It was a cool December evening and by 10 o’clock, Juanita (77) was fast asleep after a day of selling vegetables at the market. Earlier that night she had had a nice conversation with her grandchildren during supper. It was December 22nd, a few days before Christmas and they were planning to come up with a simple ‘noche buena’ dinner, perhaps ‘bijon’ (a Filipino noodle dish) and a big bottle of soda. Suddenly at around 10:30 in the evening, somebody shook Juanita hard. “Lola (Grandmother), wake up! Our house is on fire!” It was Sheila Mae, the eldest of her grandchildren. Juanita got up and stared in horror as the fire started to gobble up her roof. She and her grandchildren fled with only their clothes on their backs.
Twenty seven households were affected by the fire that night in Juanita’s neighbourhood, 16 of which, including hers, were razed to the ground. The fire started in the house right next to Juanita; the family had left the house, probably to watch TV in a neighbour’s house, and left their kerosene lamp burning. It was a densely packed neighbourhood and in less than an hour, 16 houses were totally destroyed. The timely arrival of the firemen prevented the whole neighbourhood from being burned to the ground.
Up until that fateful day in December, Juanita had been making a living from buying and selling vegetables and spices. Her capital of 800 pesos ($20) as well as the photos of her dear son Joel, who had died in August the previous year from a stroke were lost. She has another child, Jocelyn (45) who is so unlike Joel; she fell in with the wrong crowd after her husband died many years ago and left her four children with her mother. Since then it has been Juanita who has been raising the children: Angelo (17), Josei (15) and Joseph (10). Sheila Mae (19), the eldest, is living-in with her boyfriend, Janjan.
After the fire, Jan-jan kindly invited Juanita and her grandchildren to live with him and Sheila Mae temporarily in his parents’ house. The local government has promised to give 5,000 pesos to those families whose houses were totally burned but this will not likely happen in the near future.
Down-and-out, Juanita came to the PSHF office to ask for help. If she could only have a roof over her head and a livelihood, her miseries would be lessened considerably. The PSHF would like to help Juanita with funds to have a house built (including a toilet) for her and her grandchildren as well as livelihood capital for her. Aside from this, we would also like to provide funds to buy uniforms for the children as well as clothing for all of them, including Juanita. A grant of 16,000 pesos will be sufficient to cover these needs. Juanita turned 78 two weeks ago; it was a very sad day but at the same time she was thankful that she and her grandchildren were still together. The grant assistance will be a belated birthday gift to her.
Bernadette G. Togado