HOPEFUL. Residents of the Golden Action and Reception Center for the Elderly and other Special Cases (GRACES) in Quezon City thank the government for giving them proper care and medical attention they need even amid the pandemic, during a donation drive of the News and Information Bureau (NIB) on Thursday (Nov. 26, 2020). The facility houses 142 rescued and adopted senior citizens, some of them are with special needs. (PNA photo by Robert Alfiler)

MANILA – While many have succumbed to fear and loneliness during the quarantine, senior citizens who were taken into the state-owned Golden Action and Reception Center for the Elderly and other Special Cases (GRACES) said they have many things to be grateful for.

Orlando (not his real name), 73, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA), said life is still so much better for him these days compared to when he used to live 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 (I have siblings but I cannot depend on them to fully care for me. We can be together but they have their own priorities already. There won’t be any money to spend for my medication),” 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 his friends and co-workers in Muntinlupa City.

He said before he was transferred to GRACES, he was a cook of the family of the vice mayor in his hometown.

He said sometime in his childhood, he would remember not being able to eat what he called good food because they were expensive but when the time came that he had money to spend, his doctor had already prohibited him from eating those.

Nasa gitna ka lang talaga lagi. Dapat marunong bumalanse kasi ganoon naman talaga ang buhay diba. Magsisipag ka pero magpakasaya ka rin (It should always be in the middle. People should learn how to balance everything out in this life. You toil but you also need to have fun),” he said.

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 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 share, the residents in the facility also have their own council.

Ariel (not his real name), 92, the council head, said he was elected as the leader because of his ‘charm’.

Para yun ma-organisa kami. Para mapag-usapan kung anong gagawin, magkukumustahan, babatian (That was so we can be organized. So we can schedule our activities, so we have a reason to talk and say hi to each other),” he said.

Ariel was rescued by the personnel from GRACES sometime in 2015. The old man said he, along with their colleagues at work from Bulacan went to Manila over the weekend but come Monday when they were all drunk, their younger workmates have left.

Daniles said Ariel and his friends were staying in front of the Manila Central Post Office when they rescued them.

She also said the center wishes for their identities to be concealed because they are among those confidential cases.

Other residents, however, are classified as ‘lost’ and the staff members are helping them locate and remember their families.

On Thursday afternoon, the staff of the News and Information Bureau (NIB) distributed gifts for the shelter and the residents for their yearly outreach program.

The donation included basic necessities and essentials to follow the health protocols of the government. It also came with adult diapers and some medicines.

(PNA photo by Robert Oswald Alfiler)

To date, the center houses 142 senior citizens, 61 are males while 81 are females.

Orlando, in his message to the donors, said he speaks for everyone in the nursing facility whenever he would extend his gratitude.

“Masaya kami na naalala ninyo kami, na naglalaan kayo ng oras at mga regalo para sa amin. Maraming salamat (We are happy knowing that you remember us. We appreciate your time and these gifts. Thank you very much),” Orlando said.

GRACES is located along Misamis Extension St., Bago Bantay, Quezon City beside SM North Edsa. For donations, they may be contacted through landline number (02) 929-1187 and mobile number 09323422654. (PNA)