AGE DOESN’T MATTER

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.

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A TASTE OF FREEDOM

by Fort Nicolas

 

Cooking, to Flora Mae Tatoy, is freedom.

That realization came to the 22-year-old social worker slowly. The process started when she was eight. She remembered the particular scene well. It is safe to say it is etched indelibly in her mind.

There was her mother gently prodding her unwilling daughter to try her hand in the art of cooking.

FlorTatoy
Flor Tatoy

“My child,” she remembered her mother telling her with excitement in her voice, “I will teach you something that you will truly appreciate, something you will cherish for life!”

“Sure…” Flor, who is currently working with the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation would tell herself. She just wanted to get it over with.

Yes, she obeyed her mother’s instructions, but under protest. She was rebelling inside, but she did not dare to show it to her beloved mother. However, she was sure she could use the time she had been “wasting” in the kitchen by doing other worthwhile things, such as talking with a friend over the phone.

Nevertheless, she acted like an obedient daughter, cutting the meat the way it should be cut as per the instruction of her mother, boiling the vegetables only this much, removing the scales of a fish this way and that to achieve optimum efficiency, and putting them altogether in a particular order and manner inside the hot pan and adding just the right amount of salt, pepper and other condiments to achieve particular tastes.

For years, it went that way. Flor did not know it at the time, but the joy of cooking was growing on her. She was beginning to like it. In fact, she could feel the excitement and thrill of an upcoming adventure whenever she steps into a kitchen and begin to smell that particular smell of an environment only cooks can appreciate.

It’s a place where she wants to be. It’s the kind of place where she can be free to cook, to create, to experiment and to make mistakes without the threat of punishment. It is the place where she can be free. Indeed, it is where she can experience the sweet taste of freedom.

 

(Aside from cooking, Flor’s other passion is educating kids. Among her other duties at KKFI is to teach the poor children living inside the Manila North Cemetery [MNC]. If you want to support the this and other KKFI programs, please email at kkfi1950@yahoo.com.)