For a while now, we’ve been drawn to the vlogs of Chris Punsalan on Instagram. The young man—we’re guessing he’s in his 20s—a content creator and music producer, is a full-time caregiver to his 96-year-old Kapampangan grandmother. Which is basically why we admire the guy so much.
Chris has been taking care of his lola for seven years now, and he’s been documenting this on Instagram and TikTok. On days when we need inspiration, feel beaten up by this or that, we are comforted by his updates, glimpses of their daily routine, the stories of Grandma’s younger years, the mag-lola’s cute and heartwarming back and forths.
Maybe it’s because many of us are used to seeing older, usually female family members taking care of an elderly relative—so we’re not gonna lie it’s nice to see a guy of Chris’ age devoting time and energy to taking care of his Grandma. Caring for an old relative can be challenging on so many levels. There are a million and one tasks that could drain one’s physical, mental and emotional stamina. Chris himself has admitted in his videos that caregiving can be “extremely isolating.”
Chris decided to take on the responsibility as his lola’s main caregiver because he knew he was in the best position to do so. “Everybody else was working and I’d rather just take care of grandma because she took care of me [since I was young boy] and I don't want to see her in home-care.”
The Instagram and TikTok accounts also serve as a repository for their memories together. Chris has been vlogging and making videos with his Grandma since 2014, and in those early videos, one could see the mag-lola’s funny moments together, back when the old lady was still quite sprightly. When it got to the point where she needed full-time, round-the-clock care, Chris just continued to document their moments together, “because [making videos] is what I enjoy doing.”
It was in 2019 when he decided to shoot a “day in the life of a caregiver” video and posted it on TikTok. “I wanted people to see what caretakers go through and just to share what my life is like taking care of my grandmother,” Chris shares in a YouTube video.
He posted it at around seven in the morning, went about his day, and after a couple of hours he was pleasantly surprised to find the video has gone viral. “It had a million views. I gained like 11,000 followers and I was like, ‘What the f*ck is going on?’” he recalls telling himself. “I was so confused and overwhelmed with all of the nice comments.”
From then on, Chris would get tons of emails and DMs from people, telling him he made their day, or that they were reminded of their own grandparents.” The positive feedback inspired him to make more videos about their daily activities and interactions. “I had no idea that people would be so invested in me taking care of Grandma,” says the dutiful apo.
Being a caregiver to a close relative is no small feat. “The first couple years of me taking care of Grandma, that was probably the hardest because one, I saw how heavy it weighed on my mom,” Chris shares. “And two, it is just really hard to see a family member that you grew up with—knowing to be strong and independent—to see them become so dependent on other people.”
But thanks to the routines they’ve built as well as the support of the rest of the family, things have become more manageable over time.
Based on a video where Chris’ grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday, the Punsalans seem to be a tight-knit family. Before the family immigrated to the US, Chris’ lola was a dedicated public school teacher in the Philippines for 20 years—which explains why she loved to read, offers Chris.
Even at her advanced age, Grandma maintains the habit of praying the rosary daily. But what could be the real secret to her long life and positive disposition? “My grandma is probably the most grateful person that I know. Anytime somebody helps her, anytime somebody hands her something, anytime something is happening with or to grandma, you can always guarantee a thank you at the end of it,” says Chris. “I think that's what makes her enjoy life so much is that she's grateful for everything. She can't move and she's bound to her bed. But because she's just extremely grateful for even the smallest things in life, it just makes her life more worth it.”
Chris now has 913,000 followers on Instagram, 1.8 million followers on TikTok, and 239,000 followers on Facebook. We’ve asked him many times for an interview but he’s probably too busy to squeeze us into his schedule. Initially, he only started making the videos so he has something to go back to when he’s old. But Chris says he now continues to make the vlogs to continue inspiring young apos like him. They are, he says, for the “young people that DM me saying because of my videos, they want to take care of their parents or grandparents when they get older, because they don't want to see them in a nursing home.”