Diapers, dignity and social media: Christmas for the grandparents | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

A year ago, I was a caregiver. Every Sunday, I spent my mornings at Luwalhati ng Maynila, a home for the aged in Marikina. This was part of Ateneo’s Junior Engagement Program (JEEP), which took Ateneans (who, stereotypically, live in comfort) and thrust them out into the experience the realities of the Philippines’ marginalized sectors.  “Luwalhati ng Maynila,” when translated to English, means “Glory of Manila;” however, I quickly learned there was no splendor to be found in that place.

On my first day on the job, I was greeted by the smell of feces—a lot of it. I stood outside the gates for a good minute, my eyes watering, unable to breathe.

I had been assigned to the ward for bedridden women. There, I learned the reason behind Luwalhati’s stench. Many of the lolos and lolas had lost control of their bodily functions; they poop and pee in their sleep and wake up lying in their own waste. While Luwalhati ng Maynila is funded by Manila’s local government, they receive far less than they need. The most the home’s administration could do was replace the mattresses with plywood boards which they could hose down every morning.

There was a sense of deep sadness and shame when the lolos and lolas spoke of their situation. One lola kept apologizing as we bathed her: “Sorry, Ma’am,” she said over and over. I do not remember her name, and I hate myself for it. However, I do remember her sad eyes, her large lips, her heavy build that stood out from her skeletal roommates.  I remember how she held my hand, how she sang beautifully, how she used to be a policewoman.

I began tearing up during those first baths; later, I locked myself in the store room, lay on a gurney and cried. Then I realized: They’re hurting more than I am. At the end of my work day, I could go home. I could escape to a “regular life.” They couldn’t. And so I decided, in that store room, to give my Sundays to Luwalhati—to give the best of my efforts, the best of my love, the best of me.

Every time I saw the lolos and lolas in Luwalhati, I saw my own grandparents. In the beginning, that was the main reason that drove me to act. But as I spent time chatting with the lolas, I learned that they each had value in themselves—that, as persons, they each deserved to live with dignity and humanity. That each and every one of the Luwalhati lolos and lolas deserved infinitely more than what they were getting.

It’s been a year since those Sundays at Luwalhati and a week since I posted a call for donations on my blog. In a post entitled “Christmas for the Grandparents,” I outlined my dream for Luwalhati: 1,000 adult diapers, 20 bottles of shampoo, 72 bars of soap for the grandparents, and supplies like latex gloves for the staff. One diaper costs only P15—if we all pitch in, we can succeed, I said.

Christmas for the Grandparents was initially meant to be a small-scale fundraiser within the confines of our university. However, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and Tumblr, I began receiving e-mails pledging donations from people outside Ateneo—even outside the Philippines.

People surprise you. In many ways, Christmas for the Grandparents has grown beyond any expectations I used to have. From a team of one, there are now four core members apart from myself: Karsie Lorenzana and Lexa Lim, who also went on immersion at Luwalhati; Kevin Davis, who uses the long breaks in his schedule to go around campus asking for donations; and former UAAP courtside reporter Job de Leon, who handles the bookkeeping of the donations.

There are also the countless people who have pitched in. There’s the Math professor who let us promote our cause in his class, the girl with a six-day work week who offered to shoulder the expenses to deliver her contribution, the office worker who shared the blog post with his entire sub-department.

It’s surreal to think that the Christmas for the Grandparents project only started a week ago. In one week, we’re halfway towards our goal of raising funds for those 1,000 diapers! At this rate, we can exceed the initial goals of the project. 1,500 diapers? 2,000 diapers? Let’s see how far we can go.

It’s so easy to see the inhumanity of the world and lose hope; we see places like Luwalhati and feel like the society we live in is on its head. However, I do believe it’s still within our power to change and transform the communities we live in—even through seemingly small acts like a P15 peso donation or a share on Facebook. If we choose to see the failings of our world as opportunities—that is, a gap we can fill—then who knows what we can achieve.

And perhaps that’s all it takes to make a difference: The willingness to go against the way of the world and hope for a surprise.

Christmas for the Grandparents accepts donations in cash and in kind until Dec. 16. All cash donations will be used to purchase diapers, soap and shampoo for Luwalhati ng Maynila. To learn more about how you can donate, visit https://pushyforsushi.wordpress.com, or e-mail [email protected] with the heading “Christmas for the Grandparents-Donation.”

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