Helping never stops for 79-year-old Tatay Eduardo
MANILA, Philippines – For 79-year-old Eduardo Albonia, age does not stop him from helping others – especially his fellow elderly.
In 2003, Albonia entered Group Home not to seek shelter but to help the organization tend and care for the elderly women who have called the place their second home. A shelter for the elderly ran by the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), Group Home hosts senior-aged women seeking love and affection outside the circle of their family.
Tatay Eduardo, the nickname he goes by at the shelter, was then 65 years old.
Fast forward 14 years later, Tatay Eduardo continued to deliver tasks for the various activites at the shelter for the elderly.
Helping never stops
There are up to 7 to 8 million senior citizens in the country according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Unfortunately, a fraction of this figure are either forgotten or abandoned by their families.
With few to no daily visitors, the atmosphere at Group Home can be really sad and lonely according to Tatay Eduardo. This is why he strives to provide a fun company for the women at the shelter.
“Tuwang-tuwa sila kapag may dumadalaw,” Tatay Eduardo said. (They are happy when they get visitors.)
Tatay Eduardo makes sure to tend to all of their concerns whenever he visits.
Aside from tending to their needs, the tasks he does at Group Home are mostly menial. These include doing household chores, giving the holy communion and fixing sinks and faucets. At times, he also does heavy labor.
“Ang pag tulong namin doon, hanggang sa pag tatapon ng basura, nag tatapon ako ng basura. Yung mga pag bubuhat doon sa mga bed ridden, nilalagay ko sila sa wheelchair,” he said. (As a volunteer, I throw the trash, I help lift those who are bed-ridden onto their wheelchairs.)
Tatay Eduardo said he does all of these out of his pure interest to help fellow elderlies like him.
“Nakikita ko 'yung pangangailangan nila. Kaming mag asawa na lang, wala akong ginagawa, makatulong na lang ako sa kanila. Yung pag tulong na walang hinihintay na kapalit," he said. (I saw their need. I am alone with my wife. I am not doing anything. So I decided to help others instead, without expecting anything in return.)
Having contributed 14 years of his life to volunteering, Tatay Eduardo has no plans of stopping. “Walang hangganan yung pagtulong ko, basta kaya ko, tumutulong ako sa kanila.” (My life as a volunteer has no end. As long as I am able, I will help at the shelter.)
His efforts at Group Home did not go unnoticed.
On Sunday, October 8, Tatay Eduardo became a recipient of the Sampung Ulirang Nakatatanda award, an annual award-giving program that honors the continuous efforts of the elders for the community. He was one of the 10 awardees.
“Marahil, nakita na yung ginagawa ko, talagang pag tulong. Yung ginagawa ko, marahil, talagang kailangan na makatanggap ako nito dahil walang limitasyon yung pag tulong ko doon,” Tatay Eduardo said. (Maybe they saw the way I help others. Maybe what I have been doing was worth this award.)
The other awardees were 79-year-old Bandayan Danwat, 72-year-old Angelina Ipong, 76-year-old Erlinda Libor, 80-year-old Cecilia Ruiz, 64-year-old Anita Castor, 72-year old Esperanza Escoton, 71-year-old Josef Feliciano, 64-year-old Salvacion Garcia, and 73-year-old Leonita Labitag.
One of his many efforts that made him qualify for a SUN award is ensuring that senior citizens are aware of their rights in the society. (READ: FAST FACTS: What benefits are senior citizens entitled to?)
Once in a while, when Group Home accepts new members into their abode, Tatay Eduardo and other volunteers would organize an orientation that aims to discuss the benefits of senior citizens from government agencies, organizations, and other services.
Many seniors are ignorant of heir rights, according to Tatay Eduardo, because they have no idea that these rights exist. (READ: Without pension, senior citizens forced to continue working)
“Marami ngayong matatanda na hindi alam yung kanilang karapatan bilang senior citizens, iyon ang tinutulungan namin," Tatay Eduardo said. (Many of the elderlies do not know their rights as senior citizens. They are the ones whom we help)
Leaving a mark
Tatay Eduardo's dream for his fellow senior citizens is simple: He wants an effective social pension system for the elderly.
“[Sana] mabago yung sistema ng pagbibigay ng social pension. Huwag haluan ng politika." (I hope they change the system for releasing social pension so that it does not get messed up with politics)
The 2017 budget of the government for the Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizens, or SPISC, has increased from P8.7 billion to P17.9 billion.
According to the DSWD, the 2017 budget means SPISC can increase their beneficiaries from last year's 1.3 million to their 2.8 million target for this year. The social pension is still at P1,500 per quarter, or P500 per month for every senior enrolled in the SPISC.
During the awarding, Senator Risa Hontiveros paid tribute to Tatay Eduardo and the other awardees.
"The chance to serve our country and our communities does not know age. It is from older persons whom we learn good values, history of our family, and lessons from the past. It will be a shame and great loss to ourselves, to our children, and to our nation if we cannot take care of and preserve their stories, wisdoms and examples," Hontiveros said.
Now that Tatay Eduardo has left a mark by being bringing home a Sampung Ulirang Nakatatanda award, he also urged other senior citizens to keep contributing to the community. – with reports from Iona Mendoza/Rappler.com