CARMEN – Under the scorching afternoon sun, 78-year-old Lola Belen can be seen along the gutters of Jollibee Carmen’s parking lot, hunched before an assortment of tupigchicharon, and peanuts. For almost 40 years, she has been selling packets of these goods to provide for her five children after being widowed in 1978. Her life was never easy, but Lola Belen managed. Just as life was getting better, the mother would lose her two sons and be faced with the same struggle as before.

By the time she reaches her usual spot in the parking lot, Lola Belen would have covered kilometers’ worth of pavement.  Her modest house in Puelay was more of a room than a home, but inside lived her family—her daughters Eva and Carmelita and seven grandchildren, including an infant great grandson.There are neither beds nor solid partitions inside. With little space to offer, Lola Belen would choose to spend her nights in front of Jollibee and come home only to check up on her grandchildren and prepare the next day’s goods.

Last September 10, Lola Belen arrived at Jollibee Carmen to a Grandparents’ Day surprise.Together with her family, the number one fast-food brand, Jollibee, arranged for a special feast and several wonderful gifts to honor the selfless grandmother.

The brand’s lovable mascot escorted her inside the store, where she was greeted by Eva and Carmelita and her grandchildren Julie Ann (21), Justin (13), Joshua (8), and Angela Mae (5). It was an emotional welcome for the family and even for all those who came to witness the surprise.

In tears and clearly overwhelmed, Lola Belen recounted her struggle as a parent and the head of their family to her guests. “Matapos mamatay ang aking asawa, sabi nila wala akong magagawa dahil nasa bahay lang ako noon. Ang sabi ko sa kanila, hindi dapat nila ako minamataKaya ko ang mga anak ko at hanggang ngayon kina-kaya. (After my husband’s death, people thought I couldn’t provide for my family on my own. I told them not to underestimate what I can do. I can support my children and that’s what I’m doing until now.)

Jollibee awarded Lola Belen with financial assistance and gift packages to support her livelihood and add comfort to her home. The aid from the fast-food chain also covered the family’s debts and expenses in restoring electricity in her home.

Francis Flores, Jollibee Global Brand CMO and Philippines Head of Marketing shares, “Many of us grew up with strong lolos and lolasguiding and supporting us. Their perseverance and hard work despite their old age is precisely why we have the Grand Thank You Project. We hope to extend to these incredible individuals our love and gratitude.” Flores adds, “If we can give back even just a fraction of what our grandparents have given us, we can deliver so much joy to Filipino families.”

The effort is part of the Jollibee Grand Thank You Project, which aims to honor and uplift the conditions of the elderly. Last year, Jollibee bestowed a livelihood package to Lola Maria of Quezon province who dove for coins to support her family.

Follow the story of Lola Belen and the Grand Thank You Project by visiting Jollibee Philippines’ Facebook page.