My First Anawim Experience

I’m so blessed to have spent the first weekend of my birth month in Anawim. Anawim is one of the ministry of Light of Jesus Family which was also founded by Bro. Bo Sanchez. It is located in Rodriguez, Rizal, a one-hour ride from Ortigas. “Anawim” means “the poor of the Lord” in Hebrew, and it houses several abandoned elderly providing them with physical care and rehabilitation, home life, medical care, spiritual nourishment, recreational activities and socialization, social service, end-of-life care, and burial services.
My heart was not ready for the experience.
We arrived at Anawim at around 10am. We rested for a while then roamed around the area. We visited Anawim’s chapel and burial place. We saw the houses which were previously occupied by the lolos and lolas but were now being abandoned and replaced by better houses. Those houses were nipa huts and made mostly of wood and bamboo. Then we proceeded to the houses of the lolos. I noticed that those houses are bigger and better, and their comfort rooms are so clean and well-maintained.

Anawim's chapel

Anawim’s chapel

Lolos’ house
Upon our entrance to the lolos’ house, I greeted each one of them by pressing my head on their hands (mano). I singled out one lolo, sat beside him and asked him about himself. He refused to give me a smile despite my efforts of putting on my best smile to him. He was Lolo William Uy, 87 years old. He has poor hearing ability which hindered our communication. My heart ached for him.
I observed the faces of other lolos. Some were excited to see us and smiling. While some, like Lolo William, seem to be stucked from the past. I could sense their yearning to be with their family. I wanted to stay longer but our group guide told us we must transfer to the lolas’ house.
Lolas’ house
The first lola I greeted through “mano” was Lola Tonyang. At age 103, she is the eldest among all the elderly in Anawim. She’s presently bedridden, and was at the condition since August according to the staff. Her eyes are half closed though we know she can hear us. Her hands are so soft and fragile. To my surprise, she blurted out “I’m glad you’re here”. Yes, in English. I think she has a good fighting spirit.

Lola Tonyang, age 103, Anawim's eldest

Lola Tonyang, age 103, Anawim’s eldest

Then there was Lola Mila who was lying on the floor because she keeps on falling from her bed. She was so sweet she keeps on kissing our hands when we approached her. We transferred on the next door and there I met Lola Susan. She was not so old at age 61, and her beauty is still evident in her face. When I asked her about her condition, I was astonished when she broke out on tears. She narrated in between sobs that she abandoned her abusive husband, then her siblings brought her to Anawim. She’s crying because her siblings haven’t visited her since the time they put her there.

Lola Susan. She's beautiful yet sadness grips her heart

Lola Susan. She’s beautiful yet sadness grips her heart

While some are still not over from their past, one lola was so hilarious that she told us she is just 24 years old and is the security guard of their house. She was a Visayan, good thing we were suddenly approached by a Visayan pilgrim.

The Program

Then we proceeded to the “common area”, (don’t know how to call it, but it’s the place where they hold programs). The elderly and the visitors were one in praying the rosary led by the taped voice of Bro. Bo Sanchez. The prayers of Bro. Bo before each “Hail Mary’s” made the rosary even more powerful.
We had lunch and had the chance to get to know lolos and lolas more. Then Elly Cabal, a fellow Ortigas feast servant, led the worship and prayer and distributed gifts to the elderly because it’s her birthday two days after. I had the chance to bond with Lolo George and Lolo Francisco (not sure of the name because he can’t pronounce well). Lolo Francisco was so quiet and alone in one corner, he’s in a wheelchair and could hardly hear what I was saying. Lolo George on the other hand was more sociable and approachable.

Lolo George, my dance partner

Lolo George, my dance partner

Then the emcees asked all celebrants for the month of October to come in front so everyone can pray for us. I felt so blessed! :)
When the emcees announced that lolos and lolas are to dance, I invited Lolo George to dance with me. (This is really going out of my comfort zone because first I do not know how to dance and second it’s not my nature to be the first to invite. Hehe.) Anyway, Lolo George seemed apprehensive at first, telling me he doesn’t know how to dance but I insisted (not really my nature) and told him I also do not know how to dance. After much convincing, he gave in to my request. We went to the dancefloor. The music was in the tune of cha-cha, I held Lolo George’s hand and guided him to dance to the beat. I realized it wasn’t really that hard to dance at all.

Dancing with Lolo George. He had fun! Me, too. Though we both don't know how to dance. :)

Dancing with Lolo George. He had fun! Me, too. Though we both don’t know how to dance. :)

After that, we said our goodbyes to the elderly. We kissed their cheeks and hands and they thanked us profusely. One lola called me “anak”, and it was really heartwarming. I said my goodbye to Lola Susan, she thanked me because I remembered her, and I told her “syempre naman po” I told her to stop crying and to always pray. I assured her that I would pray for her. She asked that I pray for her healing so she can walk. For other lolos and lolas, I always asked for their prayers for me. I felt blessed because one lola even asked for the exact date of my birthday so she can pray for me. I roamed around and looked for Lolo George but failed to see him. I saw one lolo who’s so graceful on dancing and asked that I come back to Anawim. I told him yes but said I could not promise. He told me he hopes we would come back because they feel so happy when we’re around. I felt the sadness.
My take aways/realizations
1. No matter your status in life, whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, you have the power to choose happiness. You can remain stucked in the past and refuse to move on, or you can embrace your past and step forward to the future. We really can’t blame other people for our misery for a long time. (Though I don’t blame these elderly for feeling that way, I could have been the same)
2. Everybody really needs to be loved, appreciated and cared for. I am humbled because I know that yes, I may not have abandoned my lolos and lolas to the home for the aged, but my actions towards them, how I treat them could have been the same. They may be physically with us but could feel left out all the same.
3. Sharing your time, talent and resources to make someone happy or elevate someone’s feeling of loneliness doesn’t need to be hard. All it takes is a willing heart.
4. Only God can really, really, really satisfy each of our desires.
Want to be blessed on a different level? Visit Anawim and be changed immensely. For more info, please visit this page http://www.lightfam.com/index.php/ministries/anawim.

Be very blessed! :)

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