A Philanthropist at Quinta Market of Quiapo….Baby “Bicol” Dionisio

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…

A Brief Visit to Hospicio de San Jose

A Brief Visit to Hospicio de San Jose

By Apolinario Villalobos

On November 11, I made an urgent trip from Cavite to Quiapo for a visit to the Hospicio de San Jose, the entrance of which is at the southern end of Ayala Bridge. I intended to personally talk to the people in charge of the orphanage which opened its doors to the needy in 1810. What caught my attention was a small window on the left wall through which, perhaps, infants can be turned over discreetly by mothers. Noticeable too, were the courteous staff and cleanliness of the compound.

I was hoping to gather first-hand information about the orphanage for a kind-hearted Filipina who lives in the US whose advocacy is donating books to schools and libraries. As she was thinking of “expanding” her acts of charity, I suggested the hospicio to her. The orphanage administrator, Sr. Maria Socorro Pilar G. Evidente, or just plain Sister Socorro, was not around during the time of my visit. I was entertained, instead, by the two secretaries, Ammie Visitacion and Anne de la Cruz. Our short meeting was fruitful, as I gained more information than I expected, and which elaborated the ones that are printed in the brochure and flyer of the hospicio’s needs that they gave me.

During our meeting, a group of six children whose age ranged from 3-4 years in the care of a house-mother, peeped first, but eventually made their way inside. Anne was prepared for such visit, as she immediately went inside a room to quickly pop a small pack of popcorn in a microwave oven. The contents went around the children who delightfully nibbled them, one by one, with care yet, and in seemingly solemn silence . The scene pinched my heart…they were all smiling.

I was told by Anne and Ammie that they ran out of biscuits, referring to the inexpensive broken kind that come in tin cans, the ones served during wakes, and also popular “pasalubong”, and which they give to the children to stave off their hunger between meals. The wards were all evidently well -scrubbed and wearing neat clothes. I was hesitant to ask if the children were found in unlikely places abandoned by their mothers or were intentionally left in their care . I told myself to just find out more about the wards later. It was enough that I was told by the two secretaries that they also have wards who are attending high school and college outside the orphanage.

Interestingly, the orphanage is not limited to assisting infants, children, and youth but elderlies, as well. There are more than a hundred normal children in its care and about 56 special children. Despite its limited resources, the orphanage also shares its blessings with street children, as shown by a tarpaulin displayed at the entrance of the compound, announcing a scheduled outreach program for them. What I saw during the brief visit gave me another reason to visit Quiapo.

As mentioned earlier, the hospicio is prominently located at the southern end of Ayala Bridge, and overlooks the Pasig River. The commuting visitors can take the LRT train going to Monumento, and get off at Central Station, from where they can stroll leisurely to the bridge, along the way to which, is the SM City-Manila, and behind which is the City Hall of Manila.

Two tin cans of broken biscuits may not be too cumbersome to carry to the smiling kids and bedridden elderlies, or some packs of diapers – any size, including large and extra large for the adults, or some packs of band aids, etc. For those who may have no time to buy any of the basic needs, a few pesos can be left behind, after a brief visit. Don’t forget to ask for their brochure and flyer on which is printed the list of needs. But, if your plan is just to visit for curiosity’s sake or gather information as basis for future visits and charitable acts, please do not hesitate to go ahead. The receptionist at the lobby will refer you to the office of the Administrator where answers to your queries can be had.

I am calling on friends from the provinces, and those who live in Manila and nearby areas, who plan to splurge their bonuses in Divisoria and Baclaran, and those from abroad who plan to come home for the holidays, to please, drop by the hospicio…in the name of Jesus. Your shared blessings will go a long way, even as far as the sidewalks of Manila, as they will surely be shared by the orphanage with children not in their care, as well.

Please take note of the following useful information:

Address:          Ayala Bridge,1099

Quiapo, Manila

Emails :          hospiciodesanjose@yahoo.com


Website:          www.hospiciodesanjose.org

Phones            :          +632 7342367 – 68

Telefax :          +6327342366