by Glenda B. Gutierrez
“We now live outside of the cemetery,” says Anna B. Villegas, 32, apparently with proud air about her.
Anna is referring to the Manila North Cemetery (MNC), where her family used to live. To her and thousands of others who reside there, the life-goal has been to be able to own a house or at least rent a place outside of the MNC.
Anna’s dream came true because of the $4,000 livelihood grant that the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) received recently from the United Methodist Women (UMW).
On March 8, 2017, the grant was distributed to 13 recipients and Anna was one of them. She immediately bought a pedicab for her husband, Joselito, who now uses it to collect recyclable materials like plastic and glass bottles in Manila North Cemetery and neighboring communities.
Before acquiring the pedicab, the Villegas couple were caretakers of tombs in MNC.
“It was difficult living in the cemetery, especially when it rains and floods,” narrates Anna. “It is not safe there and there are a lot of drug addicts around.”
She says she and her family are now “happy to live in Caloocan City” albeit, still making both ends meet.
“Our monthly room rental is P2,000 plus P1,000 for electricity and water. My husband earns an average of P300-P400 a day, enough to meet the daily expenses,” she discloses, adding that Joselito works six days a week.
The Villegas family is blessed to receive a scholarship grant from a Korean national that benefits three of her four children, thereby augmenting the family income. She proudly says that her children are honor students: Krishen Keith Althea (Top 3), Kyle Dustin (Top 6) and Kristel Keith (Top 9). The youngest is yet to go to school.
Anna has her church, San Pancratio Parish in Caloocan City, for linking her to the generous Korean benefactor.
Anna wants the best for her family. Though she is a graduate of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Housekeeping Course, she wants to prioritize taking care of her family instead of working abroad.
She keeps on learning and has attended workshops on candle-making, fabric conditioner-making and dishwashing soap-making.
She is also a parent-leader of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) City Link since 2012.
Indeed, Anna is worth emulating. She and her husband continues to strive to improve their lives, and the first step came when they brought their family out of the cemetery.