MANILA - Pastor Nilo dela Cruz sat worried on a bus from Bulacan to Quezon City one Tuesday evening in December as he rushed to a mall to meet his sons, who told him they got into a scuffle.
The frail 61-year-old rushed to the parking lot expecting to see a fight but got the surprise of his life from his eight children -- a white Chevrolet Trailbrazer, a far cry from his modest second-hand car.
A video of the Christmas surprise posted by his sixth child, Nilo Jr., has gone viral on Facebook with 1.7 million views and some 36,000 shares as of Thursday.
"Lagi niya sinasabi sa amin na dream car niya yung Chevrolet Trailblazer... Mahilig siya sa car, madami siyang alam sa car, pero wala siyang sariling car," Brad, his fifth child, told ABS-CBN News.
(He always tells us that the Chevrolet Trailblazer is his dream car. He loves cars and knows a lot about cars but can't afford one on his own.)
Nilo Jr., in a succeeding Facebook post, said the "gift was not enough to suffice all sacrifices made" by their father.
"Sa wakas! After almost 3 decades of your mission in Pandi, hindi ka na magjijeep o sasabit sa jeep o kaya sasakay sa tricycle at sobrang matatagtag sa daan," Nilo Jr. said in his post.
(Finally! After almost three decades of your mission in Pandi, you won't have to ride the jeepney and the tricycle anymore. You won't have to endure bumpy roads during the commute.)
"Sobrang fulfilling... Sabi ni Daddy, hindi niyo ako kailangan bilhan ng kotse... Treasure niya daw kasi in life kaming mga anak niya," Brad added.
(It's very fulfilling... Daddy said, we didn't have to buy him a car. We, his children, are his treasures in life.)
It took the six brothers and two sisters a year to save up for the car, he said.
"Ang mindset namin, hindi pwedeng may pera tayo ngayon, gagastusin na agad natin... Kailangan istabilize muna finances, bayaran muna lahat ng obligations, most importantly, invest our money," he said.
(Our mindset was, we can't have money now and blow it all up. We needed to stabilize our finances, pay off our debts, most importantly, have investments.)
"Daddy, kaya talaga kayo pumunta dito para iuwi niyo yung bagong unit niyo," one of Dela Cruz's sons told his shocked father in the video.
(Daddy, we asked you to come here so you can bring home your new unit.)
The Dela Cruz brood cheered after their father unlocked the vehicle and its headlights blinked.
The family patriarch gave up buying a dream car to send his children to school. His 57-year-old wife, Anastacia, had no steady job outside of selling appliances and insurance on occasions.
"Our family's story is like an episode of ABS-CBN's drama anthology Maalaala Mo Kaya. We were kicked out of our house five times because we could not afford to pay rent," Brad said.
While the children got through on scholarships, their daily allowance was a challenge for their parents, he said.
After years of hard work, the couple's eldest son, Niño is now a supermarket manager in Japan. Their two daughters Mary Grace and Viv Leah are co-owners of a school for children with special needs. Isiah owns a pharmaceutical business, while Brad Neiel is a partner at a private equity firm.
Three children are still in school, Nilo Jr. who is pursuing a master's degree in industrial engineering, Josiah who is studying civil engineering, and Ron Ayen who is in high school.