A Visit to a Home for the Aged
A lola singing "Why does the sun go on shining..."
Yesterday, I was fortunate to experience an outreach activity after so many years. Back in high school, I remembered that aside from the required outreach activities, I also volunteered to teach Pandacan kids every Saturday for a year. And it's not something that makes me good for helping others, it's a way that made me feel good as well. I feel that I got something more from them than the other way around: compassion and love and a chance to be there for others.
Anyway, so yesterday I went to the Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly in San Juan, and the moment I stepped inside the 4 or 5 storey building, I met Super Lola Flor. I later learned that the nickname was given to her by a group of doctors who visited them before, printed and laminated it with her name for her walker. What was unusual was instead of the usual me choosing who I want to be partnered up with (as with the case in other outreach activities I've been to), she kind of chose me. She walked slowly, with her walker, toward our group, patiently sat down in one of the monobloc chairs that were set up "theater style" for that afternoon's happenings, and then she pointed towards me and then the chair next to her. So that was how our partnership started, I sat there to listen to her stories.
Lola Flor told me she wasn't really abandoned (a sad sad thought), she left her house and her province when she was just 14. She told me how lucky she was that a lady in Divisoria saw her, took care of her, and let her in their house as if she was family. She skipped from one story to another, looking at a distance and then making eye contacts from time to time, just to tell me tidbits of her life - chapter by chapter, highlights upon highlights. I learned that Lola also worked as an all around kasambahay, starting with a goodhearted family of 7 kids. She really worked hard, had lots of adventures.
I asked her if she wants to meet my students, she told me she's shy. When our small group gathered around her, Lola made blessing gestures, and told the girls to study hard, "huwag mag lakwacha", and to always love and obey their parents. "Kung magkasamaan kayo ng loob, huwag matulog ng may galit sa magulang". I teared up a little.
I left the group for the CR, and also to let the girls talk to Lola, but when I came back, I saw Lola Flor telling another Lola that somebody's seated beside her. When she saw me, she pointed again to the chair so I sat with her again.
I was thinking if Lola's stories and pangaral were all words of regrets, but I didn't see that at all in her eyes. I felt that she's contented in where she is now, showing to me an envelope with printed pictures of her with past popular visitors like Cardinal Tagle and Pilita Corales, and even with the doctors she was telling me about earlier. From time to time she'll look over my shoulder to the photo I was looking at, and will blurt a brutal joke "Kapangit ko jan!". She also told me stories on her life at the Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly, and how lucky she is to be there. She was also able to form a new family there, one Lola she even calls her Nanay. Our visit didn't even last an hour (bitin!), but I learned a lot from the experience. She reminded me of a lot of things.
Lola Flor wasn't cheesy, we didn't even danced when the group started to stand up and groove their way to our makeshift dance floor to the sound of cha cha cha. But we held each other's arms before saying goodbye. She took off a wooden bracelet she was wearing, the garterized kind with tiny pictures of Jesus, Mary, and even the Pope, and gave it to me as a remembrance. "Para maalala mo ako". I will never forget you, Lola Flor! I pray that the whole thing doesn't end there.
I miss my Lola. I'm always thinking about you Nanay!