Abandoned elderly find a home in Bacolod
His back is hunched while his knees can barely bend. But when Carlos Zuala, 93, hears Ruby “Token” Lizares sing, he starts dancing.
The old man bounces with one foot, then with the other, as Lizares, known as Bacolod City’s charity diva, belts out a lively rendition of “Hello Dolly” for residents of St. Vincent’s Home for the Aged in the city’s Barangay Tangub.
Across the hall, Patria Mijares, also 93, waves her hands from a wheelchair to the beat of the music.
Zuala and Mijares have been staying at St. Vincent’s Home for 25 years, the longest-staying residents of the home they share with 28 other people aged 69 to 93 years.
The place is a shelter for abandoned, neglected and vulnerable older persons in Negros Occidental province. It is run by the nuns of the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, who rely on donations to keep it going.
Carmen Lizares, the first president of Damas de la Caridad in Bacolod, founded St. Vincent’s in 1960 as a haven for the abandoned elderly where their physical, psychological and spiritual needs are addressed. She is the grandmother of Lizares’ ex-husband.
Lizares says Carmen had seen a lot of old people living in a dump at the two-hectare lot owned by her husband, Dr. Antonio Lizares, and the current site of St. Vincent’s. She would bring them food and clothes.
The property was later donated as site for the home for the elderly.
“Those accepted to live in the home have to be very very poor with no families, or those abandoned by relatives due to extreme poverty,” the singing Lizares said. They are either picked up from the streets or brought there by barangay captains or social workers.
A social worker validates if the elderly person fits the criteria to reside at the home.
Seven nuns run St. Vincent’s. Sister Rebecca Felizardo, the administrator, said the shelter has been depending on help from Damas de la Caridad and private donors.
At least P2 million are spent yearly to run the home that cares for 30 people, she said. Funds are needed to purchase food, milk and medicines for the elderly, as well as pay for the salaries of four caregivers and 11 staff members.
The amount is apart from expenses for maintaining 15 cottages, which accommodates two persons each, Felizardo said.
To cut down on food expenses, an organic garden was started, producing lemon grass, lettuce, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Crops not consumed are sold along with the organic fertilizers produced through vermiculture.
St. Vincent’s also has piggery, poultry and fishpond projects to augment operating funds.
Damas de la Caridad has been holding fund-raising activities for the shelter, according to its president, Dr. Corazon Han. A member, Lizares, is among those active in helping St. Vincent’s.
Every time Lizares drops by the shelter, the dining hall turns into a party scene.
(On Feb. 18, a benefit concert titled “All About Love” will be held at L’Fisher Hotel in Bacolod, featuring Manila-based singers Jun Polistico and Anthony Castelo, and others. Tickets are sold at P500 and P1,000. Those interested may call St. Vincent’s Home at 4320011.)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.