Former midwife OFW-turned-housewife-and-family business associate, Sophie Aguilar-Borja has been the subject of a lot of help by many artist netizens on Facebook who have joined the group created for her by her entrepreneur husband William Borja and his artist best friend Franklin Valencia.

The group called A Bucket of Love for Sophie aims to seek for medical aid as the family cannot sustain all of it and they want her to have the best care that they can seek for her. She is suffering from ALS-Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the same disease of English physicist Stephen Hawking who made the news two years ago because of it.

Sophie’s calvary started when her right hand could not lift a spoon. Then, her left hand was unable to turn on the switch. From that day on, life has become dark for her.  She often stumbled because she lost her balance. Then, her lungs needed assistance to breathe and her mouth could no longer savor the taste of food as she has now resorted to tube feeding because she cannot chew and swallow anymore.

In his creating the Facebook group, artist Franklin Valencia appeals to all his artist friends to help raise funds for Sophie’s medical needs.

“By donating your paintings, you can help ease the financial burden incurred and help educate people about ALS,” he wrote.

I first contacted Sophie’s husband via online and through the telephone. Here is our conversation:

Who is Sophie and why does she deserve a bucket of love?

SOPHIA AGUILAR-BORJA, 52 years old, of Pureza, Sta. Mesa, Manila is my loving wife and caring mother to our two children. She used to work in the medical field. Sophie was a midwife when we lived in Saudi. But when we decided to return to the Philippines, she became full-time and my better half with Wilborj Acryclic Plastic Fabrication. We specialized doing LED signs as our small family business. She worked until she got sick and was forced to stay home because of ALS Disease.

Art, Art Group, Art Auction, Art for Sale, Buy Art, Art Sale, A Bucket of Love for Sophie, Art for a Cause, ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Philippines
This photo was taken during New Years to greet everyone Happy New Year and to thank all the artists for their help.

When did she get sick and diagnosed with ALS?

She was diagnosed in 2011.

Na-confirm kung ano ang sakit niya, MOTOR NEURON DISEASE.

Ito ang findings ng duktor. To be more specific, ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. (The doctor confirmed it.)

We have a little business called Acrylic Fabrication, but her medical needs are so high that we cannot afford to sustain the business.

We are renting a ventilator machine for her breathing needs.

She is now totally bedridden. She cannot even lift her finger.

Mayroon na siyang nakakabit na small hose connected directly to her stomach. ‘Yong mga extremities niya is like chicken legs na.

(She is now tube-fed and her limbs are as thin as chicken legs.)

Almost all her muscles shrank.

Mukha na siyang polio victim na halos ‘di ko na makayang tignan.

(She looks like a polio victims that sometimes I cannot take it to see her that way.)

‘Yong income namin sa business ay tama lang sana sa normal na pamilya, pero noong huling na-ospital siya, ‘yong kaunting savings namin ay naubos na lahat at napakalaki pa ng kakulangan.

Art, Art Group, Art Auction, Art for Sale, Buy Art, Art Sale, A Bucket of Love for Sophie, Art for a Cause, ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Philippines
With new friends who filled Sophie’s buckets. Artist and buyers helping each other.

(Our small family business only makes enough for a normal family’s needs. When she last got hospitalized, we had to withdraw all whatever small savings we had. Despite that, it was still not enough for her needs.)

Hanggang ngayon, sobrang laki pa rin ng aming pangangailangan. Hindi ko siya puwedeng panoorin lang na mag- deteriorate.

(She still needs a lot of things. I cannot just watch her deteriorate. I have to do something.)

Whose idea was it to create a Facebook group for her? How long has it been existing? How many members do you have now? 

It was my idea na mag-publish sa Facebook ng isang donation campaign one month and a half months ago.

There are 232 members as of now.

My close artist friend since 1972, Franklin Valencia, who helped me make it happen.

A Bucket of Love for Sophie Facebook page creator was the one who solicited help from artists who donated their paintings to help raise funds for Sophie’s clinical needs.

What has the group done for Sophie so far, from when it began (past achievements, ongoing projects/ activities, future goals)?

Because of this campaign, nairaos namin ang month of December.

Lahat ng gastos sa medical needs ay galing sa donasyon ng mga artist, painting collector, at cash donor na patuloy pa ring sumosuporta kay Sophie.

(She was blessed that last December all her medical needs was fully addressed through the artists who donated, the painting collectors who bought and cash donations that were sent by kind people who still continue to care about Sophie.)

