by Nitz E. Nicolas
(For two years in a row, Mrs. Lilian Guansing of California, USA, had visited the Manila North Cemetery to distribute clothes to its destitute residents. She did not expect to receive something priceless in return. Read all about it in a feature piece published in the Kapatiran Newsletter 2015 Annual Report, “We Rise by Lifting Others,” and reprinted here.)
“Suot ko po ang damit na bigay nyo last year (I am wearing the dress you gave me last year.),” the little girl from Manila North Cemetery chirped Mrs. Lilian Guansing shyly.
“She remembers me distributing dresses last year, she remembers my presence!” Mrs. Guansing said, ecstatic. “Yes, I was touched by the little girl’s appreciation of this little act of kindness. The gift was so simple and yet the child has related the dress to me.”
Ms. Lilian Guansing smiles as she gives a dress to a girl at the Manila North Cemetery
It was 10 in the morning. At the gate of Manila North Cemetery, some member of the KKFI staff headed by social worker Vicente Eliver met Mrs. Lilian Guansing. Vincent Eliver is in-charge of the programs in the area.
Around 70 little boys and girls welcomed Mrs. Guansing and Mrs. Goody Mercado, the new treasurer of the KKFI Board of Trustees, to one of the tombs inside the cemetery. The children rendered songs led by their teacher, Marianne Villarosa-Cruz.
The children were very happy when they received their gifts. The girls were given dresses while health kits were distributed to the boys.
It was not only the children who felt happiness that day. Mrs. Lilian Guansing felt happy and fulfilled, too. She said God gave her the spiritual gift of healing as a nurse. Though she did not heal the children of their physical sickness, the cheerful smiles on their faces while receiving the gifts indicated that she was able to heal the longing in their hearts for material things even for a short moment.
Mrs. Guansing said that she is the Parish nurse at Almaden Hills United Methodist Church in California, USA. She related that she happened to read the article of Paul Jeffrey in the October 2014 issue of Response magazine (GBGM-Advance newsletter), about “People Living with the Dead in Manila.” Mr. Paul Jeffrey is a freelance journalist and a fellow United Methodist. He often comes and visits their church.
Mrs. Guansing was inspired by the article, Since then, she felt the need to see for herself the real situation of the children living inside the cemetery. Thus, in 2015, she asked the helped of her close friend Mrs. Goody Mercado, to arrange a visit to the Manila North Cemetery.
Because of her longing to give joy to children even in simple way of distributing dresses and health kits, she returned to Manila North Cemetery on February 23, 2016.
She remarked, “though you cannot change the world by small acts of kindness, your mere presence with them, even for a short time, will have a mark in their hearts and minds.”
She wished that the children now living at the Manila North Cemetery will continue their education and have a better life in the future. In addition, she prayed that someday their families will live outside the cemetery.
“I admire KKFI for having programs and services that cater to the needs of these disadvantaged children and youth; and I also admire the staff for doing this kind of mission work,” Mrs. Guansing said.
In doing these little acts of kindness, she was reminded of the Lord Jesus Christ’s message in Matthew 25:40 “….whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Mrs. Guansing handed a check amounting to P23,560.00 to Ms. Nancy C. Nicolas, KKFI Executive Director. It was a donation from Almaden Hills United Methodist Church, California, USA for the children’s program of KKFI.
Mrs. Guansing is a retired nurse. She graduated from the Mary Johnston Hospital School of Nursing in 1960. She is now based in California, USA, where she has been staying since 1964.
She returned to the Philippines in 2005 and for the next five years taught Nursing Leadership and Management as part of Mary Johnston’s program on Balik-Turo. She is married to the late Alejandro Guansing, a physician. They were blessed with four children, who are all became professionals and now with their own families.
It is also nice to note that Mrs. Guansing was the mentor of Mrs. Goodwill Mercado at Mary Johnston Hospital.