As 38-year-old Ryan Arebuabo sat with his two young daughters in a Manila fast-food restaurant, he had no idea he was being watched. Not only was someone watching them, they also took a photo of the three. Described by ABS-CBN News as a scrawny man, the photo, taken by Jhunnel Sarajan, a real estate professional, saw the selflessness of a father who expressed his love for his daughters in a single glance. That’s why Sarajan took the photo.
The moment touched Sarajan so much, in fact, he came back the next day to offer help in any way he could. He posted the photo on Facebook and it went viral. Others were triggered by the same emotions as Sarajan, and they expressed a desire to help. When Sarajan returned to learn more about this family, he was on a mission to offer hope in the form of help.
Sarajan did find the man and talked to him. He learned that 60-year-old Arebuabo was a single father to his two daughters and that he had suffered a stroke four years ago that debilitated his health. Sarajan learned that Arebuado’s aging father still works as a jeepney driver and does the laundry for the family when he’s able to.
That’s when ABS-CBN News stepped in and began their own search for Arebuabo and his two children. They found them in a slum area in Manila. His home was constructed of salvaged plywood and sheets of rusty iron, and measured, in total, 4-square-meters of living space. Next to his tattered make-shift door was a picture of his daughters, Rose Ann and Rose May, a symbol juxtaposed against poverty that can make any man feel rich.
Arebuabo used to sell boiled corn in his neighborhood, but after his stroke, he never underwent therapy and has not seen a doctor in three years. Half paralyzed from his stroke that also affected his ability to speak, his wife left him with their two children. Arebuabo told ABS-CBN News, “I had a store in Bulacan, but neither I or my children can travel to or from there anymore.”
The fact that his wife left him after his stroke came as no surprise to Arebuabo’s younger sister, Ria. “Most men who have a stroke are abandoned by their wives,” she told ABS-CBN News. Ria also offered insight into how her brother had become such a selfless man. She explained that he cared for their entire family of five when they were children. Their mother died after giving birth to her fourth child.
Ria tried to convince his wife to return, and Arebuabo did all he could to convince her to stay. He purchased a television and made some renovations to their home. He wanted to prove to her that he could still support her and their family and make them happy. “He tried following her three times to Bulucan, but he could not keep up or convince her,” Ria said.
Arebuabo did, however, succeed in gaining custody of the two girls. “They are the strength in his life,” she said.
Even though the circumstances are difficult, Rose May and Rose Ann are doing as well as could be expected. Arebuabo receives assistance from the “4 P’s” program offered through the Philippine government. This helps keep the girls fed and focused in school. That help came as a result of the viral Facebook post that Jhunnel Sarajan initiated, and the subsequent awareness that came with the follow-up news story.
Rose Ann is 8-years-old and in second grade, while Rose May is 6-years-old and in kindergarten. Perhaps more than anything, is that they have a father who loves them more than life itself. Arebuabo is optimistic and believes that the day will come when both he and his children will leave the slums for a better life.
Source: The story behind selfless father in viral photo by ABS-CBN News and A Father’s Selfless Love by ABS-CBN News on YouTube. Also, “Only earns 100-200 a day” #selflessfather got a treat from the uploader of his viral photo” by PRRD realworld on YouTube.