Last Sunday I went to an event and was handed this rose. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the flower has started to wither; the tips of its petals have darkened, the red color, no longer as intense, the fragrance has grown faint. But the rose is still a rose, which may have lost some of its vibrancy, but still beautiful. I knew that the rose wouldn’t go for too long, but I haven’t a heart to just throw it away. And so it makes me wonder, if I couldn’t let go of something as simple as this flower, why are there some people who could go on living despite abandoning the old souls of Kanlungan ni Maria.
Last February 2, Pinoy Bloggers Outreach (PBO) chose to celebrate its 1st-year anniversary at Kanlungan ni Maria, Home for the Aged in Antipolo City. Over 60 volunteers (bloggers and non-bloggers) joined the event, including some friends of PBOers. Meeting place was KFC at Starmall where the registration, distribution of the yellow PBO shirt, and brunch were held. There were so many of us, it looked like we rented the whole place.
There are several reasons why this particular outreach is close to my heart. First, it was the first time that I’ve taken part in the preparation and planning. Second, I had to shed my snob tendency so that I could talk and confirm the attendance of the volunteers. Third, it’s the first time I’ve invited some guests to join me in this undertaking.
To get to Antipolo, we rented three different vans. In about an hour, we finally reached the place. I still had Bahay ni Maria in my head so I was a bit surprised when I saw that Kanlungan is much smaller. It’s a two-story house, with a small front yard, and an area that seemed to have been meant as a garage but is being used as a dining place.
As soon as we arrived, volunteers started setting up the place by hanging the tarpaulin, balloons, and flags, and arranging the goodie bags and donations that we prepared for the elders. Two hours later, we were finally on. The program was hosted by Abbie and Edmar. After an opening prayer by MJ, the outreach’s chairman, Christian, took the floor for the opening remarks. The activity officially began via a serenade courtesy of these three young ladies, Kyle, Allyza, and Eloisa. While the girls were singing, volunteers were called in to meet and bring flowers to their assigned elder. Some of the elders are bedridden so the volunteers who were charged to them were ushered in the sleeping area.
Suddenly the house was abuzz and the volunteers who were almost catatonic from waiting seemed to have been brought back to life. Each elder was designated with two volunteers. I went around and observed how the elders were taking it. If their smiles were any indication, it is safe to say that they basked in the attention.
I am nowhere near the age of these elders, but I couldn’t help but wonder, how is it to stand in their shoes. If I have been abandoned by my family, spending what’s left of my days under the care of strangers, what is it that I would wish for?
To share my most precious memories with…
To listen as I relive the old days…
And share good laughs with…
Would I wish for someone to stand close when my health turned for the worse?…
Or wish for someone willing to just sit with me in silence…
Or maybe I wouldn’t ask for much and find comfort if someone would just hold my hand.
For now I can only guess and in truth I never want to know the answer. Though it’s a blessing to have an institution like Kanlungan ni Maria, I still believe that deep in their hearts, the elders would still prefer to share their last days with the people they love.
Though we still wanted to spend more time with the elders, the hour has come for us to say goodbye. As we said our farewells, took souvenir photos, and cleaned up after our mess, I sensed that the volunteers and the elders alike were both happy that this outreach has been possible and sad that it had to end.
I hope that somehow we were able to console their spirit and calm whatever discontent they may have been feeling. I also hope that more people would be motivated to visit Kanlungan ni Maria so that in some way, the elders would always feel that they are still loved.
But more than this, my ultimate wish, is for people to never have the heart to abandon their families. Just as I couldn’t let go of the rose, even when it has shriveled.