MANILA -- Senior citizens, some using canes and walkers, embraced reigning Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Ganados to their care facility in a suburb of the capital on Monday, as she sought to solidify her elderly care advocacy.
The 23-year-old model, who is seeking a back-to-back win for the Philippines by succeeding Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, promised some 300 residents of the Luwahati ng Maynila in Marikina City that she would continue pushing for their welfare.
"We will be back," said Ganados, who was wearing a fitted white shirt and jeans, told the seniors, joking. "Magsasawa po kayo sa mga mukha namin (You might get tired of our faces.)
Ganados' advocacy is uncommon in pageants that are known to espouse children's welfare, poverty alleviation and HIV-AIDS awareness. The daughter of an overseas Filipina worker was raised by her grandparents.
"Maraming salamat at nandiyan kayo para sa kanila, kasi hindi masyadong madaming tao ang nakakaalam na kailangan nila ng tulong," she said during flag-raising rites at dawn.
(Thank you for being here for them because not too many people know that they need help, too.)
"Just being there for them is already enough. Ipagpatuloy po natin ito (Let's continue doing this)," she said.
Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Ganados speaks at flag raising rites at the Luwalhati ng Maynila in Marikina to pursue her elderly care advocacy for the Miss Universe pageant. ABS-CBN News
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Ganados visited Luwalhati ng Maynila in Marikina after reading a thesis by University of the Philippines-Manila BA Behavioral Sciences graduate Melissa Delgado on the quality of life of seniors in the facility.
Based on Delgado's study, aside from material needs such as medicine and adequate facilities, seniors in Luwalhati ng Maynila also need to maintain social relationships and stay active.
Ganados met with Delgado's thesis adviser, UP Manila MA in Health Policy Studies senior lecturer Calvin de los Reyes, prior to Monday morning's visit.
She was also accompanied by her pageant mentor, Rodgil Flores, whose beauty camp produced Miss Universe Philippines winners Rachel Peters in 2017 and MJ Lastimosa in 2014.
Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Ganados dances with senior citizens at the Luwalhati ng Maynila in Marikina to pursue her elderly care advocacy for the Miss Universe pageant. ABS-CBN News
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The seniors in Luwalhati ng Maynila need medicine and cleaning supplies, staff members said. Before Ganados' arrival, some helped clean the social hall where a short program was to be held.
The seniors told Ganados that they had been praying everyday for her victory at Miss Universe even before she arrived in Luwalhati ng Maynila.
The Miss Universe Organization has not announced a date and venue for the 2019 pageant, which will be its 68th edition. Gray is the fourth Filipina Miss Universe.
Ganados is pursuing her advocacy just as President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law creating the National Commission of Senior Citizens, tasked with ensuring the full implementation of laws, policies and programs for seniors.
By the end of 2018, 8 million Filipinos or 10 percent of the population would have been above 60 years old. Of the 8 million, 5 million are at least 65, according to the Population Commission.