While many have succumbed to fear and loneliness during the quarantine, senior citizens at the state-owned Golden Action and Reception Center for the Elderly and other Special Cases (GRACES) in Quezon City say they have many things to be grateful for.
Orlando (not his real name), 73, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that life is so much better now compared to when he was living with relatives.
“Yung mga kapatid ko, hindi naman nila ako kayang alagaan, may kanya-kanya na kaming mga buhay. Magkasama nga kami pero hindi kasi nila kayang bigyan ng budget ang pang–maintenance ko (My siblings cannot take care of me because we have our own obligations. We may be together but they cannot afford to support my medical needs),” he said.
GRACES, formerly called Golden Acres, operated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), provides residential care and professional attention to Filipino senior citizens who are “abandoned, neglected, unattached, and homeless.”
The DSWD has secured a budget for the residents’ medication, other basic necessities, and even activities for leisure.
Orlando said in his youth, he would play basketball with friends and co-workers in Muntinlupa City.
Before he came to GRACES, he worked as cook for the family of the vice mayor in his hometown.
When he was young, he remembers not being able to eat good food because they were expensive. But the irony of it all was when he had the money, his doctor prohibited him from eating what he liked.
“Nasa gitna ka lang talaga lagi. Dapat marunong bumalanse kasi ganoon naman talaga ang buhay, di ba? Magsisipag ka pero magpakasaya ka rin (Everything has to be balanced. You toil but you also need to have fun),” he added.
Virginia Daniles, center head of GRACES, said there are two ways the elders arrive at the nursing home — either they are rescued or referred by their relatives or by the concerned local government unit.
“Usually, we will find them by the streets. They are homeless and are left by themselves,” she said.
Aside from the fun activities they do together, residents at the facility also have their own council.
Ariel (not his real name), 92, the council head, said he was elected leader because of his ‘charm’.
“Para yun ma-organisa kami. Para mapag-usapan kung anong gagawin, magkukumustahan, babatian (The council is to ensure that we are organized, so we can plan our activities and check on each other),” Ariel, who was rescued by the staff of GRACES in front of the Manila Central post Office in 2015, added.
Daniles said the center conceals the identities of Orlando and Ariel because they are among the confidential cases.
Other residents are classified as “lost” and staff members are helping them locate and remember their families.
The staff of the News and Information Bureau (NIB) earlier gave away gifts for the shelter and residents during their annual outreach program.
The donation included basic necessities and essentials needed to observe health protocols amid the pandemic, adult diapers and medicine.
GRACES currently hosts 142 senior citizens — 61 males and 81 females.
“Masaya kami na naalala ninyo kami, na naglalaan kayo ng oras at mga regalo para sa amin. Maraming salamat (We are happy because you remembered us, gave us your time and gave us gifts. Thank you very much),” Orlando told donors.
GRACES is located along Misamis Extension St., Bago Bantay, Quezon City beside SM North Edsa. For donations, they can be reached at (02) 929-1187 and mobile number 09323422654.