Heaven Has Delicious Tinola (Chicken Soup) Today

By Bo Sanchez

This morning, Tita Neneng died.

My dearest friend was 83 years old.

Who was she? She was God’s love to me. Really.

Let me tell you her incredible story.

She was a short, plumpish, silver-haired, never-been-married woman with a contagious laugh and a heart as big as a boat.

For years, she was a very successful businesswoman who owned a gigantic canteen in a hospital.

All her life, she cooked and fed people. If she fed a human being and that human being said, “Sarap!” (Delicious!), she was in heaven.

I first met Tita Neneng in 1980, when she joined our tiny prayer group, Light of Jesus. After a few weeks, I noticed how people loved her. As their leader, people greeted me with respect. But when Tita Neneng walked into the prayer group, everyone stood up and adored her. Because each week, without fail, she brought a humongous pot of steaming Tinola (chicken soup) for everyone.

Here’s a secret I’d like to share with you…

She Was My Second Mother

One day, when I was only 18 years old, Tita Neneng pulled me aside and pressed a thick, white envelope in my hand. “Brother Bo,” she said, “I know you’ve been praying for a car. Instead of just praying for it, I’m giving you money to buy a second-hand car.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was fifty thousand pesos in cash. It was the biggest amount I’ve ever held in my hand. In 1984, P50,000 was huge money.

But I simply couldn’t buy the car for myself. So months later, I told her, “Tita Neneng, I’m donating your money to the community. We need a community van more than I need a personal car.” She understood. “That’s up to you, Bo.”

She was like a second mother to me. Whenever she saw me, she’d give me food, stories, and laughter.

And when community needed money, she’d be the first person I’d call. “Tita Neneng, I want to buy a small piece of property for our community office. Will you help me?” She didn’t even ask me to explain. She pulled out her checkbook and wrote a check for P100, 000. (Today, that would be worth P500, 000.) Our office building is now sitting on that same property.

And when I ran out of money for the salaries of our full-time staffers, I called her up. When I greeted her, “Hi Tita Neneng,” she didn’t even let me speak. She just said, “I have a check for you. Visit me.”

But something happened when she was 70 years old…

She Left Everything For Love

She suffered a massive heart attack.

So massive, she died—for one minute.

Thankfully, the doctors were able to revive her.

I visited her in the hospital and I was shocked by her request. Even as she was still lying down in bed, this 70-year old woman said, “Brother Bo, I want to serve the Lord.”

I said, “Tita Neneng, you’re already serving the Lord.”

“No,” she said, “I want to serve in Anawim,” she said. “This is now my second life. Please let me live with the poor and cook for them everyday.”

Anawim was a ministry for the poorest of the poor that I started the year before. We housed the abandoned elderly in a 5-hectare property in Montalban.

Tita Neneng left everything—her big house, her air-conditioned room, and her brand new van. And she also left her businesses.

She lived in Anawim and took over the kitchen.

Tita Neneng moved into one of the houses where the poor old women we’d pick up from the streets stayed. In that house, she would share the same toilet with these street people.

It wasn’t an easy life. During these early years of Anawim, we didn’t even have electricity or running water.

But everyday, with great love, she’d cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner for hundreds of our Anawim residents. Indeed, we called her the Mother of Anawim.

Many times, she’d pull out her own money and give it to the ministry. Until one day, she said with a laugh, “Brother Bo, I don’t have money anymore. It’s all gone.”

She gave everything. Her strength. Her time. Her money. Her life.

The Happiest Woman I’ve Ever Met

Many times, we’d talk over lunch. She loved telling me, “Brother Bo, I can die right now. I’m so happy. What else will I ask for?” Every time she’d say these lines, she’d cry tears of joy. Believe me. She was one of the happiest persons I’ve ever met in my life.

Today, after 13 years of service to the poorest of the poor, she suffered another heart attack.

This time, God didn’t let go of her.

Heaven is now celebrating.

No wonder.

God and his Angels must like Tinola too.

Do you want to be happy?

Serve the Lord like Tita Neneng.

It’s the greatest thing on planet earth.

May your dreams come true,

Bo Sanchez