Sampung Ulirang Nakatatanda Awardees:
Ordinary yet noble lives
By Gina Mission

They are ten people who have lived long, literally and figuratively.

___Literally, because they are in their 60s and 70s and 80, and figuratively, because their unselfish dedication and service to the communities they belong to have inspired other people to follow their example.

___The Sampung Ulirang Nakakatanda Awards (SUNA) is an annual search that highlights the celebration of the week for the elderly, a search for individuals from different social classes pursuing different vocations, who have all demonstrated nobility in their individual pursuits to help other people. This year’s awarding ceremony was held last October 3 at St. Paul’s College in Quezon City.

___The week of the elderly is celebrated every first week of October. This year’s celebration coincides with the International Year of the Older People (IYOP), a special occasion declared by the United Nations in recognition of the role of older people in society. The Coalition of Services for the Elderly (COSE), organizes the annual awards. Earlier, Ed Gerlock, executive director of COSE, attended three regional conferences sponsored by the UN in preparation for the IYOP celebration.

___Awardee Nicasio C. Aranas, offered the honor he received to "the people who shared their lives" with him. Fondly called Tatang Nick, he graduated from the De La Salle Adult Night High School only on March 18, 1999 at the age of 72. During the graduation, he was a recipient of the Brother Mutien Marie Award for his significant contribution to the "spiritual and religious life of the school community and for his service to the outreach programs of the school."

___He works as a librarian aide at the Adult Night High School, and is also a special Minister of Holy Communion at the EDSA Shrine, and a Dean Father of the EDSA Shrine children’s prayer group. Besides these activities, he still finds time to teach catechism to street children.

___At 69, Elvira C. Guzman, Madame Viring to her friends, of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, is described as "the epitome of volunteerism, sincerity and selfless service." She has a ready smile, and gentle ways, which her friends said, have brought joy and hope to everyone she has served. A teacher by profession, she has dedicated most of her life to serving students. Through volunteer parish work, she has helped the poor, the prisoners, the sick and the elderly.

___At present, she heads the Parish Outreach Program for the Sick, Aged and the Disabled, Inc., and the Volunteers in Prison Services.

___Seventy-two-year-old Dr. Asuncion P. Villa hails from Quiapo, Manila. She has practiced the medical profession with the marginalized poor in the shanties of San Andres Bukid in Manila. Her first assignment as a volunteer physician was at the Heart of Mary Villa in 1965. This started her close association with the religious group.

___Later, through her connections with the Catholic Relief Services, she went abroad for volunteer work from Saigon to the United States. When she return to the country, she continued her volunteer work in the local mission houses of the MC Sisters in Tayuman, Balut and Smokey Mountain.

___Today, Dr. Villa is still actively involved with the Heart of Mary Villa as a volunteer lay staff where she serves babies in the nursery, a residence for abandoned pregnant women, and impoverished clients from Malabon, Kalookan and Valenzuela, Metro Manila.

___Guillermo G. Samarita, 60, is from Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. He worked as a driver for his parish priest, acquiring special skills such as typing, plumbing, carpentry, farming and automotive mechanics in the process. He has become a "Jack of all trades" for many people, wherever he is. His curiosity about the lay ministry paved the way for his volunteer work with the Mangyans.

___Lolita B. Paquinto, 65, is from Sangandaan, Malabon. She admitted to have been deeply touched by the award, saying that hers was a "very ordinary life." She is married to a farmer and has six children. When all her children were done with school, she organized, through the motivation of a fellow elderly, the Sangandaan Elderly Association, a group that provides support services to old people. Under her leadership, the group’s membership increased from four to 102.

___Gerry B. Bonganay, 72, is from Riverside Commonwealth, in Quezon City. Mang Gerry, as he is fondly called, was, like Paquinto, surprised to have received the award. It was his membership in Sama-Sama, an urban poor organization, which made him help the poor and the landless members of his community.

___Still active in community work, Bonganay is presently the president of the Diamond Phase Project of the local community organizers of Sama-Sama, and the chairperson of the Education Committee of the Community Based Program of the Elderly.

___Rosario P. Baguio, 61, is from Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City. From the age of 15, Aling Charing had been working as a hilot (local midwife) in Pusok, Lapu-Lapu, Cebu. In 1992, she attended a seminar for community organizers facilitated by COSE after which she started to organize her own community. At present her organization has 63 members in the area. She is also an active church member and a volunteer catechist.

___Engineer Alfredo T. Aldaba, 77, is from Sto. Rosario, Malolos, Bulacan. Aldaba is the founder of Sto. Rosario Credit Cooperative, Inc. in Malolos. His interests involve developing and improving local communities, which has earned him several citations and awards. At present, he is an honorary board member of the Sto. Rosario Cooperative, which provides financial assistance to its members.

___Crisanto G. Biding is a jolly person from Cainta, Rizal. At 75, he is a board member of the Southern Tagalog Senior Citizens. In November of last year, Biding helped a local Igorot village acquire ancestral lands. He has also organized the Federation of the Senior Citizens in Cainta, and helped them raise funds for their programs. At present, he is busy with a project that gives assistance to typhoon victims.

___Msgr. Jose C. Abriol, 81, is one of the Vicars General of the Archdiocese of Manila who has "lived a quiet and unobtrusive life of outstanding and exceptional service to God and God’s people." Aside from his parochial ministry, Msgr. Abriol has also written and published a steady stream of articles, books and pamphlets "for the use and edification of the ordinary faithful."

___Msgr. Abriol observed that if there’s anything the 1999 Ten Outstanding Elderly of the Philippines Awards proves, it is that there is life after 50, there is grace in ordinariness, and.there is joy in service.

CyberDyaryo | 1999.10.07