Meet Nanay J
I seldom wake up ahead of the alarm clock.
But at 5:45 a.m. on a Friday, I was already set to leave the house with my backpack filled with a notebook, a case with 10 kinds of pens, a new edition copy of Casa Gorordo in Cebu by Resil Mojares, a bottle of water, wallet and phone.
I woke up groggy and disoriented from less than two hours of sleep. The house was quiet without Jeff moving around the kitchen for his usual breakfast ritual. The three mutants were still in deep slumber. Ate Joy was just waking up to knock on my door, but when she saw me already in vertical position, she waved her hand and went downstairs to feed the cats.
The main destination of the day was the Ramon Durano Foundation Home for the Aged in Barangay Guinsay, Danao City to visit the lolos and lolas living in the facility. This is part of the corporate social responsibility program of J Centre Mall called Centre for Light. I met members of the Uy family, who own the mall; and the millennial-powered staff, who enlivened the occasion with songs, dances, games and food.
The Zumba Sentao session given by instructor Jenner Keith Maquiling. The 24 lolos and lolas joined in the dance which did not involve standing up. We were all seated and the movements were choreographed with them in mind.
It is no secret that I passionately organize literacy, numeracy, arts and crafts events meant for children. This year has been a monthly exercise of meeting potential partners, crafting programs and projects, sealing agreements and rolling out sessions. I am a mother to three children so I am naturally biased towards the well-being and enjoyment of children.
Seeing and talking to the lolos and lolas yesterday pinched my heart and triggered the flooding of childhood memories in my maternal grandparents’ home in Barangay Calawisan, Lapu-Lapu City.
My grandparents had a stall at the Mandaue City Public Market. They sold seashells and seaweed. They did not finish elementary but they valued reading and storytelling. They always had a copy of a Visayan tabloid and I recall running to meet them by the barangay road every night when I was nine years old to have the first chance in reading the paper.
I was a lola’s girl and I envisioned myself graduating in college with her by my side. She died when I was on my third year in the university. My grandfather passed away eight months after my graduation, an occasion he was not able to witness because he was too weak to even travel.
My mother got pregnant at 18 when she was a sophomore student at the University of San Carlos taking up AB History. Her parents did not abandon her throughout that challenging stage. They took my parents under their wing until they were able to fend for themselves.
I was surrounded with grand aunts and uncles all my life and we lived in one compound. A “home for the aged” was unheard of. I never had the interest to visit one because I just felt anger towards family members who abandon their elderly at a facility with other people. For a culture with close family ties, this is a practice that is quite difficult for me to fathom.
In countries like the United States, the facility, where the elderly live to enjoy the golden years of their lives, is called a retirement home. They are also called nursing homes, old people’s homes or old-age homes. These are homes in which facilities and services were designed to cater to the needs of an aging population.
But these facilities are nowhere close the “home” I visited yesterday.
I wish they were.
I wish they were as vibrant as retirement homes in developed countries. I wish the elderly are given more regular check-ups to monitor their health condition. I wish more people cared so that needs such as diapers, blankets, pillows, toiletries and wheelchairs fall like manna from Heaven.
I immediately bonded with Nanay J who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. We both agreed we should see each other more. She sings, acts, recites poems and thinks that my Chinese writing skill is beyond repair.
Just before I left to go back to the city, she patted my head and said, “Your handwriting is terrible. Good thing you have computers now. They won’t know your weakness. I will miss you Inday. Visit me again. Happy New Year from my heart to yours.”
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