THOMASIANS do not often notice them. You look past them while walking along the corridors or strolling with friends on campus. While some of us go to class, meet our friends, or review for a dreaded exam, they do the cleaning or ensure everyone’s safety on campus.

Like us, UST non-academic personnel are Thomasians who go to school every day. But they’re not here for the office papers or the classes; they’re here for the “dirty” work.

While everyone else is still in bed and lost in their dreams at 6 a.m., security guard Ricardo Antonio arrives at his post. Meanwhile, janitress Lina Ruiz picks up her mop at 7 a.m. Most students start their school day at 8.

Mang Ric’s station is at the UST Hospital. Day in and day out, he checks each baggage and individual entering the hospital and usually witnesses sick and even dying persons being carried out of an ambulance to the emergency room.

While everyone is rushing off to eat or to go home, Mang Ric stays in his post, ignoring his own hunger or sleepiness.

On the other hand, 26-year-old Ate Lina spends the entire day cleaning halls and mopping bathroom floors in the UST Main building. Before students arrive in the morning, she thoroughly cleans and checks rooms and rearranges the chairs left in disarray by the previous night’s classes.

Selfless devotion

Having no family of his own, Mang Ric has been working in the University for almost 16 years to support his mother, siblings, and a 13-year-old niece, whom he has taken care of since birth. He has dedicated much of his time working and had even spent Christmas and New Year’s eves on duty.

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“Talagang sinusubsob ko ang sarili sa trabaho. Hindi na nga ako nakapag-asawa, hindi ko namalayan, tumatanda na pala ako. Kumpleto ang attendance ko dito sa UST. Kahit bumabagyo nandito pa rin ako,” he said.

Mang Ric’s dedication to his work is all for the love for his family, he said. He wants them to have everything he could give. “Basta nakakatulong ako sa kanila, masaya na ako doon,” he said.

Despite the sacrifice, Mang Ric says he loves his job and sees himself in the uniform for a long time. “Kung nanaisin ng Panginoon, hanggang sa magretiro, di ako aalis dito. Hangga’t kaya ko, magtatrabaho pa rin ako para sa pamilya ko,” he said.

This Yuletide season, all Mang Ricardo wishes for is to be with his family. “Sana maging masaya sila at magsama-sama kami ng buong pamilya ngayong kapaskuhan,” he said.

Treasured time

Meanwhile, Ate Lina goes home tired come the end of her shift. This leaves her little time to get household chores done and barely enough energy to play with her two-year-old daughter. A single mother, she happily awaits Christmas not for the gifts or fancy celebrations, but because she gets to spend it with her only treasure—her daughter, Patricia.

“Nagta-trabaho ako nang husto para makaipon para sa anak ko. Gusto ko kasi siyang mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan,” she said.

Every Christmas, she tries to make up for lost time by devoting the whole day to her family. “Kahit isang araw lang , kahit sa Pasko lang, gusto ko sila kasama ko,” she said.

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This Christmas, she and Patricia will first and foremost go to Mass and offer their praises to the Lord because deprived though they may be, she believes that strong faith in God will help them pull through. For their noche buena, they will share a humble yet meaningful feast that she plans to prepare herself. She never fails to do this every Christmas along with the traditional practice of preparing the “nine fruits” for luck.

On Christmas day, Ate Lina will nicely dress Patricia and take her out to parks, zoos, or visit other relatives around Manila. Simple though her Christmas plans may be, Ate Lina’s heart is rich with love and hope, especially when she sees a smile on her daughter’s lips.

Both Mang Ricardo and Aling Lina belong to those people we often take for granted. They are visible yet we don’t see them. Little do we know that, like us, they have their own lives, and their Christmas wishes to make life enjoyable no matter how humble. Ma. Charise Lauren Adonay, Ma. Cristina S. Lavapie, and Glaiza Marie A. Seguia

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