By Jhon Aldrin Casinas
In the sea of tents and visitors remembering their departed loved ones at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City on Thursday; a small, cool, makeshift tent made of repurposed tarpaulin stood out.
Resting inside was Senonita Entalan, a 66-year-old caretaker of graves at the memorial park.
Wiping her sweat and brushing her gray hair, Entalan allowed for an interview as she offered this reporter a kiddie-sized stool inside their tent.
Entalan said that she looks after some 50 graves inside the park.
These include tombstones made of gray and black granite stones and a few lavish mausoleums made of marble.
“Our boss [customers] pay us P150 a month per grave,” Entalan said in Filipino with a noticeable accent of Cebuano.
Noticing her accent, she shared that she was originally from Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental.
She first came to Manila in 1985. But when her first husband died in 1990, Entalan asked her employers if she could go home.
The Bisaya returned to her hometown and spent some time with her three kids. But the happiness she cherished being with her family did not last since she came back to Manila to work.
Recalling how she started, Entalan said that in 1999, she was accompanying her current husband in cleaning the mausoleums in Loyola when a woman approached her and asked if she could also take care of the graves of their late relatives. That is how she got in the business, she added.
And for almost 19 years, her earnings for taking care of the dead financed her family’s expenses.
“Some say that my skin darkened due to regular exposure to sunlight. My response is, ‘even though I am dark-skinned, at least I earn,’” she said that made both of us laugh and attracting the attention of people nearby.