ON his first day of work in the St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Esmeraldo Locañas almost did not fulfill his first task: transferring bones from a burial vault to the common crypt.

"Hapit di ko mokaon ato (I almost did not eat that time)," he said.

This happened in 1996.

Nearly two decades later, Locañas, now 56, is still grinding for a living every single day in the cemetery, even though his three children already have their respective families.

He still digs graves, cleans tombs, cuts tall blades of grass, and sweeps garbage off the ground.

He earns P1,000 per week for doing these dirty work.

Locañas said he did not refuse the job in the cemetery offered by his friend because he had nowhere else to go.

He accepted work in the land of the dead so his family would survive and live, he said.

"Lisod maka-apply og laing trabaho (It's difficult to apply for another job)," said Locañas, a high school dropout.

As he celebrates Father's Day today, he wants nothing grand.

"Pangindahay lang nako hatagan ta ko'g maayong lawas sa Ginoo (I just wish that God will keep me healthy)," he said.

He used to work as a construction worker and furniture repairman.

Locañas, who hails from Tabogon, married his wife, Fedelina, when he was 19.

He said he did not foresee that family life would be difficult after his wife gave birth to three children.

"We didn't foresee the difficulty because we were young. Then I realized that it's hard to be a father when you don't earn much)," he said in Bisaya. “We live through hard work."

When his children grew and started to attend school, hard work was not enough for Locañas.

He had to borrow money for the kids' fare and school requirements.

Locañas's older son is a high school graduate, while the younger one dropped out.

His daughter graduated with a secretarial degree.

Seeing his children living well with his seven grandchildren is enough satisfaction for Locañas.

He is living with his wife and 93-year-old mother Martina in a shack outside the cemetery.

When asked if he would leave his current work, Locañas said only illness and death can stop him.

"Sakripisyo, mao na ang kinabuhi sa usa ka amahan (Sacrifice, that is the life of a father)," he said.