Saturday , June 23, 2018

Old and alone this Christmas

EIGHTY-YEAR-OLD Lola Sol sits at a corner of a backyard shed, her white hair reflecting the rays of morning sun. Small and with skin like crumpled paper, she stares blankly at the trees.

This is what she does every day. Every day, she would visit the garden and stay there, keeping to herself, not talking to anyone.

Lola Sol is only one of the 39 elderly residents of Cagayan de Oro’s Home for the Elderly. The residential house stands right in the compound of J.R. Borja Memorial city general hospital at Villarin Street, Carmen village, Cagayan de Oro City. Its fence is covered with iron sheets while it’s padlocked to secure the residents. The place is manned by 14 personnel of which one is a nurse and three of them are caregivers.

“All I ever think about is my family. I wonder if they know where I am,” Lola Sol told SunStar Cagayan de Oro.

“I wonder if I will ever be given the chance to see them again,” said Lola Sol.

It has been more than a decade since Lola Sol last saw all of her six children. One by one, they left her and her husband, Nicolas when they all started their career in other cities. Together, the couple spent the years living to support themselves, with her husband working as a
"trisikad" driver while she sold cooked food in front of the house.

She recalled being brought to the city’s Home for the Elderly by authorities a few weeks after the devastation of Sendong in Cagayan de Oro in 2011. She never saw her husband again after that fateful night when the storm destroyed their house in Consolacion village. She was left alive simply by luck she said, as she was at the time stranded in another part of their village helping out in the preparations for the Misa de Gallo.

She was left alone without a home, a family, or a proper livelihood, ultimately ending up in the streets to scavenge for food and clothes.

Lola Sol said the first few months of her stay in the "Home for the Elderly" was one of the loneliest times of her life. She kept wondering if one of her children may have come looking for her or if her husband was still alive somewhere.

“The first thing I do every day is to ask the people in the office if one of my children may have come for me or if the authorities found
Nicolas. I did not want to kill the hope,” she said.

But as the months and the years slowly pass, Lola Sol gradually grew accustomed to her life in the facility.

Today, she would only watch the entrance and exit of elderly residents in the facility wondering if she will ever get the chance of a visit or a home with her children in the remaining years of her life.

“Little by little, I let go of the possibility that my husband may be alive. However, whenever I remember my family I could not help but long for my children. In times like these, like Christmas, I wonder if they even think of me at all,” she said.

Gaga Pajo, of the Home for the Elderly’s administration, said that Lola Sol’s story is common among residents in the facility.

Others, she said, were even deliberately left by their children or relatives at the center simply because they could no longer take care of them because of their age or their sickness.

“The bond of the family is one of the strongest that you could have in a Filipino culture. Unlike that of the western society, our attachment to the family extends not only to our mother and father but also to our lolas and lolos, titos or titas. Still, sadly however, there are still those who leave their elders like that,” said Michael Fabello of the City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD).

With the coming of the Christmas day, the team of the city’s "Home for the Elderly" aims to make the holiday season happier for the elder residents in the facility.

“In December 29, we are having our own Christmas party here in the Home for the Elderly. Like others, we will have dancing, and singing contests and games for them. Aside from that, the elderly in the facilities will share food just like that of a normal family during Christmas,” said Pajo.

But one gift, she says, that she knows the residents will really take pleasure from is the presence of their family.

“The facility has been trying, and in some cases, has been successful in searching and contacting the families of these elders. However, some do not respond to our requests,” Pajo added.

CSWD, along with the faculty of the city’s Home for the Elderly, is calling for only one thing, and that is the participation of the community in supporting these elders in the facility.

“They have once given their all to love and care for their children.
What damage can a few hours or even a day to visit them do? While the facility is providing them with all the material things that they might need, but still the most essential things come from the things we can only feel such as a loved one’s care,” Pajo said.