On Wednesday (9 December), news outlets picked up the story of an elderly woman in Tiong Bahru who was seen gathering cardboards on the street in the rain.
The story was first shared by Facebook user Vladimir Guevarra on Monday after he saw the lady while he was cycling past Eng Hoon Street.
The post detailed how a Porsche SUV had started to reverse towards her, which prompted Mr Guevarra to shout at the driver to watch out for the elderly lady.
The driver, who appeared to have not heard Mr Guevarra, continued driving in reverse. However, the driver eventually stopped when a lady came out of a nearby butcher shop to signal him to stop.
Following news reports on the incident, Mr Guevarra took to Facebook again on 10 December to share his thoughts on the reactions and comments the story he had received online.
“I’m glad that some kind-hearted Singaporeans reacted to my post, sought her out and offered her some assistance. Many were thankful that I assisted the woman and that I wrote the Facebook post,” he wrote.
However, there were “a minority of haters” whose comments detracted from the key issue he was trying to convey, he added.
Among them were people who disputed that the incident happened at Eng Hoon Street as the photo had — in their view — proven differently.
There were also those who commented that the Porsche SUV had a rear-view camera which means the driver did see the lady.
To the latter, he questioned why the driver would still reverse if he was indeed able to see the old lady.
Addressing those who questioned why he has time to take a photo of the incident, Mr Guevarra said: “That was after I checked on her. I was about to make my way but I turned to look at her again. The image of an old, bent lady eking out a living and positioned next to a luxury car was jarring. So I took it.”
He also dismisses speculation on how the old lady and the SUV were “planted” as fodder for people to complain about the government as “QAnon-level conspiracy theory”.
QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory, claims that the previous United States president Donald Trump was fighting a cabal of so-called “Satan-worshipping paedophiles” comprising Democrat politicians and liberal Hollywood celebrities accused of running “a global child sex-trafficking ring”.
Mr Guevarra in his post also singled out two specific comments that he wanted to share his further thoughts on, starting with someone who claimed that Mr Guevarra was just trying to make himself look good by posting the elderly lady’s photo online.
In response, he clarified that the incident occurred on 26 November but he only chose to post it on 7 December.
“For somebody who is desperate to look good, I sure took my time,” he shot back.
Mr Guevarra elaborated that he thought about the matter for “over 10 days”.
He said that he had “weighed two options”, namely “whether I should post something about it and run the risk of some smart alec ridiculing me and saying I’d be virtue-signalling, or whether I should post something to raise important issues – the care for the elderly and the poor, and the divide between rich and poor”.
“In the end, I was willing to take the risk of being ridiculed if it meant that the message could reach even just one person. That is more important. Turns out the message is reaching more people,” he said, adding that people never complain when its politicians who have their pictures taken “while doling out cheques or food to needy people.”
As for the photo he posted, he asserted that he had pixelated the licence plate of the car, while the elderly woman’s face was already obscured by the mask she was wearing.
He further stressed that he did not mention names and does not know their identities.
Mr Guevarra said, “My intention is to raise awareness in general, and perhaps rally some immediate support for the lady”.
It was a different website that revealed the name of the old lady two days after his post, he added.
Touching on the second comment Mr Guevarra wanted to address — which went along the lines of “Many other old people do this. It’s their exercise, so let them be” — Mr Guevarra opened with a recollection of details he did not previously share.
“Now, if my memory serves me well – and these are details I did not share in the original post – that was a rainy afternoon on Nov 26. It was still drizzling when I cycled on my way to group bootcamp. The picture shows puddles on the road.”
“I could be wrong in asking this, but looking at the high stack of cardboards collected by the lady, what are the chances that she was working on the streets while it was raining, or at least, drizzling? Wasn’t the road too dangerous and slippery?” Mr Guevarra questioned.
“Are you guys telling me that septuagenarians and octogenarians, in their declining health, would very much rather bend, pick, lift, and push, repeatedly, sometimes under the heat of the sun, sometimes in the rain or drizzle, maneuvering through vehicular traffic, rather than stay home during COVID, read books, or play with or teach their grandchildren?” He further asked.
As for cardboard collecting being a “past time or exercise”, Mr Guevarra wondered if it would not instead be better and safer for elderly people such as the lady to “volunteer at their community centre, attend courses, learn new hobbies, or do some brisk walking or stretching with some assistance or supervision”.
He wondered if there were such programs available for the elderly in Singapore and whether they can afford it, or if they opted to collect cardboards instead due to feeling as though they have no other choice.