By Sujata Jena
Manila, August 10, 2019: Dominga Abinoha, a 75-year-old illiterate woman, is one of the hundreds of thousands of poor in the Philippines. She is among the 3.1 million shelterless who have made Manila, the Philippines capital the world’s largest city of homeless people.
Dominga’s parents were from Abuyog Leyte in Visayas, one of the largest islands in the Philippines. She lived with her husband and in-laws in Leyte after marriage until her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Her in-laws then chased the couple and their 10-year-old daughter from the house fearing the deadly effects of cancer.
So, they came to Metro Manila to face an unknown future.
Dominga and her family settled in Bulacan, a Manila suburb. She worked in a piggery, feeding pigs, cleaning the piggery. The family also stayed near the pigsty.
“The stink and dirt of the animal was a punishment for us to be poor and homeless here in the Philippines,” she told Matters India with anger in her voice. Her husband peddled a rusty, worn out pedicab. He grew weak and didn’t make much money.
After five years of working in the piggery, the family left for Caloocan where Dominga got a job of a washer woman in a house for another five years. Then they moved to GMA station roadway, Kamuning where hundreds of homeless live in dire poverty.
Dominga scavenged junk piles behind supermarkets and stores and sold whatever she collected to earn a few pesos that was sufficient for overripe bananas that was slowly turning black and some hot coffee for her sick husband who has become skinny and emaciated.
When she came to Manila she had hoped to get her husband treated in a city hospital. But they could afford neither the medicines nor a proper diet for him to survive. “We went to government Hospitals. No one gave us free medicines,” Dominga bemoaned.
Her so called home was a small place covered with black polythene sheet on the top. “We lived under this shed whether rain or shine, heat or cold. When there was rain, water dripped down to the floor, and we were soaked. We slept while sitting on the wet ground,” she narrated with tears flowed seamlessly down her wrinkled cheeks.
Dominga continued scavenging even harder. “It was exhausting to walk miles barefoot as I was overweight and weak. But I needed to earn for my sick husband and my wandering young daughter,” she expressed with pain.
Not long after her husband’s death her daughter left with a boy.
Dominga was left alone in the street. As she grew weak she stopped scavenging and searched for food along with other homeless.
She found it hard to walk without support. Her heavy body was bent due old age. She used a plastic bucket to walk.
On a warm evening, on April 24, 2017, when she was in a feeding center of Eduard De Luna, the president of E.C De Luna Construction Firm, asked her, “Nanay (mother in tagalog) do you want to stay here in the center?” She broke down in tears, “It was hard for me especially at this old age to sleep under the rain.”
After 22 years of living in heat and rain, dirt and dust, noise and pollution, hunger and death risk Dominga finally got a peaceful place to live. She brought along her only possession — a pair of clothes with a turn bag and the plastic bucket that helped her “walk.”
De Luna began his social service in October 2015. For this Born again Christian, “religious devotion should be a reminder that everybody should do acts that demonstrate mercy and compassion.”
“We should take care of our neighbors, visit the sick, aid the poor, and feed the hungry. These acts are the realization of our devotion to Jesus,” says the president of EC De Luna, International Construction Firm.
His center provides Manila homeless free hot cooked meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
On the first Wednesday, each homeless gets two kilos of rice and canned goods, beside hot cooked meals. The center also provides money to buy medicines when the homeless come with prescriptions from hospitals. Homeless flock to the center from far.
“We do not miss to be present on this as we receive rice which is very important for us. And, Sir Eduard would give us some money from his pocket sometimes on first Wednesday,” said, Emilia Santos, a homeless and regular beneficiary of the free meal.
Eduard meets the homeless in the evening of the first Wednesday of the month. Before the meals are distributed, he breaks the word of God and shares with the homeless.
He also sponsors the education of 42 homeless children until college level. There are six homeless mothers who work at the center in preparing food and distributing groceries.
The center’s kitchen and restrooms remain open on Mondays for the homeless to bring their groceries and prepare food. They wash their clothes, have bath and rest until evening.
Nanay Dominga is now comfortable in her soft bed in a nice room. De Luna hired a caretaker for and bought her a wheelchair to move around.
Even after two years, Dominga cannot forget the cruelty of her life. Her tears are not dried yet. She does not know her daughter’s whereabouts. She doesn’t care also, as she has found life anew, thanks to a born-again Christian who has opted to live Christ’s message.