By Flor Tatoy
A 60-year-old mother of three sons, a good wife, a reliable provider, and a person with a good heart. That’s how residents of Manila North Cemetery (MNC) describe “Nanay” Lilian Tiglao. This impression was not different from that of the staff members of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI), who know her as a trustworthy, dependable and very strong woman.
Physically, though, Nanay Lilian looks very ordinary—her skin is tanned, her hair is cut short and blond, and she’s uncommonly thin, which she attributes to lack of nutritious food to eat. It is apparent that she has survived life’s many, many trials. But there’s one thing about her that’s remarkable—she always wears a beautiful smile.
She lives in a mausoleum inside the MNC with her husband and grand-daughter. Her sons have left them after they decided to take their respective live-in partners. Nanay Lilian provides the basics needs of the family and spends for her grand-daughter’s education, as well. She earns by scavenging and taking care of the tombs in MNC, from which she is paid P50 a month by the family of the deceased.
“Age does not matter. I can take good care of my granddaughter and help other young children too,” Nanay Lilian said.
“Masaya ako kapag nakakatulong ako sa kapwa ko.”
God’s provision has kept her family alive all these years, that’s the only way she could explain how they have been surviving. Despite her predicament, Nanay Lilian has a dream—for these young children to finish their studies so that they will be capable of helping others.
It was 2011, when Nanay Lilian came to know about KKFI through one of its social worker, Vince. She became a fan instantly, a firm believer of what KKFI is trying to achieve. She could tell that her dream and KKFI’s objective are aligned. So, she has made it a point to always get involved in its activities. Wherever KKFI needs her help, she was always there to give a hand.
Nanay Lilian, indeed, has been making herself available in almost all the activities of KKFI in MNC. She is even an active member of the SAMANTAGANOR, a group of caretakers of tombs and mausoleums inside the Manila North Cemetery (MNC) that KKFI helped organize.
In June 2016, she became an assistant teacher for the Supervised Neighbourhood Play (SNP) Program in MNC. The SNP is a home-based early childhood service for children ages 2-4 years old. It utilizes play as an approach in providing early stimulation activities that are developmentally appropriate for each target age of children in the community. It helps children develop relationships, skills, social values, self-confidence, self-respect and self-expression through unstructured time for play and socializing using the SNP manual of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Every day Nanay Lilian goes to house-to-house to fetch children and ensure that they will attend their classes. Even when sick, she still helped the main teacher handle the young students, teaching them how to write, draw, count and sing. She said she felt utmost fulfilment in what she does.
By helping KKFI, she is able to uplift the children by helping them finish their studies. Nanay Lilian does not feel she’s too old to extend help to the needy. She’s not the type who limits one’s self, especially when it comes to giving herself to others. She said that even a smile, a warm hug, or simple greeting of “hello” can impact the lives of young children. “These children only need our acceptance,” she said philosophically.