05 September 2011

Dead for a year - and no one knew

This newspaper headline caught my eye early this week.  An 88 year old pensioner passed away, and he was alone.  No one knew he had died.  In his apartment, in an apartment block.  His body was found about a year later.

This story gave a lasting impression on me.  Firstly, I felt wonderment.  How was it possible that his death went unnoticed?  And then I felt pity, but this pity was immediately replaced with reasoning.  Perhaps he cherished his privacy so much he preferred to go this way.  Or maybe not.  We will never know, perhaps.

This is a very interesting story in itself, as there is a social implication to it.  There is a strong culture of indepencence here (we are currently living in New Zealand).  At an early age, kids are encouraged to reason out and voice their thoughts.  When they reach a certain age, they are expected to leave their parents' home and eke out a living.  Sure, they can ask for financial support from their parents, but these are considered loans and they are expected to pay it back.

Consider the stark difference with our culture.  Kids are expected to obey their elders.  To answer back or reason out is the height of disrespectfulness.  Our kids are welcome to stay with the parents until they graduate from college, and can even be extended if they haven't found work yet.

While it is common for us to have extended families staying close together, be it in the same house or the same neighbourhood,  the norm here is to either stay in a senior rest home, or in a council flat where the government can check in on you every once in a while, or continue living independently for as long as you can keep a job.

In the case of the said pensioner, the system did not work as expected.

I may live in a place where the culture is vastly different from ours, but while Filipinos are generally regarded as flexible and able to adapt to their surroundings, I think I would like to go home to our country instead when it is time.  I would prefer to be able to freely speak our language and buy from the sari-sari store and feel the warm sun at the dusk of my time.

Read the story at the Dominion Post

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