Romeo Fernandez couldn’t help but smile when he looked out the window of his new home in Barangay Malinta one Friday morning. Peering outside, he saw workers from the City Social Welfare Development Office (CSWDO) walking towards him, carrying bags and boxes of household items, which would soon fill his house. His son Raquim sat beside him as they welcomed their visitors.
The 51-year-old Fernandez and his two sons, Rudy (13) and Raquim (11), had been among those saved by the CSWDO during a reach-out at the old Shakey’s restaurant in Marulas last Tuesday, November 25. Immediately following the reach-out, Rudy was brought to Bahay Kalinga, while the CSWDO looked for a home where Fernandez could stay.
During that time, Fernandez was fuming and was refusing help from the government, said Violeta Hidalgo, a CSWDO social worker. It didn’t help that Fernandez, who is physically handicapped and cannot walk, is notorious as a problematic neighbor and no community was willing to accept him. However, a place was found in Area 4, Malinta, and Hidalgo was finally able to convince Fernandez that the city government is willing to help him and his two children.
The CSWDO gave Fernandez Php 10,000 as financial aid, with Php 3,600 to be paid for rent, Php 1,400 for the initial capital to start a business, and Php 5,000 for other survival needs, as well as his two sons’ tuition fees. Aside from the money, the agency provided Fernandez’s wheelchair, cooking paraphernalia, blankets and rags, which he could sell to jeepney drivers.
Hidalgo also assured Fernandez that he would soon be reunited with his son Rudy that afternoon.
For his part, Fernandez vowed to be a more responsible father, promising to look after his sons and not waste the opportunities given to him by the government. Aside from the rags, he plans to sell mineral water during the day in the city hall and balut in the evening.
Fernandez and his two sons are just three of the many people the CSWDO have helped start over. In the past decade, the city of Valenzuela has been active in removing people from the streets and relocating them in decent homes.
However, Hidalgo said that more work needs to be done, especially now that street children from neighboring cities are flocking to Valenzuela as well. “Out of 50 street children we rescue from the streets, around 70 percent of those are not from Valenzuela,” she said.
As Hidalgo and her team said their goodbye to Fernandez, he turned to his son and promised him a nice meal for dinner.
“Are we having canned goods tonight?” Raquim asked.
“No, I’ll cook adobo,” Fernandez said.
Romeo Fernandez dropped by the office of Mayor REX Gatchalian on Wednesday, December 10, to express his gratitude. He is visibly happy these days and attributes his cheerfulness to the people who have helped him turn things around.
“I was really angry back then because I had a lot of problems,” he said.
The CSWDO provided Php1,500 for capital and continues to provide financial assistance for his daily needs.
Fernandez is selling balut in his neighborhood, earning as much as Php300 in one day.
“He is really good in handling money,” social worker Violeta Hidalgo said. “He has the skills. He just did not have an opportunity.”
As for Fernandez’s children, the CSWDO has placed them in a special school in the meantime, but they will be enrolled in a regular school in June.