(Last of two parts)
When her father, Luis Perez, died, Lita’s mother Saturnina became a single mother with nine children to raise. Lita was 15 and the eldest.
As is the common practice or tradition among Filipinos, the burden of helping a single parent fell on Lita, the eldest child. Lita helped her mother ensure food was available on the table for her siblings. She spent sleepless nights and restless days thinking how she can ease her mother’s burden. (Her mother passed at age 86.)
She worked hard and relied on her intelligence. She attended the Dagatan Elementary School in Taysan between Lobo and Batangas City, finished high school, then enrolled at the West Philippine College (now Batangas University) where she earned a Bachelor of Science Major in Mathematics degree.
She pursued the course to follow in the footsteps of a relative, Abelardo Perez, who taught mathematics at the WPC.
While studying she took odd jobs, including being a household help for a relative, selling shoes and beauty products.
She attracted several suitors, including a medical student whose family owned a rubber plantation in Mindanao. They met at a swimming pool where she went with a lady friend.
She fell for him but when she became pregnant, he decided he was not ready for the responsibility of being a husband and father. He also worried about what his parents would say about it. Lita had the baby girl who she named Maribeth Macatangay.
Lita was undeterred by motherhood. She believed that life was ahead of her and her baby girl whom she left under the care of her mother and only sister Mehaida. She was right. After graduation she was hired by the Mabini Academy where she taught mathematics for seven years. She also taught part-time at the Roosevelt Colleges in Lamuan, Marikina (now a city).
While she liked and enjoyed teaching in the country, she grabbed the opportunity to teach in Nigeria when she got the offer from Domingo Ramirez, her former teacher at the WPC, who also recruited science teachers.
She applied for the job, with a monthly salary of US$700, a big amount at the time, at the Overseas Employment Development Board (OEDB). “It was the start of a new life for me,” she said.
She and the other recruits travelled for 23 hours. They took a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight to Singapore, then an Alitalia flight to Rome and a Nigerian Airways plane to Sokoto in the northern part of Nigeria.
She enjoyed her stay in Africa where she met Farid Credi, a project engineer and consultant at Sokoto University, which was under construction at the time.
Farid, an electronics engineering graduate of Cairo University, earlier worked in Cairo as a consultant at Dar Alhandassah, a consulting firm. His father was an accountant and a realtor while his mom was a homemaker. He has a sister, Vivian.
How Farid and Lita met is an interesting story.
She was coming out of a supermarket when Farid, who was coming out of another supermarket, saw her. He followed in a hurry but lost sight of her. So he went back later to where he had seen her and finally met her.
When she realized his intentions, Lita told him everything about her, including the daughter she left in Batangas. But Farid was in love. They got married in Sokoto.
Lita stayed in Nigeria for four years until there was political unrest. Nigerian President Shehu Sagari was ousted in a coup in 1983. Construction of the Sokoto University stopped so Lita and Farid moved to Cairo.
Lita taught for four years after arrival in Cairo but Farid’s father advised her to work in real estate. “I concentrated on furnished apartments,” she said. She did well.
She also pursued other activities like helping overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Egyptian capital, who numbered more than 5,000 then, through her group Filipino Expatriates Community Association (FECA), in coordination with the Philippine Embassy. FECA was earlier called Club Pinoy.
FECA raised funds for its projects by holding beauty contests. Contest participants were involved in fund-raising and got 40 percent of what they collected. The rest went to FECA’s projects. FECA’s income was also distributed among distressed OFWs and given to deserving public schools, for instance in Zambales.
“Fifty chairs were given to one elementary school there (Zambales) and 25 to a high school in Tayabas (Quezon),” Lita said.
A computer was donated in Mountain Province and another in Rizal. “In addition to a computer in Rizal, chairs and technical folders, among others, were also donated by FECA,” she said.
She found other ways to help. In 2011, she helped a college student stricken with lymphoma. She mobilized her group and used part of her personal money to send quite a considerable amount to the patient’s mother in the Philippines. The patient did not survive but the mother, Irene Hernandez-Camua, and Lita have kept in touch ever since.
“Napaka-generous ni Ms. Lita Perez-Credi (Ms. Lita P. Credi is so generous),” said Camua who works at the Quezon City Public Library.
Recently, Lita also helped a group of students who needed cash to do research for a school project. Retired and jobless, she asked her three kids—Maribeth, Fadi and Victor—to raise the needed amount. The day after her assistance was sought, she sent a message that the money was sent by Maribeth, who now also lives in Canada.
Sometimes, Lita would look for people in need through Facebook.
One time she learned that an old man living in a pig pen was badly in need of assistance. She sent him 200 Canadian dollars. She also helped the family of a boy about to enter high school who did not have money for food. “Kadalasan ang pamilya nabubuhay sa kanin at tuyo lamang (Usually the family had rice and dried fish only),” she said.
She also assisted someone who got the corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
She has lost count of the people she and her family have helped simply because she did not write down their names.
If asked what motivated her to keep on helping, she would probably say that she had been the recipient of blessings from God and she was just showing her gratitude by making a difference in the lives of others.