AT THE heart of the community in Larap, Jose Panganiban, there’s a building, or a shell of a building – four walls of hollow blocks with provisions for windows and doors – that has been growing molds and fungus.
In place of the upper portion where the roof should have been is a gaping hole that allows you to see a wide sky clearly. A concrete floor has yet to be laid to cover the boulders, soil, dirt and rocks that have served as landfill for the entire 15 meters by 9 meter floor area.
After an overnight rain, the entire floor area would become a shallow pool of dirty water that attracts frogs to lay eggs that overtime become toads as well as mosquitoes that may be carrying dengue virus.
This unfinished structure – supposed to be the future senior citizens’ center in Larap -- has been standing idle since 2010.
Through the efforts of more than 100 active seniors of Baranggay Larap who, for many months, raised funds, this unfinished structure came into being. It is obvious that the funds for the project has run out, forcing the construction to a dead stop.
Last April, MWBuzz had a chance to see the current president of the seniors – Mrs Josefina Francisco -- who’s now 82, and discussed with her the predicament facing her members – most of them from families of hand-to-mouth existence.
In her effort to dramatize the problems facing Larap’s senior citizens, Mrs Francisco showed MWBuzz the unfinished building that they tried to build in 2010 as a multi-purpose center/social center for her members.
We learned that the money used to build the structure came from fundraising efforts such as public dances, raffle draws and some persuasive approaches to local politicians.
So far, to our estimation, there’s not yet a single “sentimo” from the coffers of the local government of Jose Panganiban that went into this project.
The next day, when MWBuzz brought up the issue to Mayor Ricarte Padilla, the good mayor had a ready answer: He very well knew Mrs Francisco because of the seniors’ center that she has initiated to build (after taking over as president from her 83-years old husband, Victor, who quit for health reasons).
And Mayor Dong also delivered the good news: That the office of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who looks after the welfare of seniors, has allotted at least P250,000 funding to finish Mrs Francisco’s project and that the money was to be released by the concerned government agency in May.
MWBuzz told Mrs Francisco about it who, in her excitement, had also spread the news to the elders across the community: We will soon complete the construction of our senior citizens social hall.
About two weeks ago, MWBuzz called Mrs Francisco for an update of her project, and here’s the score: the structure has not changed a bit physically, only the color of the walls that has darkened from the elements.
“Mayor Dong said the construction job to complete the building was supposed to start last October (last month) … and we are anxious to see its completion…” Mrs Francisco said, adding that the mayor was overseas – maybe in the US.
By saying that the resumption of the job to complete the project (which is actually 60 percent accomplished when work grounded to a halt due to funding lack) would have started last month, it meant that the money is already available, ready for spending as planned.
So what’s holding up the whole process?
We may never know the politics behind the delay from the time the funding was locked in, if ever politics is in the works.
But we could imagine how frustrating it might have been for the 123 active members and those who are inactive owing to their health condition to wait and wait uselessly for the rising of their center.
We don’t have to belabor on the importance of such a place.
To the seniors, it is second home, a place where they could be themselves without having to bother about what their own families back home would think about the things they do here.
At the center, they could play cards, mahjong, read komiks, pray, watch TV (if there’s one), smoke or chew their favorite tobacco, chat, dance, sing or simply bum around while making themselves happy, or while getting all the good kicks they could at age 60 or 100.
Mrs Francisco said a place of their own in the likes of a center would solve once and for all the problem of getting a venue for important meetings the seniors have to make.
For these days, the have become tired of being a “squatter”.
At the moment, holding such has always been a problem owing to the number of seniors who normally would attend.
And when somebody celebrates her or his birthday, there’s a place that they could have to themselves alone, far from the peering eyes of their mocking, younger counterparts.
There’s no need to stress the fact that a senior would love to be with another senior, talk with him or her about life or maybe go back to the mystery of the birds and bees.
There’s no need to stress the fact that seniors would like to be with another group of seniors and make all the noise they could in celebration of life – the past 60 or 70 years - something that would be frowned upon at home.
They could only do this in a place they can call their own – their own center.
It’s one way to improve their well being despite the difficulties they are now in – financially or otherwise -- and add a few more of healthy years to their lives as they head towards their sunset.
The local government unit of Jose Panganiban owes it to the seniors in Larap to make this dream come true.
It can do no less.
It’s the best way to make them feel that they have remained important members of the community; they are the reasons why we have talented, vibrant, respectful, law-abiding, peace-loving and productive generation of Mambulao youth.
- Alfredo P Hernandez