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Boy in a box

The response was overwhelming, and I felt so much joy as the story somewhat found its mark.



Rodel Canas, the construction worker who carried home his son’s body in a box, is being interviewed by broadcast journalists. / Photograph courtesy of Alvin Murcia

14 April 2020, the 105th day of the year, was a regular day to find a story for submission to the Daily Tribune.

But since the country was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), transport had been restricted, and finding a good story for the day seemed to be difficult.

However, a reporter should find ways to get the story at all cost. Thus, while waiting for some officials at my assigned beat to respond to queries, I decided to visit the Barangay East Rembo Hall in Makati City to observe volunteers preparing food items they would be giving to residents.

No less than East Rembo Barangay chair Thelma P. Ramirez was supervising the packing of rice and other goods that would be distributed amid the strict lockdown in Metro Manila that prevented people from going out and diminished their incomes in the process.

While observing them, I decided to go to the second floor of the barangay hall and talk to other personnel there.

A lanky man was transacting with one of the barangay personnel, asking for a certificate of indigency he would use for the release of his son’s body at the hospital. The bill reached hundreds of thousands of pesos and he could not settle it because he was a jobless construction worker at that time.

I became interested with his predicament. I decided to get the details of his story, thinking that once it was published somebody could help him foot the bill.

The grieving man was Rodel Canas, 23, a resident of 19th Avenue in Barangay East Rembo, Makati City.

In between sobs, Rodel told me his 32-day-old son succumbed to hospital-acquired pneumonia resulting from severe sepsis. His son’s body was given to him by personnel of Rizal Medical Center in Pasig City in a box wrapped with packaging tape.

Since there were no available means of transportation due to the ECQ and he lacked money to rent a vehicle, the grieving father decided to walk home five kilometers from the hospital to bring home his son’s body in spite of the curfew.

Apparently, on 11 March 2020, Canas brought his wife to the Pasig hospital where she prematurely gave birth. Diagnosed with congenital heart disease, the baby was confined for a month before he died on 13 April 2020 at 2 p.m.

Before he left the medical facility, he was presented with a bill for P245,000, covering the delivery and confinement.

The next day, he sought Ramirez’s help for a certificate of indigency, which was when I chanced upon him.

Ramirez arranged for the child’s burial, upon learning of the family’s situation and Rodel’s plan to bury his son’s remains in a vacant lot at the compound where he was renting.

The story of the man who walked home bearing his dead son in a box was published in the Daily Tribune on 15 April 2020.

Right after publication, television networks and news organizations, along with some politicians and good Samaritans, started to call and inquire about the family’s situation.

The response was overwhelming, and I felt so much joy as the story somewhat found its mark, waking up people to come to the rescue of the poor, grieving family.

Even Makati Second District Representative Luis Campos helped in footing the burial expenses, sending some help to the family through Ramirez, who wasted no time in getting things moving.

She decided to visit the family at the compound, located at the hilly portion of Zone 4, Barangay East Rembo, to personally condole with the family, giving her assurance the barangay and some friends would give them help.
This set the stage for aid to pour in from different individuals, and they all were referred directly to the family to personally give their help.

The story proved there is no such thing as a dead beat if only one has a “nose for news.”

Canas’ predicament was carried by many television networks to somewhat inspire and provide a lesson to people who are short of understanding needy people pleading for help.

The hospital, upon learning of Rodel’s story, waived the bill the family incurred.

As for Canas, he merely uttered his thanks. “Maraming, maraming salamat po, Kapitana Thelma.”