Sunday, February 10, 2008
"Hindi naman hadlang ang kahirapan..."
If you've been visiting this blog from time to time the past couple of years, you may have come across Sally Ruiz, a woman who lives in a temporary housing facility in one of the poorest areas of Tondo, along with her grown daughter and 3-year-old son. The widow took the 3-year-old boy, Nonoy, as her own when he was only 3 days old. Why? He was to be aborted by his biological mother, and Sally's belief that murder is wrong and that everybody has a right to be born prompted her to take in the 18-year-old mother during the last months of the pregnancy and pledge to adopt the child. Three days after giving birth, the young woman left. Though impoverished and aware that raising a child will not be easy, Sally resolved to be a mother to Nonoy. And she's been doing this since then. Her quiet words go something like, "Hindi naman hadlang ang kahirapan para makatulong ka (poverty isn't a hindrance to helping others)"
Last week I had given Sally a call to schedule a meet-up with her somewhere in QC to take photos of her and her little boy (we're featuring their story in a future issue of the mag). The Smokey Mountain area is difficult to navigate, and frankly I had wanted a better, fresher environment as a backdrop for the photos. The grounds of the Good Shepherd Convent (the Pro-Life Phils. office, where I used to work, is within the compound) would be perfect, so I asked that we meet there. Being a Pro-Life volunteer who goes house-to-house to counsel and help in whatever way she can pregnant women, Sally was familiar with the place, too. I was aware that transportation money is also a problem for Sally so I assured her that I would reimburse whatever expenses she'd incur for the trip to Good Shepherd.
"Puwede ho tayong mag-meet sa Sabado ng umaga? (Can we meet on Saturday morning?)" I asked her.
"Sabado? Sige ho... (Saturday? Okay...)" was the soft reply. "Ay sandali, (Oh wait)" she paused.
"Sa Lunes na lang ho. Wala pa ho akong pera sa Sabado (Let's make it Monday instead. I'll still have no money on Saturday)."
My heart sank when I heard this. I won't even begin to enumerate the items that flashed in my mind in the next few moments, items I spent money on and which I could've lived without. And here was a woman who needed a few more days before taking a short trip, to be able to find money for the train and jeepney ride.
Meeting her and Nonoy in person, I experienced mixed emotions. Just like the first time I had met her -- a few weeks after the Inquirer front page story came out, I was in awe. It's not everyday that I get to meet a person with such generosity. She had very, very little, but she was willing to give much. And she did, and continues to do so. I know the few cans of sardines, biscuits and Ovaltine chocolates I quietly handed to her after our photo session will not go far. And for a fleeting moment I cringed at the thought of possibly putting her on the spot or making her uncomfortable about having to rely on others for a hand-to-mouth existence. Then I told myself, generous people like her are humble and simple. There won't be any problem of feeling slighted when there's a need to accept help from others. But I sure wish there were more I could do for her and her family.