WHILE only fairly recently appointed to head Manila’s City Social Welfare Office, Benita “Nanet” Tanyag has been in the social welfare service for 37 years since graduating from the University of the Philippines Diliman.
“I am very happy because this is my first time to handle a city social welfare office,” Tanyag told The Manila Times in a one-on-one interview.
Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada appointed her in August last year after the previous head of the office –Honey Lacuna Pangan – was elected vice mayor.
“I love this job. It is very demanding. You are on call 24 hours daily,” she said during the interview which was interrupted by several calls, including a call regarding two quarreling children at the Center for Children in Conflict with the Law which ended with one of them being rushed to a nearby hospital.
“You need a lot of patience. Understanding these people who we embraced as members of our family is the best approach. Show love and care and they will reciprocate it,” she said.
From time to time, staff would enter the conference room where the interview was being conducted to consult. Also during the course of the interview, Tanyag was able to accommodate members of a non-governmental organization.
Tanyag, who hails from Mindoro, explained that providing social protection is her main task. This includes taking care of the abandoned, homeless, abused, parentless, and persons with disabilities, among others.
“The more challenging time is to spend some time with them. Talk to them by uplifting their spirit, give them hope, and explain to them how beautiful life is,” she said.
Now 56-years-old, Tanyag said she is far from retiring. “This is my life,” she said, adding that her only regret is that she could not enjoy a long vacation. “A three-day vacation is already a luxury.”
Part of her office’s duties is maintaining critical facilities like Boystown located in Marikina City, which has five separate shelters for boys and girls aged 18-years-old and below, the elderly, families saved from Manila’s streets, and foundlings.
“We make sure that children continue their studies through Alternate Learning System. The elderly are taken care of especially their health, the foundlings where we also welcome families to adopt them, and of course the families we round up from streets. Those who are not from Manila are sent home to their provinces. The rest we provide with livelihood trainings so they can go back to Manila equipped with skills,’ Tanyag said.
Despite several problems confronting her office, Tanyag said she is confident that the dedication of the social workers working under her will prevail.
She noted that her office was allocated with a P500-million budget for 2017 and they are making the most of it, especially by providing three-meals to hundreds of Boystown occupants everyday.
“That budget includes some times the food for evacuees during fire incidents like the most recent one in Santa Mesa where 80 families were affected,” said Tanyag, who was once also head of MARE Foundation, a non-government organization founded by Loi Estrada, wife of the mayor. MARE now is headed by their daughter, Jackie Estrada.
Asked what advice she could give to young men and women who wish to take social welfare work as a career, Tanyag cited her encounters with students conducting practicum and interviews in Boystown and other facilities under her office.
“Before they go and interview them, we orient them first and explain what questions they should not ask like letting the interviewees narrate the sad part of their experiences. Based on our experience, once they are reminded of their trauma, they display different behaviour after like tantrums. We better not ask them of their past. We will know them anyway because at some point they will volunteer to tell their stories,” she said.
Tanyag said she very thankful to Mayor Estrada for giving the rare chance to lead the city social welfare office.
“At this time, I have nothing to ask more. I just want to attain our main goal – to serve the needy and give them what they deserve. Let them realize that they too can serve others. We live for others. That is our life,” she said.
After the interview, she immediately attended to people waiting to talk to her. A long queue of more than 10 individuals who arrived during 20 minutes she was out of her office was waiting for her. Her day had just begun.