For Francisco Baron, 73, who had lived alone almost all his life, finding a new family, albeit not by blood, who can be with him in his twilight years is never too late, indeed.

Thanks to his fellow seniors, house parents, and other staff at the Haven for the Elderly whom Lolo Francisco now considers as his new-found family since all his known nearest kins have passed away a long time ago.

Haven for the Elderly, located in Tanay, Rizal, is a residential care facility for neglected, abandoned, abused, homeless, and unattached senior citizens managed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).   

Early struggles

Lolo Francisco, as he is fondly called by everyone at the center, was orphaned when he was just a year old. He was left under the care of his grandmother in Davao City who could hardly support his daily needs while growing up, much less his education, due to poverty.

Upon learning that his grandmother could not afford sending him to college, he became a working student. He worked as a restaurant helper in the city until he reached his third year in college, after which, he decided to go to Manila and applied for work abroad.

Success abroad

With his job as a butler in Saudi Arabia, he was able to acquire assets back home including a house, a car, and a complete set of appliances. Lolo Francisco was also able to send a cousin, his only known living relative after his grandmother died, to a private university for his college education.  Furthermore, his earnings allowed him to invest in some businesses.

Losing everything but his positivity

Lolo Francisco’s life turned upside down when all his life’s earnings as an overseas worker for 15 years vanished in an instant. He was a victim of a scam in a networking business where he invested most of his earnings.

Adding to his misfortune, his cousin, to whom he entrusted all his assets, was involved in illegal drugs and spent everything he had saved.  His cousin was sent to a mental institution where he died six months later.

When Francisco turned 60 years old, he came back to the Philippines with no savings except for a small amount of money given by his employer abroad.

“Dahil wala akong bahay dito at wala na akong ibang kakilalang kamag-anak, tumira ako sa pamilya ng kaibigan ko sa Mandaluyong City. Nagbabayad ako para sa pagkain ko, sa kuryente, at sa tubig” (Since I do not own a house and I have no known relatives, I stayed with my friend’s family in Mandaluyong City, and I just paid for my food, electric, and water expenses), Lolo Francisco shared.

To continue supporting his daily needs and expenses, he started selling cigarettes and candies within the Mandaluyong City Hall compound.

“Nahihiya na rin akong makitira dahil hindi ko naman sila kaano-ano. Lalo na ‘nung nagkasakit at na-ospital ako  dahil sa sakit sa puso at sa diabetes.  Ayoko na din makaabala sa kanila” (I was already reluctant to continue staying with my friend’s family since they were not my relatives. I did not want to be a burden to them anymore especially when I got sick and was hospitalized for heart ailment and diabetes), he said.

He recalled that his hospital bills were settled by then Mayor Benjamin Abalos, Jr., whom he met while selling inside the city hall compound. The mayor even offered him to stay in his house after his hospitalization, but Lolo Francisco humbly turned it down.

“Tumanggi ako dahil si mayor lang naman ang kakilala ko doon. Sinabi ko na lang na kung may bahay-ampunan ay  doon na lang ako” (I turned it down since the mayor was the only one I knew there.  I told him that it would be best if I can just be referred to a center for the elderly), Lolo Francisco continued.

Consequently, Lolo Francisco was immediately referred to and accepted at the Golden Acres in Quezon City, and was later transferred to the Haven for the Elderly.

Finding his place, his family

Already staying for nine years at the Haven for the Elderly, Lolo Francisco said he is happy and contended. He enjoys his new life and, most importantly, his new-found family.

“Wala na talaga akong hahanapin pa sa Haven for the Elderly kasi lahat ng pangangailangan ko at nang iba pa dito ay binibigay sa amin. May pagkain, gamot at may iba’t ibang activities kami na ginagawa dito. May mga house parents pa na inaasikaso kami buong araw” (I have nothing more to ask because all our needs are provided for here at the Haven for the Elderly.  There are food and medicines, and they even have various activities for us to engage in.  Moreover, there are house parents who take care of us), shared Lolo Francisco.

True enough, the Haven for the Elderly provides high quality services for its senior-residents. These are home-life, dietary and health, spiritual, livelihood, socio-cultural, and recreational services.

The center has a complete medical staff that includes resident doctors, nurses, nutritionists, psychologists, and house parents who look after the elderly residents’ nutrition, health, and well-being.

The Haven for the Elderly stands on acres of lush gardens with views of rolling mountains surrounded by trees providing a healthy and nurturing environment for the elders. It also promotes a balanced lifestyle by fostering independence and providing social care. At the center, residents are encouraged to hone their skills, trying their hands at gardening, poultry raising, and craftsmanship.

Currently, Lolo Francisco is one of the 263 seniors residing at the center.

“Para na nga kaming magkakapatid dito. Minsan nag-aaway, pero madalas ay nagkaka-kwentuhan. Magkakasama kami sa mga activities tulad ng chess, pool, scrabble” (We are like siblings here.  Sometimes we fight, but most often, we engage in light banter. We also do things together like playing chess, pool, and scrabble), he said.

Lolo Francisco’s positivity and gratefulness radiate to his fellow residents. He is a constant source of joy, particularly for those new senior citizens who find it hard to accept their fate inside the center.

“May mga kasamahan pa kaming gustong lumabas kaysa manatili sa center. Pero sinasabihan ko sila na mas mapapabuti sila dito. Kung nasa labas sila, hindi natin alam kung saan sila pupulutin. Dito, kumpleto na kami sa lahat” (There are seniors who do not want to stay here, but I always tell them that life at the center is better. Everything is provided for us), Lolo Francisco stated.

Lolo Francisco also reciprocates the kindness of the staff and his fellow seniors by equally showing his care and compassion to them in his own little way. He volunteers cleaning the cottage and washing the dishes every day.  He also shares his food and supplies with the other residents.

According to Hideliza Mayuga, one of the social workers at the center, Lolo Francisco is one of the trusted residents. Social workers and house parents can rely on him in assisting other senior citizens, as well as in entertaining guests. For Lolo Francisco, he may be without any blood-related families and no wealth to speak of, but he will never be alone and lonely anymore.  He has found contentment in living simply with his new-found family at the Haven for the Elderly. Such is one good reason for him to enjoy the rest of his twilight years. ###