GRACES – Man’s inhumanity to man
I was first alerted to the existence of a DSWD Center for the Aged in QC a month ago through a Facebook post by Dra. Lorraine Badoy who now serves as Assistant Secretary in the DSWD. This Center for the Aged is named GRACES. I do not know why I find it so grotesque for a center to be called GRACES yet be so criminally uncaring. I wish I could share the pictures of that center, especially of the old and sickly that they host, so a better representation of an ugly truth can be appreciated. Best, though, is for the believers and the unbelieving to visit GRACES.
As I write this article, I will be using phrases from the first post of Dra. Badoy – without her permission. But I will take the chance anyway. The story she has been sharing is a haunting one that may seem inconsequential in national scene. It is not, though. It strikes at the center of what eats away at our national soul. It hits directly how the poor are devalued, and all the more the sick and neglected among them. By government. By us.
Quoting Dra. Badoy, “Then I went to GRACES – a DSWD Center for the Aged here in QC. And suddenly Jose Fabella Center seemed like a center for excellence. I exaggerate..but not by much.
See this photo? I am so sorry to have to show it to you but in the spirit of TRUTH AS POWER and not turning a blind eye on the tragedies of our fellow human beings, let me tell you what it is.
It is a room in GRACES where one of our senior citizens with a mental disorder has had to live in for years. And if you went there, you’d see cockroaches crawling all over the place—on the walls, on her pile of clothes, on the rotting food. When she is there, cockroaches crawl on her.
That red pail is where she collects her urine. And in that small room is where she defecates. The smell, as you can very well imagine, hits you in the face as soon as you get to striking distance.
I don’t need to have this spelled out to me. I know what this is. What this is is NEGLiGENCE. I’m no lawyer, but something tells me we are skating on the thin ice of criminal negligence here— if this were a paying client. But she’s poor and all alone so fuck it all. That’s the horrific mindset I see here.
I am FULLY cognizant that I am part of government now and that it is the job of government to right this wrong. And we in DSWD are up to it. That we will do all we can—to the best of our abilities—to make sure this injustice is corrected. I burn in shame and pain that it has come to this point.”
The pictures she shared tell a worse story than our imagination. I hope she took videos as well. If only to remind us about man’s inhumanity to man.
Yes, government is at fault, has been at fault all these decades. And especially government that can waste money on non-essentials like streamers or posters or give-aways when lives are wasted and lost in exchange. And I am not even talking about corruption because I do not want to distract our attention from the painful truth about the value system that we cater to in our society. Yes, government has been at fault; but the greater fault is ours, we who could have done something, not to poor, old, sick and neglected at GRACES, but to all the poor, old, sickly and neglected of our society.
It only begins with caring; or, in this case, it only begins with not caring. When we do not care, when we who have something or are somebody, do not care, neither will government. Because government caters first to those it fears, to those it wants something from. With what is left, government can then consider the poor, the marginalized, who it sees as simple problems that have to be solved or shoved aside. The poor have their great numbers to work with, but they hardly ever count. Except on elections when they are not only problems but serious expenses, too. For numbers to count, the numbers must be together, counted as one – or numbers can be in the tens of millions individually and as powerless individually as well.
Before GRACES, my number one proof of this great collective uncaring by all those who matter in terms of resources and influence was the perpetual hunger of our poor. I had been following the quarterly SWS survey results for more than 15 years and the hunger of 15-20% of Filipinos was being reported faithfully. But for sure, hardly anyone even read, or cared. If we did, that hunger would have disappeared a long time ago. Because there is food, more than enough food – if we cared.
Thankfully, pockets of feeding programs are coming on stream. Somehow, there is a growing realization and concern. This pattern has started and it will continue. It may be starting in poor public schools but it will flow to the streets and under the bridges and the canals. Because more are beginning to care. And hunger will end where caring begins.
It is time to go deeper into the shadows of our uncaring past and let the sunshine through. I know that in GRACES, the first work of cleaning, not just the dilapidated facilities but the bodies of the elderly and sick inside, has started, repairs are being done, and volunteers are responding to the appeal of Dra. Badoy. I know, too, that DSWD is demolishing its old attitude and beginning a fresh initiative from the heart.
Let us join this journey. There is neglect everywhere that hurts and kills our elderly. Let this be the simple change, from uncaring to caring, trigger the great change we have longed for.
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