February 6, 2020

When landing in the busy airport in Manila, you stand there with the locals and observe the crowd. Filipinos love a good discussion and their food, even at the airport the restaurants are busy. I left the airport and the Manila traffic hits; it’s known globally as one of the worse places to be stuck in traffic. I was visiting this beautiful country to visit one of my friends who was the lead for the hit musical Beautiful. I spent the next few days watching her perform and celebrating the productions’ last few shows. Filipinos really do love music and it appears that almost everyone can sing.

I spent most of my time in Manilla and really got to absorb the local culture even when stuck in traffic. I visited the historic monuments and the aquarium and spent days touring this big city. Now from a tourist perspective, I don’t think there is much to see in Manilla, but the people are just so kind and always love to say hello. They are notorious for calling visitors Sir and Mam. It is a sign of respect when addressing a foreign man or woman.

As I was looking for places to give back in, I was invited to a birthday party like no other. At first, I was hesitant about how we can help and whether this event will entail any sustainable changes to the community. Usually, my goal when I visit a country is to try and make a sustainable difference in the slightest way. The birthday party was a celebration at an abandoned elderly home 2 hours south of Manilla.

Philippines classroom

We were told to bring an item from the facility needs list. I saw that a washer/dryer unit was on that list and decided to get it. Logistically it was a nightmare, but it was fun planning it out. I went to a supermarket and bought the washer and dryer and ordered an Uber to my hotel. When I arrived, the hotel staff were shocked at first, but once I explained, they were very helpful in storing it in my room and helping me find a ride the next day for the trip south.

The next morning, I took an Uber out to the small town of Tanay and got to a gated community called “Haven for the Elderly”. I unloaded my ride and noticed an influx of volunteers guiding me around the place. There I met Tita Pinky who thanked me for coming and had such a remarkable glow on her face as she was surrounded by all the elders. Filipinos call elders and grandparents Lola and Lolo (Grandma and Grandpa). Here at the elderly home, they house the abandoned Lolas and Lolos who don’t have any family members or friends that visit. For them, having an event at the elderly home makes them feel alive.

They are so sweet and have smiles from cheek to cheek. You can see it in their eyes the enjoyment of being surrounded by so many smiling faces. Around lunchtime, we spent time with the immobile elderly who have suffered from conditions that caused them to be bed bound. It was very emotional and hard sitting there by their side listening to the struggles they have lived through. One man yelled at me asking “Where are you from”. I responded, “I’m from Canada”. He then proceeded to tell me that he has a daughter in Canada that he would love to visit. I asked the staff if his family has been notified and they responded that a lot of family members don’t know that the elders are here or if they did know, they ignored it.

That left me with heartache. How can we do this to the elderly, I would never allow my family to be left alone. I don’t understand. But then you remember that people like Tita Pinky spend time with the elderly for the exact reason. I asked myself “When was the last time you visited an elderly and spent time with them?” And that was the whole purpose behind this very project. To get people inspired to do something from watching and reading these stories.

I mean at the end of the day, if one person goes and spends some quality time with the elderly, then my job is complete. And following that evening, I know it left a new impression on me. I also want to take a second to thank Tita Pinky and her foundation, Pinky Cares for hosting such a remarkable event with great love and celebrations. Lastly, want to thank Kayla Rivera for having me there and showing me around the beautiful Philippines. Thank you for reading this and see you in the next country.