CTK parish priest Father Bong Tupino had always argued that CTK parish does a decent job of ministering to the pre-school children through the Mustard Seed Ministry, to the youth through the Youth Ministry and PREX Youth, to the families and married couples through the Family & Life Ministry, but there continues to be a void as far as ministering to the elderly is concerned. The parish currently has a few activities that involve senior citizens, e.g., EMHC’s giving communion at the homes of the bedridden in the villages; Ladies of Charity providing medicines to a couple of dozen super senior ladies in the Libis community; ditto with the occasional healing visits initiated by the Healing Ministry. But the sense was that there is still no concerted effort to address the spiritual, formational, educational, emotional, physical and communal needs of the elderly in Christ the King Parish Greenmeadows, whether they live in the gated villages or in the Libis sitios.

So in late 2016, Fr. Bong appointed Doy and Estrelle Lopez, who had just stepped down as long-running head couple for the Family and Life Ministry, to take on the challenge of formally setting up to minister to the elderly in the community. First things first, the Lopez couple proposed a new name, the Sunrise Ministry, the rationale being that senior years are often referred to as sunset or twilight years, a negative term. Hence, they’ve flipped this on its head and have decided to call their ministry ‘Sunrise’. They also organized a core team and held a planning meeting last March 11, 2017.

The Sunrise Ministry held its first Seniors’ Day assembly  last June 24, Saturday, from 9 am to 12 noon. Outside the hall was a nurse station where three AIDE nurses were measuring  blood pressure and giving BP management advice. just inside the sliding door was a booth dispensing Glucobest for diabetes control. Mieto Bacus of Unilab, a regular motivational speaker, gave an inspiring discussion on ‘The Senior Years: A Celebration of Life”, spiced with lots of jokes and anecdotes. This was followed by a medical-oriented talk on ‘Killing Your Pains Without Killing Your Kidneys’. The speaker, Dra. Porshia Comes-Natividad MD, an Associate Professor at the UST Faculty of Medicine & Surgery, a practicing nephrologist and who had been teaching about kidney diseases for the past 10 years, went through the types of painkillers that most seniors take, their prescriptions, contraindications and risks. She then talked about the kidneys and the liver as the waste disposal units of the human body and how certain painkillers, taken in large doses or frequently or for extended periods, could damage the kidneys beyond all recovery. in addition to the three main talks, the program was enlivened by icebreakers (Luong Cuartero organized the participants into groups and asked everyone in the group to talk about their origins and what they were doing), displays (Anna Lagman as Creative Committee in charge showing off the products of the previous painting sessions), sing-alongs – Girl Valencia, CTK parishioner and professional singer,led the crowd into group singing, and dancercise (first, LOC dance instructor Mark Reniva who led everyone into a dancercise segment, later followed by CTK PPC secretary Fely Ong leading the attendees into a six-routine zumba break.) The final speaker was CTK regular Jorge Banal, current president of the Federation of Senior Citizens’ Associations of the Philippines, who talked about the ‘Rights and Privileges of Seniors in the Philippines’.

The ministry held its second event for 2017  last November 19 with the ‘Seniors Fiesta’ event, held from 10 am to 12 nn at the Social Hall of the CTK Formation Center. Over a hundred senior citizens – and some were ‘super seniors’ – came to the assembly. There were two keynote speakers in the program. The first was Msgr. Sabino Vengco Jr., who gave the talk, ‘Celebrating Christmas With a New Heart and Mind: A Senior’s Perspective’. Msgr. Venco, who had just turned 75, gave a feel-good talk that focused on what senior citizens like him could offer the younger crowd. He talked about wisdom that comes with age and experience, why senior age should be treated as God’s gift, and how senior citizens should take a proactive role in imparting life lessons to their children and grandchildren, rather than waiting for them to ask.  The second keynote talk was on ‘Preventing Falls and Fractures’. by  Jose Fernando Syquia, a noted orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Syquia stated that bone fractures in senior citizens usually result from falls. But then he posed the question – why is it that when children fall, they don’t break anything and they continue on as if nothing had happened. That is because children’s bones are dense and at the same time flexible. Unfortunately, when senior citizens fall, slip, trip, or stumble, chances are high that it will result in bone fracture. The reason is osteoporosis, or degradation and weakening of the bone substance. As we grow old, our bones become spongy and brittle. To prevent this, seniors are advised to avoid risk factors, do regular exercise, and take sufficient calcium and vitamin D. Fall risks can be due to poor eyesight or being under the influence of medications. As usual, there were games and prizes. Doy Lopez and Anna Lagman grouped the participants by table and conducted the game ‘Ganito ang Tawag Niyo Ngayon, Ano ang Tawag Namin Noon’. There was also Line Dancing, led by the swinging Ladies of Charity. Together with the lead DI, they encouraged the seniors in attendance to join them in swinging to the groove. Another highlight was the free bone screening for osteoporosis, which started at 8:30 am. And finally, the traditional distribution of  loot bags filled with goodies capped the seniors’ assembly.

The first seniors-only event for 2018 was last April 14 with nearly a hundred seniors attended. The theme of the gathering was aptly called ‘Remembering Not to Forget’ and focused on the brain and how to keep the seniors’ mental faculties intact. Dr. Socorro Martinez, a neurologist and Chair of the Dementia Council of the Philippine Neurological Association, was the guest speaker and she talked about the changes in our brain as we advance in years. She also gave strategies for remembering. Dr. Martinez highlighted that slight cognitive impairment is normal as we, as well as our brains, grow older. But 24% of the population will degrade into Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) where some cognitive domains are significantly impaired that may begin to concern both the individual and family members but which do not hamper daily living activities. However, 12% will continue degrading to Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia where cognitive impairment becomes severe enough to interfere with everyday abilities. Dementia has long been a problem in developed countries but its effects are now being felt in the Philippines, with nearly 10 million of its  populace over the age of 65. Dr. Martinez gave the elderly audience several  ways and techniques to forestall the quick progress of dementia. After the talk, Doy Lopez got the entire group up to do some exercises. He then called the five senior panelists up the stage to take their seats and share their tips and techniques for coping with memory difficulties and absentmindedness. Sharing their insights were: Francis Horn, Manolo Dayrit, Linda Famador, and Anna Lagman. This was followed by questions and additional sharing from the audience. As people exited, the organizers gave away efficascent oil, donated by Manolo and Linda Dayrit, cookies baked by Jorge and Baby Banal, Katinko from Earth Kitchen’s Emma Yeun.