ANGELES CITY, Philippines – A homeless woman rescued by the Angeles City government in 2020 was reunited with her family in Makato, Aklan province on Wednesday, January 26.
Emma Girao Togoto welcomed her biological sister, 67-year-old Elizabeth Girao, who spent 32 years away from home.
City social workers took in Girao in 2020 after she was found wandering on the city streets at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. They housed her in Bahay Pagasa (House of Hope) until the new Bale Pusu (House of Heart) opened in September 2021.
Mayor Carmelo Lazatin, Jr considers Bale Pusu a flagship program, the first city-operated home for the female homeless elderly. Part of the city program is trying to reconnect residents of Bale Pusu with their families.
Lazatin facilitated the search for Elizabeth’s family.
City Social Welfare and Development Office head Edna Duaso and Bale Pusu social worker Jerramae Tolentiono escorted Elizabth to Makato.
Makato Mayor Ramon Anselmo Martin Legaspi III and Municipality Social Welfare and Development Officer Bernadith Andrade also joined their reunion.
“Mayor Pogi, maraming salamat po sa pagtulong mo sa akin at pag-rescue mo. Mabuti na lang at mayroong Mayor na sumagip at tumulong sa akin, kasi hindi ko alam noon kung saan ako titira,” said Girao after her one year and four-month stay in Bale Pusu. “Hindi mo ako pinabayaan at dahil sa inyong ginintuang puso pinahalagahan mo kaming nangangailangan ng iyong pagkalinga.”
(Mayor Pogi, thank you for rescuing me. I am lucky there was a mayor who helped me as I didn’t know where to shelter. You did not abandon me and your golden heart ensured that we who needed help received care.)
Lazatin handed over P5,000 from his personal salary to Girao to help her start her life in Aklan.
Lazatin’s chief adviser IC Calaguas and executive assistant IV Reina Manuel also gave P5,000 to aid Girao.
“Hangad ng city government na mapabuti ang kalagayan at kapakanan ng lahat ng naninirahan sa siyudad. Kaya naman pinapaigting natin ang mga ganitong programa, para mas marami tayong matulungan,” Lazatin said. (The city government aims to improve the lives of everyone residing in the city, that is why we have stepped up this program, to help more people.)
Bale Pusu in Barangay Sta. Teresita can house eight to twelve homeless female senior citizens together with social workers and house parents. It has a receiving area, activity area, bedrooms, mess hall and kitchen.
Doctors and health workers from the Rafael Lazatin Memorial Medical Center led by Dr. Froilan Canlas conduct regular check-ups while city nutritionists prepare their meal plan. Daily activities are also conducted for the elderly.
Local designer Rosette Ramos-Biag supervised the making of the residents’ duster dresses by home-based dressmakers under the Angeleño First livelihood program.
Since 2020, the city interoffice rescue operation supervised by Calaguas and Manuel has rescued 209 individuals.