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A whole new world

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published May 14, 2023 5:00 am

"This is the place," Jojun said, parking in front of a gate with a sign: “Milagros Elderly Home Care Services.” His wife Patty and I got down and rang the bell. We were here quite by accident.

Jojun and I once worked on the Coca-Cola advertising account. Now, after retirement, he had turned into a pastor; his wife Patty into an outstanding chef. I had married in my 70s. Now we had a caregiver who had trained at this senior’s home. Jojun and Patty had inquiries from their flock about how to deal with people with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. We agreed to do some research and visit homes. This was the first on our list.

The Milagros Elderly Home Care Services was in a large house in Marikina. Marc Cacho owned and ran the home. As a first show of his home’s legitimacy, he picked up a picture frame from a high shelf and said, “This was the home of Mommy Amy Yulo, a descendant of Rizal.” I gasped, “She’s my cousin! We have been looking for her. We heard she had died. Did she die here?”

“She had a heart attack here,” Marc said. “We brought her to the hospital where she passed away. Her grandchildren brought her here, visited her, took care of her. Gisella was the name of one of them.”

Amy Abreu Yulo, Narcisa Rizal’s descendant.

“Amy Abreu Yulo,” I said, remembering her married name when she was younger. “She was a descendant of Rizal’s sister Narcisa. She was a ballet dancer.”

“Yes,” Marc said, “whenever we had visitors she would gracefully move her arms and hands but she didn’t remember very much.”

“Was she happy here?” I asked. That was the question I wanted answered on this tour of senior homes.

“Yes,” Marc said. “Look at her smile in the photo.” It was definitely a happy smile.

I had told Marc I wanted to interview at least one of the residents. He presented us with Mommy Adela, a 96-year-old little lady who once worked in the Register of Deeds. She wore a yellow batik duster, her curly white hair held down with a headband. She gave us an exuberant smile as she shook our hands, told us she still knew everything about the Register of Deeds. Patty presented a problem. Mommy Adela explained what they had to do. She explained in such detail that none of us doubted how well she remembered her work.

Mommy Adela Bernal do, happy 96-year-old.

I asked if she was happy here. “Yes,” she said, overflowing with conviction. Marc later said her children were in the US but she had made friends here and was happy in this community that now sheltered her.

“Would you like to meet a man, too?” Marc asked. Of course, I said. Out wheeled a 92-year-old gentleman, once a CPA. This was Toto.

“Are you happy here?” I asked.

“No,” he said firmly. “No beer and no chicks.” We all laughed. His son had checked him in and visited him regularly with his 16-year-old granddaughter and seven-year-old grandson. He sent Marc to his room to pick up photographs to show us. He spoke about his adventures as a CPA, remembering feasibility studies, remembering the condo he enjoyed before he was moved here. There was always enough beer. “And chicks?” I teased. He gave me a naughty smile.

I asked for his name. Faustino Otanes, Jr. “Otanes?” I asked, shocked again. “Are you related to Felix Otanes?”

The 3rd photo is Faustino Otanes, Jr., unhappy without beer & chicks.

“He’s my brother,” he said, looking at me curiously.

“He was my vice president for Finance at J. Romero & Associates, where I was president. We were close friends.” He was so dear to me that when he was buried, I was so upset that I accidentally threw my fan with a spray of orchids onto his grave. I never would have guessed I would meet his brother here!

Then suddenly, torrential rain fell. We had to go. We didn’t know how we thought or felt. I knew I had a miraculous visit — one where I found a missing cousin and met the brother of a dear friend. It was like God connecting my dots, saying, They may be gone, but they are not lost. Mothers and children may be separated but there are places where mothers can go, make friends and create communities that will give them life again, happiness again, hearty laughter again, mischief over beer and chicks again.

My friend Joe Araullo said it best when we recently talked about aging. “We don’t realize it,” he said, “but as we grow old we face a whole new world.” That’s so true. We just don’t know right now what shape that world will take.

To mothers (and fathers) 80 and above, celebrate Mother’s Day today! Have fun! It is the beginning of life like you never once imagined. You will still find joy!

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Milagros Elderly Home Care Services is at 78 South Narra Street, Marikina Heights, Marikina City. You may call 0969-020-2598.