Philippines cancer survivor turns cigarette boxes into rosaries

Elena Mabano turns an empty box of cigarettes into something Catholics may benefit. (Mick Basa)

Gently mounting each bead onto a pin until finally making a loop, Elena S. Mabano is reminded how she has endured life’s painful battles in every rosary she makes.

A devout Catholic, she calls herself, 57-year-old Mabano scours empty cigarette ream cartons, cutting them into long narrow pieces, with each strip rolled into a bead, an unusual material used to make a string of beads to keep count of a religious devotion.

“I don’t really tell them (customers) that it’s made from cigarette boxes because they don’t bother to ask what it’s made of,” she says.

Surviving cancer

Mabano, a cancer survivor, said her only intention of turning the cigarette boxes into rosary is rooted on her belief that not all things that end on garbage are waste.

Diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2008, Mabano had to undergo surgery, only two years after she went under the knife to find treatment for her Lumbar Disk disease.

“Because of my positive outlook, I think I was healed. I went to healing crusades and asked God to be merciful to me,” the mother of seven children recalled.

Second life

Mabano, 57, is a cancer survivor and a devout Catholic. (Mick Basa)

Mabano says she wants her time spent just being thankful for the “second life” she has received after experiencing which she claims a near-death experience during her Lumbark Disk operation in 2006.

“It was a near death experience. I was standing before a view a mountain covered with forest while many people pass by me. I saw one of our neighbors who already passed away. My doctor said I was weeping when I was asleep in the recovery room,” she recalls.

“Now I see this as a mission because the Lord healed me. That’s why I am determined to continue what I started.”

Rubbish turned ‘weapon’

A box of a cigarette ream, she says, makes 10 rosaries. She varies the color of the beads by using different boxes of varying brands, all of which she collected since she started in 2009 from retail stores discarding the boxes like it could no longer be of use.

“Rosary is a weapon against evil,” she told this writer as she connected a crucifix into a chain of uncompleted rosary at her residence on the southern outskirts of Davao City, where she and some her neighbors have formed an all-women association focusing on handicrafts made of rubbish. Among their products, aside from rosaries, include hats, bags and bottle holders made of plastic bags used by grocery stores and malls.

Livelihood

Her group, the Toril Kalambuan Association, started last year and is a beneficiary of the local government’s program to develop women groups to create their own product and make them available in the market.

“We started making rosaries in 2009 but we did not have a market until 2011,” she said.

Their association is yet to pick up profit, she says. “Very few are interested to join crafting the rosaries because it is meticulous job and many want their money earned in an easier way.”

Helping others

But with a desire to help others not only in encouraging other women to join her association, Mabano said she also gives out rosaries to children every Flores de Mayo.

Asked if she had any bitter feeling towards God for the series of painful battles she has gone through despite her being a faithful Catholic, she says: “a faithful Catholic goes through many trials and problems. So that when God calls them, he knows how because he can relate how Jesus suffered on the cross. A life of a Christian is not a purely pleasurable life. There will be tough times.”

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