Growing up in the care of grandparents helps shape one’s heart with compassion and immeasurable love. Miss Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados reminisces with H&L loving memories of her grandparents, who have inspired her in her care-for-the-elderly advocacy
Text and Photo By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos | Ramir G. Cambiado
In a common Filipino family setting, grandparents would oftentimes welcome their apos (grandchildren) into their homes and look after them while their parents are at work. They would spend their retirement years taking care of their grandchildren, support and encourage them in whatever they do, pamper them, and love them up to their last days.
For 23-year-old model Gazini Christiana Jordi Ganados, she wished her grandparents were there cheering in the sidelines when she clinched the coveted Binibining Pilipinas crown last June—if only they were still alive.
Despite never meeting her Palestinian father, Gazini did not feel like there was something lacking in the way she was raised. Her grandparents—whom she fondly called Tatay and Nanay—played a vital role in her growing years, giving her the unconditional love any apo could ever wish for.
Born and raised by her single mother Carmencita, Gazini—or Jazzy to her lolo and lola—spent her childhood in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte. Her grandparents took care of her when Carmencita had to be away for work. Hers was filled with memories of playing with cousins and eating the sumptuous food Tatay would cook for them afterwards. Tatay’s culinary palette, Gazini says, was what she has always appreciated even as a child.
Meanwhile, as she grew up and would have some misunderstandings with her mother from time to time, Nanay would always be her staunchest ally and supporter. “She’s always there when I am having a fight with my mom. She backs me up when I committed a mistake. You know, the usual grandmother who sticks by her apo’s side whatever happens.”
Nanay and Tatay, she says, were her greatest supporter ever since. They were present at her activities from her school days and though they may not be able to attend her modelling and pageant events, the support Gazini gets is through Nanay’s constructive comments on the clothes she usually donned.
In 2007, Tatay passed away at age 75, leaving Nanay and his nine children, now already with their own families, in grief. The family then moved to Talisay, Cebu to cope and start anew.
Years would pass and Nanay’s health would deteriorate due to old age. Gazini would then juggle her work and responsibility in taking care of her lola. She even took up a one-year certification course on nursing care accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) so she could be a more efficient caregiver and monitor her lola’s health better.
“After that, I found the love for my grandparents even more. I realized that if my lolo was still alive back then, I could have been the one who would take care of him, too.” After over a decade since Tatay passed away, Nanay was also laid to rest in 2017 at age 88.
Elderly care advocacy
Now that both her grandparents are gone, Gazini hopes to continue showing the love she has for them to other elderly people. “I will never get tired to tell the whole world that my grandparents are the one who helped my single mom in raising me,” she says. “With this advocacy, I want to honor them, by doing my best in using my platform, to make their years more exciting and worth looking forward to.”
As she took the stage for the national pageant last June, Gazini knows that just like how many rally for other types of advocacy like children’s rights, senior care should also be highlighted, too.
Based in a 2012 data from the National Statistics Office (NSO), there were over 5,905,000 senior citizens in the country. By 2025, the aging population is projected to rise at 10 percent and come 2050, it is expected to balloon to 23,633,000 or 15.3 percent of the total population.
While there are government policies that cater to the needs and provide privileges and benefits to older persons, Gazini believes that there is still more work to do.
She has been actively campaigning for more opportunities and programs for the elderly population. By going to different homes for the elderly, she has seen the need to lobby for more and better facilities and medical care for them.
She envisions such programs as those that would help them continue being productive in their aging years, stimulate their senses and enable them to still enjoy life in their sunset years. Specifically, she is pushing for senior citizen centers in every barangay.
“Aside from ensuring them with a good quality of life, I’ve learned that helping them attain a socially active lifestyle beyond their retirement is vital to their holistic development,” she says.
Gazini hopes that encouraging the government to develop programs that are senior citizen-friendly erases the stigma or fear of old age.
The beauty queen also believes that the older generation has paved the way for what the younger ones are enjoying today. “I’ve seen how they worked hard for us, only for them to be left behind. I want to raise awareness because it is not rightful for them to be just neglected. It’s not just about doing the right thing, it’s reciprocating the love.”
When the time comes that she will also reach her golden years, the beauty queen will welcome it wholeheartedly, knowing that she has done something for this age group with the opportunities that were given to her.
“Aging will always be part of one’s life, so getting old should not be greeted with fear. More than anything else, it should be embraced and celebrated. It should be seen as a phase of culmination of everything beautiful about our individual lives,” she explains.
As Gazini prepares for her biggest competition yet in the international stage of Miss Universe as the Philippines’ representative, she carries with her a heart filled with love and compassion. She may not know yet what is in store for her, but one thing’s for sure—her Tatay and Nanay must be smiling from heaven as they see their beloved apo glitter like the stars of the universe as a beauty queen.