December 10, 2022

A long-time vagrant used to roaming city streets was rescued and successfully rehabilitated through joint government-private efforts led by mental health advocate Ricky Ducas of the Baguio City Health Services Office Mental Health Program Unit.

Nanay Calteya, 64, is now happily living with her family in a home built by her family for her away from the streets she inhabited for 34 years. 

It took nine months of whole-hearted efforts from both the government and the private sectors for her to be reintegrated to the community.

Ngayon si nanay Calteya ay nag-aalaga ng apo, nagluluto, naglalaba, at nagsisimba. Tumatawa, nagbibiro, at higit sa lahat nanumbalik ang ilan niyang alaala. Na-enroll na rin si nanay bilang senior citizen at may social pension pa siya,” Ducas said.

Tuloy-tuloy ang gamutan. Monthly ang kanyang monitoring at nabibigyan natin ng ‘piskao ken bagas lang’ (tuyo at bigas lang) na unang na sambit niya sa akin noong tinanong ko kung ano ang kanyang gusto,” he added.

Ducas said he made it his mission to rescue nanay Calteya after observing her daily and being reminded of a lesson he learned from his St. Louis University nursing course that “we may have a lot of injustices but everyone deserves to die with dignity.”

His resolve was fanned after seeing her in a social media meme captioned, “Hindi ka taga-Baguio kung hindi mo siya kilala.”

“I was hurt but took it as a challenge. Matanda na si nanay, at noong kasagsagan ng pandemya wala siyang mapuntahan na mahingian ng pagkain pero salamat sa mga nagmagandang loob na siya ay bigyan,” he said.

The rescue took a month of planning and resource building with the help of various government offices and private groups and individuals.

“We conducted a concert-for-a-cause with the private sector July 15 last year for her. We located her family through the help of the Office of the City Social Welfare and Development Officer (OCSWDO) and we learned that the family had been longing for their loved one to come home and be taken care of by them but was at a loss on how to do it after several failed attempts,” Ducas said.

Learning of the rescue, the family even built a modest home for her.

The operation undertaken at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic was not easy.

“We had to plan it carefully because nanay habitually transfers from one place to another. We did surveillance and observed her daily and after establishing her routine, we coordinated with her family and the different agencies,” Ducas recounted.

Coordination was done with the Baguio City Police Office, BCPO-Women’s desk, OCSWDO, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center Psychiatry Mental Health Support and Services, CHSO, Baguio City Emergency Medical Service, and Anxiety and Depression Support Group-Baguio City Board Members.

The rescue was a success and the next step of the mission was the clinical and medication stage.

“Through the help of the private partner, TG Homes Apartelle, nanay was given a temporary accommodation to bathe and sleep in while waiting for the result of her swab test and admission to the BGHMC Psychiatry Department,” he said.

She stayed in the hospital for a month under the care of her senior citizen brother with their needs supplied through the help of volunteers until her discharge to the community.

Anak na rin ang tawag niya sa akin at sobrang saya ng pakiramdam na nagawa natin ang akala natin ay imposible. Sa tulong ng Diyos at kayo na may puso na gawin akong tulay sa mga tulad nila. Iyaman! Sumya tako!” Ducas said, issuing a challenge:

Sana magawa natin ito sa lahat ng mga nasa lansangan na may psychosocial disability subalit una sa lahat dapat merong pamilya na handang yumakap muli sa mga tulad nila. Dahil may awa ang May Likha at maraming tao ang handang tumulong sa inyong kapamilya,” Ducas said.

 As part of the strategies on the early detection of mental disorders among individuals, the CHSO made available a helpline that could be immediately contacted by people suffering from mental disorders open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: 0919-069-6361.

Beyond said hours, people can reach the National Center for Mental Health 24/7 hotlines: 0917-899-8727; 0966-351-4518; 0908-639-2672.    –    Aileen P. Refuerzo