Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lola, lost and found through a calling card

At the age of 93, Lola Juana Regado Gloria became a celebrity through a simple text message.

Grey haired, bent, frail, and alone, the old woman initially drew pity from people at the busy Raymond Bus Terminal along Legarda Ave. in Manila. Her story and reason for being at that bus station was as simple as it was unusual. She told anybody who would listen at the bus station that she had come alone to Manila all the way from her hometown in Quezon Province to visit Senator Richard J. Gordon. But just before people could dismiss her story as a foolish proposition, she would show them a calling card bearing a picture of her and Senator Gordon.

Perhaps, the more unbelievable part of her story was that she believed Gordon was looking for her.

More curious than impressed, bus conductor Mark Chua relented as Lola Juana requested him to send a text message to Senator Gordon’s cell phone number printed on the calling card. In the bus conductor’s mind, he actually expected that no one would ‘text back’ to the old woman and as such, the old woman’s story would be long forgotten by the time he boarded the next bus going out of the terminal.

However, in less than half an hour or so after the text message was sent, a succession of cars and ambulances suddenly swarmed the bus terminal and Lola Juana was greeted by people who introduced themselves as members of Senator Gordon’s staff.

Gordon had, in fact, been looking for her for some time and had tapped local papers in Quezon, Batangas, Laguna and Cavite to assist in the search for the old woman. Upon learning that she had found her way to Manila, he immediately deployed his Senate staff, the Emergency Response Team of the Philippine National Red Cross and some volunteers to fetch the old lady and take good care of her.

It was one year and eleven months after Gordon and Lola Juana’s picture was taken on December 14, 2004 at a chance meeting near the old church of Infanta, Quezon. The picture shows the old lady standing by the roadside and Gordon, who was knee deep in mud and flood waters, gently approaching her. It was the year when the successive onslaughts of typhoons Unding, Violeta, Winnie and Yoyong wrought devastation on Quezon and other provinces. Gordon was personally leading relief and rehabilitation efforts in Quezon when he met Lola Juana.

Senator Gordon chose to use his picture with Lola Juana, out of hundreds that had been taken that day, as the background for the side of his calling card that displayed his contact details as Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC). In a way, this was perhaps to stress the Senator’s practice of always being able, willing and ready to alleviate human suffering whenever and wherever it may be, with all honesty and sincerity.

Lola Juana is now in the hands of the best doctors of the Philippine General Hospital undergoing a comprehensive medical check-up.

Finally, after almost two years, Senator Gordon and Lola Juana meet again for a happier encounter, no longer submerged in knee-deep mud and flood waters.

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