Cristina Toledo Cabanayan
Packs Food for Prison Inmates
By Apolinario Villalobos
I came to learn of the advocacy of Cristina Toledo Cabanayan when I took my brunch in their roadside food stall along Camba St. in Divisoria….she packs food for some inmates in Manila City Jail. It all started when her son (name withheld upon request) who was detained asked her to include his newly found friends, in the lunch pack that she prepares for him during visitation days. Her son found out that his friends have not been receiving visitors for a very long time, hence, depended on the meager and strictly- budgeted meals served by the jail administration.
Soonest as she heard their stories, she did not hesitate to pack meals taken from what she sells along Camba St. of Divisoria district for her son and his friends. The pack meals are brought by her grandsons to their father who is thirty six years old. The day I took my brunch, a Saturday, was a visitation day for the Manila City Jail inmates.
I learned, too, that Cristina’s altruism also benefited Lagring, who was adopted by her family when she found her living in the area alone, after having been abandoned by her family. Cristina nurtured Lagring back to her health, and today she helps in the operation of the roadside eatery by taking charge of everything that needs to be washed – eating utensils, pots, pans, etc. Though she is still noticeably skinny, she is back to her former spritely self. I found her washing pots and plates when I dropped by the food stall.
The husband of Cristina is a retiree with a frail health, making it necessary for him to stay at home, where he does the easy chores while the rest of the members are doing their share in the food stall. Miracle, Cristina’s daughter, though with a family of her own, helps her mother run the small business. The cooperation among the family members spared Cristina from hiring extra hands which is what food stall owners normally do.
The food stall is the source of the family’s livelihood, the blessing from which they also share with others in the best way that they can afford, but despite such, they are able to make both ends meet, as a proverb goes. They do not even know for how long they can hold on to their roadside space that accommodates their pushcart laden with foods. Despite such apprehension, Cristina, a typical Filipino, is fatalistic though in a positive way. She grew up in the same area and had her own share of ordeals that made her tough as a person.