Tzu Chi volunteers regularly pay a visit to 84-year-old Arcadia Guiao to give her a bath and presents of food, clothing, and unlimited love and care.
Having concluded its monthly rice and medical aid for the needy of Cabanatuan City, Tzu Chi volunteers prepared for the long trip back to Manila. But first, they decided to pay an energetic, old lady in Barangay Sumacab Este a visit.
It had only been a month since they last visited 84-year-old Arcadia Guiao and gave her a good bath. Yet, for those treating her like family, it felt forever. One of the volunteers showed her a bar of soap, sending a clear message that it was bath time once more. They carried her out of her makeshift home and cleaned her under the cover of a white blanket.
Bath time didn’t take long, not with a dozen volunteers doing their part. A change of clothes later, the volunteers presented her with bags of fruits and the song “One Family,” complete with sign language. The entire process hardly lasted an hour, but it was time worth remembering for generations.
“God bless! God bless! [May] God always be with you! I pray that you’ll be healthy always!” says Guiao to the volunteers before they left.
Volunteers who spent time bonding with Guiao for the longest time recalled when they once caught her at a bad time. During their visit last July, she grumbled at the sight of the volunteers and few of her neighbors, having just come out of an argument. But after sensing their goodwill, she let the volunteers into her heart.
The volunteers sprang into action, cleaning her and the house, and buying new stuff for her. In the midst of the activity, Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao reminded everyone about respect for the elderly.
“It’s important to love our elderly and to show it properly. How we treat our elderly is how our children will treat us in the future,” says Siao.
The drastic changes not only affected the elderly woman’s life but also that of her family. One month later, Tzu Chi volunteers returned to see her family giving her a bath this time around.
A daughter reminisces
Cristina Fajardo, a Tzu Chi volunteer from San Mateo, Rizal, couldn’t hold back her tears as she helped in giving Guiao a bath. With every scoop of water, she recalled the experience of having her parents by her side.
“I want to help the elderly. I want to experience my parents being there beside me because losing them has left a gaping hole in my life,” narrates Fajardo, who lost her parents many years ago to stroke.
“I’m always willing to help, especially the elderly. I’m willing to support and care for them. Even if I don’t feel so good, namely this injury, when I hear that they’ll be visiting her, I’m willing to tag along because I want to see her,” she adds.
Since the formation of the Tzu Chi volunteer base in Cabanatuan City, volunteers like Haydee Bautista have been keeping a close eye on Grandma Guiao. Also as her neighbor in Sumacab Este, she is ready to provide the elderly lady with anything she needs, starting with coffee and a piece of bread for breakfast.
“I treat her as if she were my mother. She has been my neighbor since my children were still small. My mother’s no longer with me, so I learned to treat her as such,” says Bautista.
Dharma Master Cheng Yen continues to stress the importance of filial piety in today’s society. Beyond material comfort, true filial piety always entails the child being by his or her parent’s side in times of need. Tzu Chi volunteers demonstrate just how simple being filial to parents can be and hope that others will follow their example and be one to others.
Religion, for that matter, isn’t a factor.
“You [volunteers] are a godsend. I wish the Lord guides you wherever you go. Alleluia! Alleluia!” says Guiao, a devout Christian.