Many of them were found walking the streets of Valenzuela’s McArthur Highway, their skin, hair and clothes grimy from days of walking aimlessly under the sun. Sometimes they’re missing a shoe, or a slipper. Many of them are from faraway places, as their spoken dialects would attest. Ninety percent of them are not at all from Valenzuela. These seniors citizens, many of them abandoned, were taken under the wing of the Valenzuela City government, and have recently been given a new home.
Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian posted pictures of their new residence Friday on his Facebook account, and it’s called Bahay Kanlungan. It’s located in the city’s Barangay Maysan and it’s a spacious four-story structure inspired by old Filipino homes, or the bahay na bato.
“We really wanted it to look warm and comforting because, for some of them, this might be the last place they call home,” the mayor tells ANCX in a phone conversation. “We didn’t want their last years with us [to be depressing]. And after all the hardships and mental anguish caused by being out in the street, they only deserve a nice place to come home to.”
The facility could house 80 to 90 seniors, according to Mayor Rex. It is staffed with social workers, house parents, nutritionists, physical therapists and medical practitioners. “It has a sun roof kung saan puwede sila magpa-araw,” he adds. And as per the Mayor’s latest social media post, the sun roof is also equipped with exercise equipments the residents were already able to practice using on their first morning in the house.
The shelter is actually already the seniors’ second common home in Valenzuela. They previously shared space with the city’s abused and neglected children in a home called Bahay Kalinga, but it made more sense for the seniors to have a separate facility, especially because they already started to outnumber the kids.
According to Mayor Rex, the land used for Bahay Kanlungan was a donation from his parents, as were the two other homes that preceded it, Bahay Kalinga and Bahay Pag-asa, the latter a “child-caring institution for children in conflict with the law.” The two homes were first established by Rex’s brother, Senator Win Gatchalian, who was previously mayor of the city and Congressman of Valenzuela’s First District. The city government of Valenzuela now runs the three facilities.
Photos from Mayor Rex Gatchalian's Facebook page