These teenagers have given new life and meaning to the Filipino tradition
From the root word “mana,” pamana isa Filipino word that means heritage, inheritance, legacy, or hand-me-down. In Filipino culture, pamana or mana is a piece of property left by someone who passes on, and generally someone who is older like a parent or grandparent. It symbolizes how the older generation will always be connected to and look after the younger ones, even in the afterlife. In the Philippines, a senior citizen or elderly is at least 60 years old, as defined in Republic Act 9994, otherwise known as the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.”
It is not every day that we hear about some teenagers so passionate about something other than K-Pop, fashion, beauty, or the latest gadgets and trends that come and go. Four young adults have decided to take a stand and work toward upgrading tradition and culture—to give back and make the elderly on the receiving end of “pamana.” They are Alessandra Mayumi “Yumi” S. Crisostomo, 17; Julianne “Juls” M. Ng, 18; Janis Anicka “Janis” D. Reyes, 18; and Keannah Francesca “Keanns” T. Gaspar, 17.
Give back what they got
Friends since junior high school, this group of teenagers has always wanted to join an organization that focuses on serving the needs of the elderly. Each of them has her own loving experiences and shares a strong bond with her grandparents growing up. The girls all look up to the elderly as major influences in their lives. They have recently made a discovery—they felt that the majority of the elderly members of the community are not getting the love and attention they deserve.
These teenagers believe that the elderly are a demographic often overlooked and taken for granted. Yumi “Some people’s reasons include ‘Matanda naman na sila’ (they are old anyway),” says Yumi. “But at the end of the day, we would not exist without them. Not all of us may have wonderful memories shared with our grandparents, but it is our responsibility to acknowledge that they played a role in our lives and that, even in their old age, they deserve a life of quality.”
They went on to search for groups that they could support and serve. Much to their disappointment, they found a large number of groups focused on the needs of other vulnerable sectors, but few to none of what they were looking for.
Taking matters into their own hands
Their shared dream is unshakeable. The reality of how there seems to not be enough organizations that focus solely and religiously on serving the elderly hit them hard. The current pandemic has made them think more about the plight of the elderly.
“We also considered the population of senior citizens who have long been abandoned and ignored by their children and grandchildren,” says Juls. When they could not find a suitable organization that shares the same advocacy as theirs, they decided to make things happen themselves. “That’s where we decided to step in,” adds Juls. “Not only is this for our grandparents, but for our parents as well. All of us will grow old one day, so it’s about time we started to act on the situation and change how society treats senior citizens.”
Janis shares, “When the lockdown started in March of this year, we decided to officially act on our shared dream. We set up Mana one Saturday night, and we have been working slowly but surely on expanding it ever since.”
Giving “mana” new meaning
“We were all thinking of a name that symbolizes the harmony and connection between the older and younger generations, and ‘mana’ clearly embodies that. In the context of the organization’s advocacy, the word ‘mana’ not only refers to the elderly’s act of passing down traditions and good practices to our generation, but also our hopes of doing the same for those younger than us. We hope to be a good influence to the younger Filipinos by setting an example with the foundation of service, hope, love and compassion,” explains Keanns. Thus, Mana PH was born.
All of them have their own memories to share about their experiences with their grandparents. How their Lola, Ama, Grandma cooked their favorite food, or how Lolo told colorful stories about his time. And the Mana founders believe that it is through their organization that they will be able to give back not only to their own grandparents, but all elderly who need the same attention. “They took care of us, they raised our parents, and we are grateful for that. Mana was not founded on sympathy for the elderly, but rather out of appreciation, love, and respect,” says Yumi.
Mana PH is still at a young stage like the movers behind it are, but these kids are determined. Janis shares, “We aim to create waves of social change and a shift in how people see and treat their grandparents and senior citizens in general. We want Mana to not only be an organization that provides monetary and relief efforts, but a family that fosters a loving environment for the elderly. We are determined to concretize all our plans and goals.”
They have their plans laid out already, and they are continuously looking at other potential beneficiaries. They are looking at partnering with facilities like San Lorenzo Ruiz Home for the Elderly and GRACES (Golden Reception and Action Center for the Elderly and other Special cases), to name a few. They will be giving donations in the form of health bundles such as first aid kits, face masks, adult diapers, and biscuits. They also have projects lined up like donation drives, wellness seminars, dance workshops, book readings, and fundraisers such as bake sales. “As much as possible, we want to be able to collaborate with the elderly, selling their own recipes and handmade products in these projects,” say Keannah and Yumi.
Janis adds, “Due to the pandemic, we cannot do anything right now that will make a huge impact on the lives we want to touch. So our main focus now is to build and expand our community so we have a variety of talents and people for concretizing our advocacy.” The group is looking for partner organizations who can help them steer their plans into fruition. “More than monetary support we really just hope for open-mindedness toward our organization, that many individuals will be willing to volunteer in upcoming projects and assist us in spreading our advocacy to help our senior citizens during this time of pandemic and political unrest.”
The real treasure
Mana PH’s mission is grounded on service holism, and empathy. They aim to cater to the elderly’s overall needs, both physical and mental. “We aim to not only be an organization that serves as a means of financial help, but also as a platform for senior citizens to share and pursue their passions and improve their whole well being,” says Yumi.
The aim is to radiate love and hope for the elderly by elevating their quality of life. “We hope to continue expanding our organization by gathering more individuals who share the same passions as we do and who live by Mana’s advocacy. At the end of the day, it’s our organization’s duty to not only foster change in the lives of the elderly, but also to the ordinary Filipinos.” chorus Janis and Juls.
“No one should get left behind, even the elderly who are nearing their last chapters. Each one deserves to be treated with love and respect. It is our responsibility as individuals and Filipinos to always be willing to offer a lending hand to each other, and impact on others the value of community and service,” ends the Mana PH founders.
Follow them on Instagram @mana.orgph
*Angel studied political economy but she has found more satisfaction working in the fashion and advertising industries as a professional fashion stylist. She took time off from work for a few years to be a stay-at-home-mom to her son Rocco. She is now back pursuing her passion as a personal brand and image consultant, and certified self-confidence coach. Follow her at Style Angel Manila on Facebook and @style_angelph on Instagram