I’m back, which means I am cutting short my hiatus shiznit. Nope, I haven’t completely resolved the thing that had me packing but I can say that I’m little better now. Anyway, today I am going to share to you this noble undertaking I took part of last holy week with my new-found friends from the blogosphere. On March 30, 2013, I joined the second volunteering project of the Pinoy Bloggers Outreach (PBO) at Bahay ni Maria (BNM) in Calamba City, Laguna.
First, the getting there part. PBO rented a jeep that would take us to the venue. Meeting place was at Starmall in Ortigas at 10:00 in the morning. I decided to go there on my own because it’s easier, but I am direction impaired so I needed a little guidance to make sure I won’t end up in Babuyan Islands. My officemate, Ni, lives in Laguna so I sought her advice. I took the DLBT bus in Buendia, ticket price is PHP71 and journeyed for an hour. I put off at SM Calamba, asked some locals how to get to BNM but they looked at me like I was asking how to get to the moon. So I gave Ni a ring and she told me take a jeep that has “Calamba Bayan” and “Calamba Halang” sign boards. She instructed that I put off somewhere near City College of Calamba, St. Baptist Church, or Bahay ni Rizal. That’s three landmarks folks but when I mentioned these to the driver, he looked at me like I just requested him to take me back to Manila.
Good thing the driver, despite claiming he didn’t know those three landmarks, managed to get me to the exact place. I thought that the search was over, wrong. Ni didn’t know that she gave me the directions to BNM annex (yes it has a freaking annex!). I learned from some tricycle drivers in the area that the BNM I was looking for is located at Barangay Sampiruhan.
So I was back on the road, this time in a tricycle, and reached BNM after like 10 minutes. Finally, I reached the place and I realized I was the first person from our group to arrive in the scene (yeah I know, so uncelebrity-like hehehe…).
At last, the bloggers have come. Zai (Zai Moonchild), Joanne (Joanne’s Blog), and Arline (The Pink Line) were the only familiar faces, the rest I was meeting for the first time. There were Christian (Kwentong Iskwater Mula sa Iskwater), Josh (Kulapitot), Bino (Damuhan), Mar (Unplog), Kebler (Sunny Toast), Mecoy (I am MEcoy), Jei Son (Skrypton Jei), Rix (Kwentong Baliw ng Isang Rixophrenic), June (Life and Spices), Empi (Kol Me Empi), Erin (The Nutty Thoughts), Kat (Saturday Thoughts), Tiny, Madz, Hustin, Karlo, Kelly, Toshi, and the most popular blogger of the lot, Glenn (Wickedmouth). There were also non-blogger participants, Michelle and her daughter Kyle who are good friends of Christian.
We were welcomed by a nun in a peach-colored habit, named, Sister Evelyn. She let us in the backyard where the grannies on wheelchairs were waiting. According to the nun, they are currently housing 20 old women, most are as old as 80. I asked Sister Evelyn if some family members visit the grannies, she shook her head, “We only accept totally abandoned grannies,” she explained.
We weren’t able to hold our program right away because a religious group composed of young people went ahead of us. At first I was like, no biggie, we all came there to help the grannies anyway. Until we realized that they didn’t come for a simple outreach, they decided to… wait for it…. hold a freaking debut party!
I was like…
So we stood in the background as the debutante — let’s call her “A” — had her party. Meanwhile, I sat in the corner to face one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever faced in my life… Candy Crush Saga.
Soon I got tired of sitting, standing, fanning myself, playing with my phone, and watching the other group do their thing. The birthday girl had a speech where she explained how the event came to being. She said she didn’t want a regular celebration, that she wanted it to be meaningful, hence the request she made from her parents that instead of a party, why don’t they spend it with the abandoned grannies of BNM instead? Pretty noble you might say, well that’s what I thought too, until I noticed that the length of the program was as long as the Lord of the Rings movie.
The grannies who were supposed to be the stars of the program appeared, not even as visitors, but as gatecrashers. I swear to you the look on their faces was anything but happy as they sat through the whole thing. The “party peeps” remembered to bring A a cake, but for some reason, they’ve forgotten the most important, and probably the only reason why we all go to a party, “food.” Not only did they not bring food, they didn’t even have bottled drinks (oh for the love of Zeus!). This happened from 1 to around 3 in the afternoon and the grannies had to sit through the whole thing, under the weather that could give you tan in 50 seconds, with empty stomachs!
Okay, I get it, A and the rest of her gang just wanted to help the grannies, in fact, they brought donations-in-kind like diapers, toiletries, packed biscuits, etc. I just find it quite disconcerting that none of them had the common sense to bring food. They held a freaking party during lunch time and the beneficiaries are old people, some were so weak they couldn’t even lift themselves off the wheelchairs on their own. So how the hell did the idea of feeding the grannies escape their thoughts? This is not a freaking math equation. It doesn’t really take a genius to know that everyone, even ants, need to fucking eat!
I read from the post of one of my fellow bloggers that one granny even cried from hunger. Can you imagine that?! The more I think about it, the more I seethe with anger. My point, however, good an intention is, it wouldn’t mean a thing if the action betrays it.
I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but I am so thankful that PBO saves the day. As soon as sister Evelyn gave her go-signal, we started distributing the food and feeding the grannies. We did this notwithstanding the fact that the other group was yet to finish their program.
Some of the kids offered their assistance during the feeding. Maybe they too were already hungry, I mean really, who wouldn’t be? Anyway, after what seemed like a century, the other group finally called it a day. That’s when we started with our own party, this time, a shower party! — Kidding! We just had a simple program and we started it off by calling PBO’s president, Zai to deliver the opening remarks, which by the way, should win the shortest speech ever delivered in the history of mankind award (love you Zai! Hehehe…).
The event was hosted by Christian, who started by asking the grannies if they knew what blogger means. Of course none of them knew what he was talking about, they even heard the word wrong; one thought it was “bladder”, another granny heard it as “brother”. Considering how old the grannies are, their ignorance in the matter is quite understandable. Christian later explained the meaning of the word and also shared the history of PBO.
Quick info, PBO began in December 2012 after one blogger, Gracie (Gracie’s Network), expressed her wish to organize an undertaking that would help the less fortunate. Hence, PBO was born, founded by Gracie, Arline, Mar, and Arvin (Chateu de Achieviner). To date, the group has 67 members.
Aside from giving donations-in-kind, PBO volunteers also gave away bag of goodies to each granny. We also played some music after learning from Sister Evelyn that the grannies love dancing to the tune of Gangnam Style. A granny with an excellent singing voice gave us her own rendition of some old love songs.
I was particularly taken by the grooviest granny of them all, Lola Neneng. She loves to dance, she is kikay, and out of all the grannies she is the most sociable. The first time I saw her, she told me that she would be celebrating her birthday the next day. Sister Evelyn later told us that Lola Neneng likes to tell people that it’s her birthday, every day.
We wrapped up the program with a photo op with all the grannies.
At around 4:00PM the event officially ended. Some of us had to fight back tears upon seeing the sadness on their faces as we bade them farewell. I looked at them and wondered how they ended up in that place. How could their families leave them in such a troubled state? I can’t imagine what they could have done to deserve this. It makes me wonder why in a country where the importance of family prevails, some people had the heart to leave these grannies behind. It is quite saddening really. Old age is frightening as it is, what more if you have to live it alone?
Unfortunately, my heart could only ache for these old souls in Bahay ni Maria. I just hope that in our own little way we were able to ease their sorrow; that even for just a day, we were able to make them feel that they were anything but abandoned.