Osca for Gubat, Sorsogon eyes giving elderly ‘the time of their life’

Lilia J. Fernandez, Office for Senior Citizens Affairs-Gubat head and Federation of Senior Citizens president at her home in Gubat, holding her compilation of funny experiences with the federation. One of which is the confession of an old guy who fall in love with a fellow member. (Oliver Samson)

THE elderly should enjoy the prime of their life, said Lilia J. Fernandez,  head of the Office for Senior Citizen Affairs (Osca) in Gubat, Sorsogon.

They deserve it for their having gone through all sorts of battle and storm during those challenging decades to build family and the country, she said.

If  the privileges and benefits for the elderly are denied, they should assert for it, she said. They should remind the local government of Republic Act  (RA) 9994, otherwise known as Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.  The elderly clearly know the benefits due them more than local officials.

Drugstores in Gubat give the 20-percent discount on medicine for the elderly, Fernandez said. But grocery stores, particularly the major ones, do not comply with the law. Some barangays fail to abide by the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the 1-percent share for the elderly.

Since local officials forgot their concerns, the elderly themselves who possess a sharper recall of their benefits, should take proper actions to claim what rightfully belongs to them, she said.

Some barangays admit they are not aware of the privileges and benefits of the elderly, Fernandez said. Others allot but less than the mandated 1 percent. One barangay with P1.5-million IRA allots P10,000 only for the benefits of its older population.

At their age, they are still capable to push their issues and  share in nation-building, the Osca head said.

Gubat, with a population of 57, 327 according to the national census of 2010, currently has about 2,000 elderly under the parasol of the federation,  Fernandez said.  She is also the president of Gubat Federation of Senior Citizens. Three of the group’s members are centenarians. The oldest is 104 years old and resides in the town proper.

The federation identifies the needs of the elderly, formulates proposals and files it before the Osca, Fernandez said. The office, in return, reviews and brings them to the mayor’s office for funding and other appropriate actions.

About 300 indigent elderly receive P500 monthly social pension from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), she said. This figure is expected to increase as new applicants pass the screening.

The DSWD social pension prioritizes those who are 77 years old and older, Fernandez said. A waiting list of incoming pensioners was already set.

Gubat, a coastal and agricultural town retraced by tourists for its long and beautiful coastline in Barangay Rizal, has a growing population of the elderly.

Rotsen Anthony P. Escurel, Osca aide, said the day-care center for the elderly in Barangay Ariman receives at least five new applications per day. The center is tidied by the elderly members themselves by pulling out the grass on the ground.

So far, the mayor’s office shares with the town’s elderly population the annual P800,000 share from the municipality’s IRA.

Half of this goes to disabled persons, she said. The other half bankrolls the activities of the elderly which include the Senior Citizens Week, Christmas party, birthdays, ballroom dance, beauty contests and excursions to the popular hot and cold springs in the province.

The federation has its own sound system. So, the elderly can enjoy dancing with unlimited music.

Members of the town’s associations for the elderly gather at the town’s gymnasium every last Saturday of the month, Fernandez said. Each association reports on the status of their respective membership, activities, plans and other matters.

Dancing, singing and other activities usually liven up this get-together, she said. Talents in dancing, speech, poetry, guitar playing and other musical instruments kept under wraps unravel during this gathering. One surprised fellow members with his gift for creating music using a leaf as instrument.

The federation knows the hobbies and talents of its members who write their interests in the application form. One who is good in cooking shares his know-how and experiences to comembers.

Federation Assistant Treasurer Lolita Escurel, 71, a widow and retired teacher who sent her seven children to college, is enjoying the company of fellow elderly, happy that all her offsprings got a college diploma.

Fernandez is currently keeping her group consolidated, aiming to maintain strong ties with government agencies and non-governmental organizations based on the interest of the elderly. She is adamant at jogging the memory of local officials, particularly Sangguniang Bayan members,  to push for the 5-percent discount on groceries, a challenge to local authorities how they will encourage the business sector of this first-class municipality to implement RA 9994.

The article is published at Business Mirror on November 24, 2013.

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