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A new family, finally

He became an orphan at age one, but this did not make him a failure. In fact, it is this situation that made Francisco Baron, now 73, an independent individual who finds ways to provide for his needs.

Left at the care of his grandmother, Francisco moved from Cebu to Davao City where he was sent to school. When her grandmother told him she cannot afford sending him to college, he found a job as a helper in restaurants so he can send himself to a university. With his persistence, he was able to reach third year until he went to Manila and later applied for a job abroad.

With his job as a butler in Saudi Arabia, he was able to establish his assets in Manila including a house, a car and a complete set of appliances. He was also able to send a cousin to a private university for his college education. His earnings also allowed him to invest on businesses.

However, far from this story of success is Francisco’s life inside the Haven for the Elderly, a residential care facility for neglected, abandoned and abused senior citizens in Tanay, Rizal managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Field Office IV-A.

All his life, never did it occur to Francisco that all his efforts will be in vain and he will be left with nothing. He later chose to reside in the Center, and though life is completely different, Francisco has accepted the situation and is now a happy, content and grateful resident.

Choosing to reside inside the facility

Francisco’s life turned upside down when all his life’s earnings as an overseas worker for 15 years vanished in an instant. He was scammed in a networking business where he invested most of his earnings. As if this is not a major blow yet, his only known relative in the Philippines, whom he entrusted all his assets, got involved with illegal drugs and spent everything he has established. His cousin was later sent to a mental institution and died six months later.

When he was 60, he went back to the Philippines with no earnings except for a minimal amount provided to him by his employer abroad.

“Dahil wala akong bahay dito at wala na akong ibang kakilalang kamag-anak, tumira ako sa pamilya ng kaibigan ko sa Mandaluyong. Nagbabayad ako para sa pagkain ko, sa kuryente, sa tubig,” Francisco shared.

When his money ran out, he started selling cigarettes and candies inside the compound of the city hall so he can continue contributing to his friend’s family for his daily needs.

“Nahihiya na rin akong makitira dahil hindi ko naman sila kaano-ano. Lalo na ‘nung nagkasakit ako at na-ospital ako dahil sa sakit sa puso at sa diabetes, ayoko nang makaabala sa kanila,” he said.

His hospital bills were settled by then Mayor Benjamin Abalos Jr., who became his acquaintance during his years of vending cigarettes and candies in the city hall. The Mayor had even offered him to stay in his home after his hospitalization.

“Tumanggi ako, dahil si Mayor lang naman ang kakilala ko doon. Sinabi ko na lang na kung may bahay-ampunan na mayroon, doon na lang ako,” said Francisco, who was later referred to and accepted in the Golden Acres in Quezon City. In 2011, he was one of the residents who were transferred to the Haven for the Elderly (HE) in Rizal Province.

Finding his place, his family

Nine years of living inside the center, Francisco is happy of his new life and most importantly, his new family.

“Wala na talaga akong hahanapin pa sa HE kasi lahat ng pangangailangan namin, binibigay sa amin. May pagkain, gamot at may iba’t ibang activities kami na ginagawa dito. May mga houseparents pa na inaasikaso kami 24/7,” shared Francisco.

He added that her fellow residents inside the center have been his friends as well. Currently, he lives together with 263 other senior citizens, some are bed-ridden, inside the Haven for the Elderly.

“Para na nga kaming magkakapatid dito. Minsan nag-aaway, pero madalas ay nakakak’wentuhan. Magkakasama kami sa mga activities tulad ng chess, pool, scrabble at pagtugtog,” he said.

His acceptance and gratefulness of his life in the center are reflected in Francisco’s perspective as a resident. He is the constant source of joy, particularly for those new senior citizens who find it hard to accept their fate inside the center.

“May mga kasamahan pa kaming gustong lumabas kaysa manatili sa center. Pero sinasabihan ko sila na mas mapapabuti sila dito. Kung nasa labas sila, hindi natin alam kung saan sila pupulutin. Dito, kumpleto na kami sa lahat,” said Francisco.

Other than this, Francisco gives back to the services being provided to him inside the center through being a productive resident. He takes charge of cleaning the cottage and clearing the dishes every day. He also shares his food and other items, including biscuits, coffee and clothes, to other residents.

According to Ms. Hideliza Mayuga, one of the social workers, Francisco is one of the trusted residents in the center. The social workers and houseparents are able to rely on him in terms of assisting other senior citizens as well as entertaining guests.

For Francisco, he may have no blood-related families and no assets, but he will never call himself a failure. His contentedness and happiness as well as his small ways of helping his fellow senior citizens and the Center are enough reasons to call his life a good one.#

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