Tucked along Lancaster St., Pasay City, is San Lorenzo Ruiz Home for the Elderly, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
It was Sr. Jeanne Jugan who founded the congregation, one winter evening in 1839, in St. Servan, France.
Jugan opened her home to Anne Chauvin, an elderly woman, blind and paralyzed, abandoned after her sister’s death. Sister Jeanne carried Chauvin through the streets of their small town, brought her to her apartment and laid her in her own bed.
This was the beginning of what would be her lifelong mission. Soon, another old woman followed her, then another. This was how the Little Sisters of the Poor came to be, with its unique mission of hospitality to the elderly.
“The elderly we care for are referred to us by churches or social workers. Yung mga gumagala, abandoned, mostly,” says Sr. Rosario Antoinette.
The mission of the congregation is to give the elderly, even if only for the first time in their lives, respect and dignity as human beings.
The home is filled with many characters, each with his own story. For example, Lolo Jose used to be a street performer who roamed Luneta Park.
When you visit the facility, you will find him carrying his guitar. Upon your request, he would sing you an old love song. He would also lay his hands upon you, pray over you and give you his blessings, which he does so with so much fervor, you can’t help but be touched.
A woman who caught my attention was dressed to kill, bejeweled, coiffed, though glassy eyed, always wearing a smile.
She tugged on my dress and told me, “Alam mo ba, presidente ako ng fans club ni Nora Aunor?”
This was the start of our friendship. She shared her life story.
Lola Carmencita, fondly called Doña, hails from Tacloban, Leyte. She said her mother used to work for a large farm in Leyte. When she died, the owner, an old woman whom she called her grandma, adopted and brought her to Manila.
But she said she ran away from home to become independent. She added she took up “beauty culture” and became a street hawker. She said she never married, so when she was old, she was adopted by young people whom she called her “apo.” They brought her to the nursing home.
She said she was fond of cooking. She said her specialty was “sinigang na bangus sa bayabas” and “ginisang alamang.”
She gave me her “secret recipes.”
She said the guavas to be used for the sour broth must be half-ripe, some 10 pieces, peeled and with the seeds removed.
In a strainer, the guavas are to be mashed.
Lola Carmencita said rice washing should be used as broth. She said this should be boiled with the kangkong and guavas.
When the broth is boiling, the bangus (two small ones, around one kilo overall, deboned and sliced lengthwise into four strips) are placed. For flavoring, one may use patis and pepper.
For the ginisang alamang (sautéed, salted and fermented fish), the alamang should be washed but only lightly so as not to lose its flavor. It should be sautéed in garlic (two bulbs, well-pounded) and 1/3 cup oil. Then four chopped onions, four chopped large tomatoes should be added to the sauté.
Lola Leonara used to be a “kusinera.” She had worked in a restaurant though she had forgotten the restaurant’s name. She tried to piece her specialties together but she looked at me often, as though pleading me to forgive her because she had forgotten.
I had the privilege to sit down with Mother Superior Imelda Primosch. Asked her wish list, she said that the facility thrives only because there are many generous souls.
“We need financial assistance but we, likewise, need kitchen provisions—sugar, oil, dry goods, fruits. We are also in need of Ensure.
“Cushions for the chairs, garden chairs anywhere from four to 10 pieces, bed sheets, cleaning products, dishwashing detergent, hospital bedside tables, materials/fabrics for handicrafts (the elderly make handicrafts and do bead work).”
I learned that the most occupied area of the hospice are the pews by the entrance, where one gets full view of the gate. There, the elderly sit, wait and hope for someone to come and pay them a visit.
Thus, Mother Superior is urging us to come, volunteer our time and help the elderly take their meals, do bedside duties, take them out to the garden for a stroll, do secretarial work, cut their hair or just come for a visit, talking and spending time with them. By doing so, you have already done so much for them.
Come to the San Lorenzo Ruiz Home for the Elderly. Call 8329689.
My book “Kitchen Rescue 3, The Directory—My Lifeline to Eating, Cooking and Living,” is now available at all leading bookstores or call 6474744.
For my cooking class schedule call 0917-5543700/ 0908-2372346/ 4008496/ 9289296. E-mail the author: [email protected].com.ph.