Pamaskong Handog ng mga APO ng Hospicio de San Jose

By Christine R. Climaco-Bejasa

It was December 3, 2008, early on a Wednesday morning, when 45 of our colleagues from the Association of Philippine Orthodontists gave up their regular routine to spend their time to bring cheer to a group of elders at the Hospicio de San Jose.  As this was to be my first time to visit the institution, it was welcoming for me to have Dr. Kathrine Domingo-Capulong ride with me and navigate me through the busy streets of Manila; passing the University Belt area, she deftly guided me to a small break on the Ayala Bridge which was the entrance to the Hospicio.  

On our way there, Dr. Domingo and I argued about whether it was an orphanage or a home for the elderly.  Turns out, we were both correct.  Hospicio de San Jose is a Catholic welfare institution that has become the home of orphans, abandoned and special children, as well as, of elderly people.  The establishment of the Hospicio was made possible by the charitable legacy of Don Francisco Gomez Enriquez and his wife Doña Barbara Versoza. In gratitude of having been cured of a fever, Don Francisco donated four thousand pesos for the establishment of a ‘Hospicio General’ for the poor of Manila.  I imagine that in 1778, this was quite a sizable amount.  It was said that several others followed the first sum during the couple’s lifetime.  Unfortunately, they did not live long enough to see the actual foundation of this home they envisioned to take care of the city’s poor and unwanted children. Through a Royal Decree, the Hospicio fell under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Manila in 1810.  It was in 1866 when the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul came and became administrators and were entirely responsible for the whole operation of the institution.

There were already a handful of Orthodontists at the Hospicio when we arrived, including our President Dr. Jose Rivera, our Chairperson for Outreach Dr. Laarni Serraon, Drs. Irene Palma-Pagaduan, Frances Tamayo, and Claire Aquino.  Our very early bird was Dr. Irene who was blessed enough to be able to attend the Hospicio’s 6:30 morning mass.  As we waited for the other APO members to arrive, our beneficiaries, let me call them our lolos and lolas, slowly trickled in with their very vibrant caregivers. 

We began our program with a very meaningful prayer delivered in Filipino by Dr. Even Paulino.  Dr. Rivera followed with his welcoming address, and together with Dr. Serraon acknowledged our lolos and lolas.  The floor was then turned over to Dr. Lally Gogna who wasted no time in getting the games started.  The first   game allowed us all to warm up by being assigned a particular Christmas song which we should all sing or hum to be able to find our groupmates.  After about ten minutes of the chaos that I recognized as howling, we eventually found our respective groups, a hodgepodge of doctors, lolos, lolas, and caregivers.  As a group, we would then sing a Christmas carol.  After which, we would call out a group number and they were given the chance to sing a different Christmas carol.  This proceeds until a group runs out of songs.  First to be eliminated was group 2 which included, among others, Drs. Marina Lu-Tan, Liza Adriano, Dennis Lim, and yours truly.  The funny thing was we prepared a 2-page list of Christmas carols and yet were eliminated with our very first song.  A sweet “Merry Christmas” to game hosts Drs. Gogna and Serraon did not merit us a second chance.  Strong contenders were Group 4 (led by Drs. Marilyn Leung, Martin Reyes, and Even Paulino), Group 5 (led by Drs. Dorothy Caones-Samson, Katet Domingo-Capulong, and ‘joyous’ caregiver Rog)  and Group 6 (led by Drs. Galang, Jane Sanchez, and Prescy Isagon).  Congratulations go to Group 4 for prevailing.  Kudos also goes to Group 7, headed by Dr. Frances Tamayo, who singlehandedly led her lolas with a repertoire of Jose Mari Chan Christmas hits and other contemporary Christmas songs by local and foreign artists.

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A “Pass the Message” game followed.  After which Dr. Gogna announced it was time for a break and everyone headed to the buffet table for a sumptuous brunch.  Dr. Cecille Abarro serenaded us with a beautiful song entitled “Hanggang” on her flute.  Energized, everyone was enjoined to play a third game- drawing a pre-chosen image on your teammates’ back.  The group who gets the right drawing wins.  The chosen image was a Christmas Tree with three layers of fir leaves.  The group of Dr. Chibelle De Veyra-Pike won this game.  Unfortunately for the other groups, they were either not fast enough or were spatially-challenged, as some groups drew a simple triangle for a Christmas tree or a snowman. 

For the final and most important part of our day, gift bags were distributed to our lolos and lolas who gladly received them, and to see them excitedly take a peek at their bags was enough to warm our hearts.  At this point, Dr. Gogna introduced a special guest who shared his talent in our fellowship.  This special guest turned out to be her very loving husband Arun.  Mr. Gogna sang joyful Christmas songs as he strummed his guitar.  He encouraged us to move around the room and to chat with the person in front of us as he stopped strumming.  He continued several times until he slowed down and asked us to look directly into our partner’s eyes and even share a friendly touch by holding hands.  He encouraged us to make meaningful conversation by confiding our hearts greatest desire for this Christmas.  It was indeed very humbling to hear the simplicity of the wishes of our lolos and lolas- to see their loved ones if only once a year, to be acknowledged by their family and friends, or simply to be strong enough to enjoy whatever time the good Lord has allowed them to have. 

It was heartwarming to be able to spread some cheer to our lolos and lolas if only for half a day.  As this 2nd General Meeting/Christmas Outreach was aptly entitled, this has become a “Pamaskong Handog ng mga APO ng Hospicio de San Jose.”