THE elderly sector has reason to be jubilant. During the Christmas Party of senior citizens of Pampanga held at the SM Pampanga Event Center last December 22, the message conveyed by the honored guests led by former President and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo rings propitious for senior citizens. Obviously, the prayers for well-deserved and long-overdue benefits are bearing fruits.
Anyway, the affair opened with a Holy Mass celebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Paciano B. Aniceto, endearingly called Apung Ceto by parishioners.
That was the first time—and hope not be the last, that I attended a Mass with Apung Ceto officiating and the venue is not a church at that.
Listening to his homily is, indeed, spiritually enriching as the venerable Archbishop explained the meaning of the word “matanda” not one as referring to old age but as someone blessed with bright memory. Thus, Apung Ceto impressed upon the elders in attendance to be proud of being called “matanda.” Because “matanda” is not only synonymous with wisdom but it is also a God—given virtue designed to perpetuate in gratitude to those benevolent acts given us. And for Divine emphasis, Apung Ceto cited the liturgy: Keep this in memory of me. Yah! It’s blessing to be “matanda.” In passing, Apung Ceto mentioned other matters which are, though, better recalled at other time.
After the mass followed the singing of the National Anthem, although, this time, the performers are not the Hope of the Fatherland, but the young once who steadfastly nourish their patriotism as custodian of the coming generation. Surely, the lyrics are so reminiscent of Dr. Jose Rizal’s nationalism and its unrehearsed, though, passionate rendition evoked memories of youth’s idealism.
Then, the principal guest of honor, Ex-President GMA, arrived, followed by Governor Lilia “Nanay” Pineda, Senior Citizens Partylist Representative, Congressman Francisco G. Datol, Jr., Board Member Paul Balingit and UPSCO Adviser Madam Leira “Ate Lei”Buan, Deputy Secretary General, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
Former President GMA and Congressman Datol, amidst the applause of intended beneficiaries, conveyed the good news concerning the certainty in the enactment into law of the proposed Philippine Senior Citizens Commission. Hopefully, if I may speculate, the said Commission seeks to consolidate and rationalize, among others, the delivery of all statutorily—mandated welfare benefits for Senior Citizens short of the present bureaucratic delay that attended their dispensation. More importantly, the adequacy and continuity of budgetary allocation is assured to better serve the well-being of the elderly. Incidentally, I took the occasion to intimate to President GMA my profoundest gratitude to Apung Dadong for giving me the opportunity to work as a janitor in the office of the then Secretary Armand Fabella that enabled me to secure a college education.
On the part of “Nanay”, she assured her fellow seniors of prompt availment of hospitalization and and other locally—dispensed social and economic benefits to indigent families. “Nanay” also confirmed her earlier commitment to cause the construction of a working building for Senior Cabalen at the Provincial Capitol Compound. Board Member Paul Balingit expressed the full support of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for “Nanay’s” welfare agenda.
And finally, “Ate Lei” happily disclosed the plan of HUDCC which is directly under the Office of the President to construct an integrated housing facility for the elderly—initially through “piloting”, with the first project to be established in the Province of Pampanga. As envisioned, the housing facility, aside from comfortable residential quarters, shall also have recreational and medical components and provisions for other amenities.
Of course, I salute the—management of SM Pampanga for its civic-consciousness for allowing the use of its Event Center for free; the OSCA heads under the able leadership of Mr. Gil Yapyuco; the staff of UPSCO led by Madam Cel Rodrigues, for their tireless labor; the contingents from the concerned municipal federations for their excellent and never-fading performances of old folk songs and dances reliving the boulevard of unbroken dreams of Filipino romanticism and hospitality. And lastly, but not least, the tandem of Sir Gerry Bognot and Madam Aida Quiambao for the masterful anchoring of the occasion. What tickle my curiosity, though, is that moment when Madam Aida is coaxing our peers to stay sweet and loving to their partners, she hastened to say that, in her case, the door is closed for any crowing roaster because of her Grandnanny role. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!