Grandparents are ‘givers’ now living ‘new lives’ for others

There are millions of “givers” among us and they are doing that while living the “best new lives” for others. They are known as “grandparents,” or the lolos and lolas, who now give most of their time to their families (especially to their apos or grandchildren), community, and church.

There are approximately nine million senior citizens in the country, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA, 2020).  Of that number, 3.3 million are still working, while 5.7 million have committed themselves to non-gainful occupations, according to the National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC) qouting from a PSA report. The non-gainful occupations include taking care of apos, volunteering for church or community work, or engaging in regular leisure activities such as travel.

In the Filipino culture, all senior citizens are considered lolo or lola for the strong bond that ties families together, long after children, nephews and nieces included, become adults and have children of their own.

In an interview with Manila Bulletin, NCSC chairman lawyer Franklin M. Quijano explained that it is “embedded in us to be caring, nurturing, and giving, which is why grandparents are known to be ‘givers’ of their precious time, knowledge, and experiences.”

In this context, “non-gainful occupation” is a stepping stone to being more involved in family day-to-day matters, one of them, caring for the little children.
“There’s a new ministry that you go into. We call that ‘apo-stolate.’ When you take care of your apos (grandchildren), you become even more valuable to the parents, and you also leave a mark on your grandchildren,” he said, noting that child care is a ”job” that most grandparents will gladly take on.

Eighty-eight-year-old Elisa Salayon, a retiree from San Juan City who has seven grandchildren (now adults), agrees that her role as a grandmother is to give what the parents cannot afford to give, which is time since most parents with young children spend most of their time working to make ends meet.
Now that all her grandchildren are capable of taking care of themselves, Salayon continues to be a doting grandmother, still sharing words of wisdom, “I give them advice about the reality of life, that success and failure are part of growing up. They have to choose how they want to live their lives.”

Sixty-six-year-old Angelita Pineda, makes sure to pray and play with her grandchildren, all 14 of them, ages two to 23 years old. “I teach them to pray, especially the Holy Rosary. These will help them have a better relationship with God, and to become good people.”

President of the senior citizens group in her barangay, 77-year-old Leonora Nicolas Ramos, a retired grade school teacher, bonds with her grandchildren over food, especially local delicacies. “They always ask me how to make puto, kutsinta, and other kakanin. They love to eat.” She has 14 grandchildren whose ages range from five months to 28 years old. The heirloom recipes are proof that grandparents hold so many treasures, waiting to be shared with the younger ones.

“If these grandparents are able to sustain the values, skills, wisdom, experiences, and share them with the next generation, it will strengthen a culture that other people will also value,” Quijano said.

“Senior citizens should start to think of how their lives are connected with society and family governance. They have skills which they learned from their grandparents. We should challenge them to be pillars in nation building—to still be heroes by sharing their skills with the next generation,” he said.
Belinda D. Cruz, 62, enjoys taking care of her two grandchildren who are left with her while their parents work. She also serves her community as a barangay employee. She is considered by people who know her as a true “giver” who dedicates this phase in her life to both her family and the community where she resides.

Seventy-five-year-old Manolo B. Mercado dedicated 18 years of his life to working as a section head of Net Const department of PLDT. “I was the one in charge of outside plant operations, visiting almost all the provinces in the Philippines,” he said. Now at 75 years old, contributing to the community is on his mind, having been recently elected as the president of the Federation of Senior Citizens Association of the Philippines San Juan Chapter, and concurrently the senior association president of Barangay Pedro Cruz San Juan.

In his free time, Mercado enjoys looking after eight grandchildren. “I bring them out and attend worship at our church. We play together and watch movies. They enjoy being together with their lolo and lola,” he said.

To provide more opportunities for grandparents and senior citizens, NCSC continues to encourage LGUs (local government units) to create programs that the national organization can support. “The senior citizens will be more appreciative if the local government can really be on their side,” Quijano said.
He cited a project with District Six of Manila City. Quijano reveals that the senior citizens from that district have been creating during their free time beaded products for selling. “They started with beads, and are now in diamond painting. I called their attention—nasa gilid lang kayo ng Pasig River. Alam mo may dumadaan dyan na kaya niyong kunin at gamitin (You’re just beside the Pasig River. Do you know that there is something that floats by which you can use)?”

Now, they are producing water lily items such handcrafted woven baskets, he said.

Grandparents, indeed, are living their best “new” life not only as wonderful caregivers to the next generation of citizens but still contributing to society and their respective communities – through selfless actions that will leave lasting impressions, words of wisdom, and good citizens.