MANILA - Coming from various cities in Metro Manila, the elderly came in full force to mark the start of the annual Elderly Filipino Week with a "walk for life" in Pasay City Tuesday morning.
The groups, numbering around 1,300, marched around SM Mall of Asia before a program kicking off the celebration.
This, organizers said, was a means of promoting health and productivity among the elderly, the theme of the week.
"Binibigyang halaga natin ang participation ng senior citizens sa ating lipunan. Nakita natin na datapwa't magkaka-edad na sila, nananatili silang malakas sa kanilang katawan," said DSWD Usec. Dan Pamonag.
Dance presentations by senior citizens groups highlighted the event, which also included assistance booths by government agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development and PhilHealth.
The crowd was reminded of the benefits being enjoyed by senior citizens such as discounts on food, goods and fare, and social pension.
They also lauded the newly signed law creating the National Commission for Senior Citizens.
But for indigent seniors receiving social pension like 68-year-old Thelma Esco from Caloocan City, the P6,000-per-year stipend is only enough to make ends meet. She receives it quarterly (P500/month) through the local social welfare office.
She and her 56-year-old husband only do odd jobs such as sewing rags and fixing shoes, but their money also goes to medicines for their conditions, since the free meds at local public health center sometimes run out. She is hypertensive while her husband is diabetic.
"Yung pension sa social yan ang inaasahan ko din kasi wala akong hanapbuhay talaga. At least kahit papaano sa kuryente, tubig, nagbabayad ako.
"Sana nga po kung may maidagdag po. Kasi at least para hindi naman masyadong hirap."
Bills proposing to increase the amount of social pension and to create a universal social pension program covering all senior citizens have been filed in Congress.
The DSWD is also backing a bill that would penalize abuse of the elderly and give them legal assistance and support.
"Layon nito na proteksyunan ang senior citizens sa abuso--pisikal, psychological, neglect, economic. Nasa likod kami ng bill na yan," said Pamonag.
The measure passed on final reading at the House of Representatives in the previous Congress and has been refiled in the current one.
A similar measure filed in the Senate this term would also seek to penalize abandonment of parents by their children.