“If you have seen the actual footage of the dispersal, Nanay Leti was the one shouting ‘walang sakitan ah!’(no hurting please!) at the police.”
By MENCHANI TILENDO
MANILA — Were it not for the bruises and stitches on her face, one would think of her as a typical Filipina grandmother who’s spending most of her days idly. But her wounds could never be inflicted inside a peaceful home; for she herself is one of those deprived of shelter. Her pressed smile and that longing in her eyes show a tinge of youth in someone so old.
Nanay Leticia “Leti” Retiza (not Espino as earlier reported), 56, is the old woman whose photograph went viral after the July 30 dispersal of workers’ picketline at NutriAsia in Marilao, Bulacan.
In an interview with Bulatlat, Nanay Leti said she was in the picket line to express her solidarity with the Nutriasia workers. She said the Mass wasn’t over yet when the policemen started to play loud music. Men on board tricycles and motorcycles suddenly arrived as the tension intensified. Police and other men wearing uniforms of security guards started throwing big rocks at the protesters.
“The last thing I remembered was how I begged the police officer to stop the dispersal,” Nanay Leti recalled.
Despite her age, she has been active in various mobilizations, consistently in solidarity with the fight of different sectors. A member of the urban poor group Kadamay, Nanay Leti also belongs to the thousands of citizens in Pandi, Bulacan who were deprived by the government of decent and affordable housing. After series of protests last year, they have been successful in occupying the thousands of idle housing ‘intended’ for police and military officers.
Kadamay showed a footage of the clash between the Meycauayan police and the protesters. The top-view version of the video shows which side had provoked the brutal dispersal. The police forces threw hollow blocks and rocks at the protesters, including Nanay Leti.
“If you have seen the actual footage of the dispersal, Nanay Leti was the one shouting ‘walang sakitan ah!’ (no hurting please!) at the police,” Michael Beltran of Kadamay said in a gathering of artists, Aug. 4. “Even if the policemen were the ones who threw rocks at Nanay Leti, their officers and Labor Secretary [Silvestre] Bello even had the guts to cover-up [the incident] and accuse Kadamay of starting the violence,” Beltran said.
Since the dispersal, Nanay Leti has already been transferred and re-admitted to three hospitals. She was first brought to a private hospital in Meycauayan, then to a provincial hospital in Malolos and then to Bocaue, Bulacan. These hospitals do not automatically accept patients unless they are in critical condition and are able to pay for the costly hospital fees.
The doctors said Nanay Leti has a fractured skull at the right side of her face and a broken nose. When she was being transferred, her head was also excessively bleeding. Her massively swollen lips and eyes are slowly recovering but until now, she could barely speak and eat any solid food.
The doctors said Nanay Leti has to undergo surgery, or worse, a metal support would be inserted to support her deformed face. The urban-poor organization has been calling for support for Nanay Leti’s medical and other expenses.*
A breadwinner of ten
Prior to her now ill-fated situation, Nanay Leti has already been struggling with pneumonia. She has ten children, some are in Leyte while the others in Bulacan. They are either without permanent jobs or with no jobs at all. Without a stable livelihood, Nanay Leti struggles to provide for her remaining children. She does laundry and even gets construction jobs in Pandi. If these are not available, she begs for alms.
She also stands as the main provider for her three grandchildren. “The eldest of my grandchildren is eight years old, followed by a six-year old and a four-year old. I’ve been working hard to send them to school but the money I earn on a daily basis does not suffice,” Nanay Leti said.
When the members of Kadamay collectively worked to build a learning center for the children in Pandi, she enrolled her two younger grandchildren there.
Like hundreds of residents in urban-poor communities, Nanay Leti and her family face crucial challenges in their right to basic housing and to other social services like healthcare and education. The urban poor in Pandi, Bulacan have been notoriously portrayed in national media – as the violent ones and the instigator of disputes.
“It’s always like that. We are treated as aliens in our own area. There are thousands of members of the urban poor community but most of us are displaced from our own lands,” Nanay Leti said.
The NutriAsia management has released several statements, denying that the policemen and their guards have provoked the clash. Following this, the company also claimed that they paid for Nanay Leti’s hospitalization, which Nanay Leti herself belied.
“More than anything, what Nanay Leti needs is also strong moral support from various groups and sectors. We in Kadamay demand justice from Nutriasia company and Duterte for enabling this harsh situation. They have prompted the painstaking fight of the workers all over the country and ever more strengthened the unity of the broader ranks of the Filipino masses”, Pat, a member of Kadamay who assists Nanay Leti, said.
Despite everything, Nanay Leti’s spirits remain high.
*Donations for the hospitalization of Nanay Leti and other injured workers and supporters of NutriAsia can be deposited to BDO Peso Acct #002010066193 of the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights Inc.