Unknown to many, the First Couple President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos have a big heart for the poor.
I had the privilege to witness this on Saturday during our gathering at the Elsie Gaches Village (EGV) in Muntinlupa City, a shelter for abandoned women and children accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in coordination with the local government.
Madam Liza could not hold back her tears as children lined up and took turns to receive an early Christmas gift from the First Lady. She bought all the arts and crafts/products made by the resident women at the facility.
Despite her high place in society coming from a prominent family and being a successful lawyer, Madam Liza has a special place for the poor women and children.
She likewise instructed EGV’s administrators to step up production of their arts and crafts and she will procure them all to give out as gifts to her friends and visitors.
This goes to show that the leadership of PBBM and Madam Liza truly gives importance to the welfare of this poor and disadvantaged sector of our society.
The EGV serves as one of DSWD’s temporary residential care for abused and abandoned women and children, who otherwise would be wandering aimlessly in the streets of Metro Manila and elsewhere.
The residence accommodates women up to 60 years old who suffer from autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and Down Syndrome, and at least two of the residents battle with psychosis.
The center’s services adapt a holistic approach for the residents’ physical, psychological, emotional and social well-being and development through the center’s educational, job skills training, arts, music and sports programs.
On the President’s birthday last month, BBM and the First Lady went to the White Cross Orphanage in San Juan City.
Like EGV, the DSWD accredited child-caring agency provides temporary shelter for children, aged 0–6 years born to unwed mothers, indigent families, mentally or physically-incapacitated parents, or victims of incest or rape.
At White Cross, the children are provided with medical assistance, early-childhood education and infant care.
The orphanage visit shows that President BBM takes after his father and he shares such quality with the First Lady LAM, a big heart for the disadvantaged poor.
So, Christmas came early to the orphanages as the First Couple treated them to snacks and toys that brought smiles to the children there.
At White Cross, BBM in casual clothes gestured to several kids to come near him and said hello. I heard him asking them in a fatherly voice, “Anong gusto nyo, anong kailangan nyo?”
One could see in the President’s eyes his genuine concern for the young who were either orphaned or abandoned, ending up at the shelter.
A law practitioner and professor known by her initials “L.A.M.,” the First Lady shares BBM’s sympathy for the poor. Charity is something they both have been involved in long before the idea of running for president came up.
Before leaving with BBM for the United Nations General Assembly in New York, First Lady LAM discussed with me extending assistance to people who come to her personally for help with various concerns, such as medical and burial assistance.
Although LAM is a very private person, people in dire need come to her through friends, connections in the law practice or the academe – and she turned out to be a truly helpful person.
I learned that LAM has also asked the assistance of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for “ayuda” or financial aid on hospitalization costs of ailing poor kababayans.
Also concerned about the welfare of single parents or solo parents, LAM asked about the progress in drafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2022.
The new law aims to develop a comprehensive package of social development and welfare services for the growing number of solo parents and their children to be carried out by the DSWD.
During the height of the pandemic crisis in 2020 and 2021, the government implemented the blended learning and holding of online classes as face-to-face schooling was suspended nationwide amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Former senator BBM and his wife LAM knew many, many poor students lack the capacity to buy cellphones and tablets needed to use in their online classes and research to accomplish their modules and chat online with their teachers.
BBM was a regular guest on my tele-radyo program Tutok Tulfo at PTV-4 and Radyo Pilipinas during which he gave away tablets to hundreds of poor parents and children who called in.
During our Cabinet meetings, BBM never forgets to ask me about the status of the various DSWD assistance programs for poor Filipinos.
To prove true to his first State of the Nation Address promise, “Di namin kayo iiwan,” the President vowed to muster all available government resources to augment the financial aid to Filipinos in extreme difficulty.
Indeed, hope floats as BBM and LAM have a special place in their heart for the poor and the commitment to help the disadvantaged to overcome difficulties and hardships.