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The pillar of strength in a house of the elderly

Age can endure the test of time but the physical features that comes with it can change.

Visually, Ulysis Lubiano is described as severely thin wearing a wrinkled and leathery face due to overexposure to sun and extra hollow cheeks with puffiness under the eyes.

His appearance might pose that he is old and weak but he is strong enough to carry diverse loads in life.

Originally from a remote village in Monreal, Masbate, Ulysis and his family moved to the agricultural and fishing town of Pilar in Sorsogon province after he brought Esperanza, his spouse, to Manila to get medical attention for Myoma in 2004.

Esperanza has hard stomach lumps and experiences vomiting as an effect of her current health condition. She also deals with asthma.

Because of old age, she can no longer undergo a major operation for her Myoma.

Just like his ill wife, Ulysis has also an eye disease called Glaucoma that can lead to vision loss if left untreated but he dreads to seek for cure.

On the other hand, Ulysis is grasping at straws for their daily sustenance.

Three out of his eight children are residing nearby, however, all of them have their own families who cannot regularly support the frail couple.

“Wara man makakatabang ta puros man nagatios (No one can help because they are also poor)” he said.

Ulysis and his wife are now confined within the wooden walls of a run-down stilt house found in the squalid part of the town for almost 14 years.

But the physical and mental acuity of the 84-year old Ulysis is quite impressive who can manage to carry about 25 kilos of used cardboard boxes.

Evidently, dirt had already accumulated underneath his nails with the frequent contact with trash. He walks on bare feet and its skin had already hardened and soiled.

He is unschooled that is why he resorted to garbage collection and brushes off the threat of sustaining injuries whenever he manually handles heavy loads.

He rises at four in the morning with a cup of coffee for breakfast and departs their small abode to recover garbage in their village.

The first meal he eats is lunch after a laborious work at dawn.

He can vividly recall the moment when he collapsed because of an empty stomach.

Ulysis was immediately rushed to the hospital after he lost his consciousness because of fatigue.

On the other hand, the recycled items are sold to his distant relative in exchange for a meager amount.

According to him, he takes home an estimated income of PhP2,400 monthly.

He allocates the budget for food and medicines but barely affords to purchase antibiotics for his wife because of its costly price of PhP1,200 apiece.

But his income varies so they incur debt from a neighbor’s store for them to eat.

His youngest daughter, Rosie, a solo parent of five, gives them a minimal aid from her income as laundress.

She is also a Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Rosie said that the 4Ps grant support her three children to buy rice and augments to their education, thus, gives assistance to her parents if she has extra money.

“Ang bunso ko iyo nadadalaganan ko ta iyo ini ang arani samuya dae kami pipabayaan kung wara kami (We can turn to our youngest child if we don’t have money because she is reliable and she only lives near us),” Ulysis said.

Moreover, the employer of Ulysis gave him three carts as a form of help, however, these carts were damaged that led him to the manual handling of the trash again.

Both Ulysis and Esperanza became recipients of the monthly stipend of PhP500 each for indigent senior citizens under the Social Pension Program implemented by the DSWD. Ulysis was enrolled in 2016 while his wife got in last year. To date, there are 195,107 Social Pension beneficiaries in Bicol while 33, 571 of which are in Sorsogon.

“Sa pension namun, ang sobra sa bulong; nakakaipon man kami; nakakabakal kami, sa diit-diit, makakabakal man ako sarong orig. Dakula baga ang tabang arog kaan sa origan (We buy medicines if we have excess from our pension. We also save the money and use it to buy a pig. The piggery is a huge healp),”

From 2016 to present, the couple bought four pigs from the grant they received from the government. The estimated profit from each pig is Php 5,000 to PhP7,000.

Back then, Ulysis prioritized his wife’s health so he decided to sell their livestock to cover the hospital bills.

At present, he plans to buy another hog to raise.

“Dae kami nahahalean ning orig para sa emergency (We cannot miss to take care of a pig because of we can rely on this in case of emergencies),” Ulysis explained.

Ulysis is weak but needs to work for his sick wife. He has Glaucoma while his wife has asthma and Myoma. Medicines and hospitalization for his wife are expensive. They cannot even afford to repair their dilapidated house.

But in the midst of this plight, Ulysis remains steadfast for his wife and children.

He wants to acquire another female swine and repair their dilapidated house.

“Sagkod su mga aki ko pag nagugbon iyan, makatabang man ako (I can even help my children if the pig farrows),” he added.

Ulysis’ will to conquer great challenges manifests bravery even at an old age who is supposed to receive utmost care and attention from their family.

But every person should remember that the elderly members of the society should be given the caregiving they deserve. However, it is the other way for Ulysis Lubiano who ignores his aged physique to salvage his family from the verge of hunger and poverty.

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