What was the biggest amount of help that the group has raised for Sophie? Through which painting and by which artist?

Ang may pinakamalaking naidoneyt na painting ay ang mag-asawang (The biggest donation of a painting was by couple) PHILIPP at THELMA BADON. Ang may pinakamaraming nabiling painting ay si (The bestsellers were) Ms. SONIA WHITE of London, sunod ay ang mag-inang (next is the mother and daughter team of) Ms. NING ODULLO at (and) Ms. Cecil Penaflor.

Art, Art Group, Art Auction, Art for Sale, Buy Art, Art Sale, A Bucket of Love for Sophie, Art for a Cause, ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Philippines
SOLD! Painter: R.S. TOMAS Oil paint on canvas 52″ x 27″ PHP 28,000
Art, Art Group, Art Auction, Art for Sale, Buy Art, Art Sale, A Bucket of Love for Sophie, Art for a Cause, ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Philippines
Sonia White’s message in FB:
Dear All,
My Lola arrived safely and she enjoyed watching Big Ben she feels a bit cold but loving the scenery of London…!!! Xxx

Aside from auctioning paintings for the benefit of Sophie? Are there other ways that the group does to help her? How? Are you also funding or donating to research for the cure of ALS?

Madaling humingi ng painting at madali rin magbigay ang artist. Madali rin bumili ang mga kolektor dahil ito ay mura at nakatulong pa silang lahat. Magaan sa loob nila ang magbigay at tumulong.

(We have found it easy to ask for paintings from artists who wholeheartedly help. And collectors enjoy buying because the prices are relatively lower than the usual auctions.)

How is Sophie now? What did her doctors say about her condition?

Now she is totally bedridden.

Mayroon siyang ventilator machine na nirerentahan namin ng Php 2,500 a day.

Plus, ‘yong kanyang mga gamot at mga gamit pang-medikal.

Umabot kami ng Php 230K ang gastos dahil hindi siya pwedeng alagaan ng hindi nurse dahil from time to time, sinasaksyon siya every two hours at nurse lang ang puwedeng gumawa noon.

Isa ‘yon sa pinakamabigat na gastos namin dahil ang bayad sa nars ay Php 1,800 / 12 hours at 1,400 sa midwife per 12 hours.

Hindi siya tinutulugan ng nurse sa gabi. Kaya sana matulungan ninyo kami na makahanap ng NGO o anumang charity organization na susuporta sa amin

(It has been very expensive for us. Sophie needs a nurse 24 hours a day and we need to find an NGO who can help us care for her with all the specifications to her needs).

Our youngest daughter Jean Kathleen is a nurse. She looks after her mom but she cannot do it 24 hours.

Si Sophie ay very conscious, siya pa ang nagpaplano ng meals namin sa araw-araw, kaya lahat gagawin ko para marugtungan ko ang buhay niya. Lalapit ako kahit kanino manghihingi ng tulong sa kahit kanino humaba lang ang buhay niya. Umaasa ako na may taong ipadadala sa amin ng Diyos para si Sophie ay matulungan

(Sophie still tries to help us by planning our meals so I want to do everything to let her live more. I’m hoping God will still send us more kind people who will help us.)

Art, Art Group, Art Auction, Art for Sale, Buy Art, A Bucket of Love for Sophie, Art for a Cause, ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Philippines
An affordable art sale from the works of renowned Filipino artists. Everybody welcome!

What does the future hold for A BUCKET OF LOVE FOR SOPHIE?

I am hopeful this 2015 that Wilborj Acrylic Plastic Fabrication, my small family business  will have more projects this year.

I let my eldest son Eugene Lawrence who graduated with a degree in advertising manage it now.

Sana matulungan ninyo kaming maiparating sa mga may magaganda at mabuting kalooban ang pangangailangang medikal ni Sophie.

Kailangan po naming makabili ng ventilator machine niya.

Maraming salamat po.

(We never lose hope to reach out and continue to ask for help for Sophie’s medical needs. She needs a new ventilator machine. Thank you.)

To make a donation, please click the image below:

Art, Art Group, Art Auction, Art for Sale, Buy Art, Art Sale, A Bucket of Love for Sophie, Art for a Cause, ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Philippines

All images courtesy of Mr. William Borja unless noted otherwise..

Image credit feature image painting (yellow)- Mel Dominguez.

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