A Philanthropist at Quinta Market of Quiapo
…Baby “Bicol” Dionisio
By Apolinario Villalobos
If I am around the Quiapo area and want to partake of my favorite eggplant torte, I would just go to my favorite carinderia (makeshift restaurant) at the Quinta market. The stall is beside the fish section. For more than nine years now, I did not know that the single mom, Baby “Bicol” Dionisio, who is tending the said eatery has been silently enduring trials that have befallen her, as under her care is a hydrocephalic granddaughter. Both sleep in the cramped area behind the counter, among their worldly possessions, and the worst time is during the flood season during which the overflowing murky water from the Pasig River which is a few meters away would flood the whole market for days, reaching up to her ankle, and during some seasons, up to her thigh. In addition to such nuisance is the several decades-old roof that drips rainwater.
I learned about her hydrocephalic granddaughter one morning when I dropped by for my favorite dish, before proceeding to the Hospicio de San Jose beside the Ayala Bridge, and which is just a few hundred meters away. During our animated conversation, she inadvertently mentioned about the child in her care. It came as a surprise. I did not know about her ward as every time I drop by, she was always cheerful. I did not know that in the crib is a handicapped child.
What touches me every time I drop by for my cheap breakfast is her very positive outlook despite her strangling financial needs for the health maintenance of the child. That morning, she told me that she has learned to leave her fate to the Lord, but added that she has never failed to exert much effort in earning for their daily survival by waking up as early as four in the morning to do her purchases and cooking, and since theirs is a public area, staying awake as late as ten in the evening. She also cheerfully mentioned that the child has learned to knock at her crib post to wake her up consistently every morning.
Baby’s daughter, the mother of the child, still has two children in her care and she is also doubling her effort to support them by doing odd jobs. She and her family live in a shanty by the Pasig River with her two other small children. Her husband drives a traysikad or pedaled tricycle. I was even more surprised when Baby pointed at an old man who was sleeping that morning on an old reclining chair in front of her stall. She said, the old man who is past his seventy years, and suffering from the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease is also under her care. As soon as she is free from attending to her customers, she checks the old man. She has no idea about her additional ward’s family. I had no courage to ask her how her caring for the old man started. I find it unethical. For me, what’s important is what is being done at the moment of need.
I did not mention to Baby about the Hospicio as I was not sure if the said institution could take care of semi-invalids such as her old ward. I am resolved, however, to at least try my best in helping her locate the family of the man for his own sake. Most often, victims of Alzheimer’s disease who could not find their way back home are painstakingly searched for by their families.
Baby’s friends in the market would sometimes extend their assistance, although, not regularly, to help lessen her financial burden. Despite her situation that could break the bearing of the weak in body and spirit, she would just smile while attending to her customers, with not a bit of complaint. Due to her very amiable personality, she exudes a warm aura that gives her face some kind of a radiance that veils her real age, making her look like fortyish despite her age of past sixty years. When I asked if it is okey to take her photo with her granddaughter beside the old man, she vehemently refused, but she did not hesitate to give me her real name. I only knew it after more than nine years, during which I would just call her “nene”.
As always, people like “nene” or Baby keeps me going…