer trainer of KKFI and works under the supervision of Ms Lilia Bejer. The 22-year-old Jas is set to go to the United States for a two-month missionary work. Recently, she decided to pursue a college degree in community development at the University of Philippines-Diliman. Jasna is the daughter of the KKFI Executive Director, Ms Nancy Caluya-Nicolas.)