A Home called ‘Bale Pusu’ in Angeles City

“FOXES HAVE holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head,” this is how Matthew 8:20 describes homelessness. Hence, Lord, we intercede for those that do not have shelter of their own, bless them to have sufficiency of food and clothing, bless them with joy and peace of mind.

Owing to the fact we have a culture that values the elderly, Presidential Proclamation No. 470, Series of 1994 was issued declaring the first week of October of every year as “Elderly Filipino Week.” It is also a declared policy of the State to extend assistance to its elderly citizens through programs of social security and promote the right to health and safety of senior citizens. Towards this end, the State shall extend assistance to abandoned and homeless senior citizens through a social care and security program.

In the Philippines, the number of older people is increasing rapidly, faster than growth in the total population. In 2000, there were 4.6 million senior citizens (60 years or older), representing about 6% of the total population. In 2020, this has grown to 9.4 million older people or about 8.6% of the total population. The World Population Prospects 2019 projects that by 2050, older people will make up around 16.5% of the total population.

The pressing need brought by the rising cases of abandonment and neglect are among the reasons for filing Senate Bill No. 737, entitled “Homes for Abandoned Seniors Act of 2019” by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

Unlike western societies, Filipinos choose to take care of their elders themselves in their homes as a sign of gratitude and respect. However, there are rising incidents of abandonment and neglect of the elderly today. This can be attributed to various reasons such as the unbearable spending for the care of an elderly person for households that do not earn enough, estranged relationships between the elderly and their children, and the incapability to care for the elderly because of work related issues. However, in the Philippines there really are only a few elderly institutions—and there are only a few slots from NGOs and private institutions, around 30 to 40 slots. Unlike in state-run elderly institutions, like Golden Acres, which can cater to over 100 people.

Fortunately in Angeles City, aside from the cool Kapampangan traffic signs I spotted along major highways, there’s another milestone undertaking that bears the native dialect and emblazoned with the heart crest of the Lazatin administration. It’s more than just a structure of walls and beams, it’s a nursing home built with love and care tagged as “Bale Pusu” —the city’s shelter for homeless elders. Once fully operational it will provide living accommodations, food and clothing, medical and health care, and recreational and social interaction activities.

Recently, IC Calaguas, chief adviser and tactician of Mayor Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin Jr., and Executive Assistant IV Reina Manuel conducted an ocular inspection at “Bale Pusu” nestled in Barangay Sta. Teresita.They were joined by the hardworking and ubiquitous Gender and Development Officer Mina Cabiles and Angeles City Economic Development and Investment Promotions Officer Irish Bonus-Llego.

Calaguas said the center will be temporary since a more spacious abode will rise capable of sheltering some 40 homeless elders.

Preferably, the elderly in a nursing home should be separated according to their categories, as there are able, ambulatory, physically impaired and bedridden clients. It shall provide residential care programs and services such as but not limited to: comfortable living quarters; adequate food and clothing; medical consultation or treatment; health care; occupational opportunities; recreational and social interaction activities; counseling; case conference; family dialogue; outreach to existing family for reintegration; literacy education; productivity development; religious, cultural and vocational activities.

Mayor Lazatin’s initial plan is to ink an agreement among the existing home for the aged centers, but due to hurdles and limited bed capacity, Mayor Lazatin finally decided to conceive a city-run, locally funded home for the aged, Calaguas shared.

Calaguas and Manuel have been helping homeless senior citizens for years, referring them to institutions in their humble capacity. Manuel likened “Bale Pusu” a life saving commitment willed to cradle homeless elders.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought to center stage the inadequate systems to support elderly during their twilight years. What is reasonably expected to be a time of joy and rest is now fraught with layer upon layer of challenges. But with this brainchild project of this city, thank you and congratulations Mayor Lazatin for another praiseworthy project!

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