By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
Senior citizens have the privilege of lingering over breakfast as they don’t have to rush to that 8-5 job. You can join them at the Bontoc market (or at the Cathedral of the Resurrection Parish Hall) after the early morning mass. Sometimes, it is like compensating for all those days that they had to rush early to the payeo or um-a (before the sun gets too hot) or school or office. Unless, of course, they have a back subject that they have to accompany their “apo” to school or babysit because the mom has that 8-5 job. On Sundays, though, they can have all the time talking and story-telling. And that was how this piece was born.
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There were six of us taking a leisurely breakfast, all seniors, all women and I was the youngest so I played the listener. The discussion was about how lucky we are in the Philippines to have special privileges as seniors. Not all countries have these, you know, so let’s thank our officials for passing Republic Act 7432 known as the Senior Citizens Act of 2003 and expanding the benefits in Republic Act 9257, the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. Of course, many of our officials in the Senate and Congress are seniors. And besides, senior citizens are a big voting population. So compared to children, senior citizens can more readily access government funds than children who don’t have a representative in Congress or the barangay council. Thus I suggest that we, senior citizens groups, rely more on our own resources, not much on government, and we lobby for children’s concerns instead. Anyway, back to my story. A manang was relating that one time she was in a mall and she was beckoned by the guard to the express lane and she promptly went knowing she was a senior citizen, audibly saying “Ay oo naman, dito ako sa special lane at senior ako.” (Said in a Besao tone.) The guard was surprised “Ay akala ko buntis po kayo.” Manang was almost offended but she looked at her tummy and laughed. After she related this anecdote, we congratulated her for looking young enough to be pregnant.
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One time in Manila, I decided to take the metrorail (MRT) as it was undoubtedly the best mode of transportation considering the horrendous traffic there. I was shocked, however, to see a long queue of passengers outside the gates waiting for the train. Grabe talaga ang buhay ng ordinaryong tao sa Manila. It was rush hour and apparently, people endured the wait as it must still be faster than taking the bus. I proceeded to look for the end of the queue and I couldn’t even see it as it spilled over to the street. I surmised it was a kilometer away. Then I realized I was a senior citizen so I backtracked and asked the guard for the express lane and true enough, she ushered me direct to the gate. I walked to the waiting platform for seniors which was, of course, again, full of people. The first coach of the train is designated for seniors, persons with disabilities (PWDs), pregnant women, and those with small kids. Thank God I am senior! I was the last person of this special queue and so I sat on a nearby bench. As we were waiting for the train, a man arrived and stood where I was supposed to be. This was our dialogue:
Me (as I stood up at his side): “Excuse me, ako po ang sunod diyan sa pila.”
Man: Excuse me, senior ako.
Me: Senior din ako. (I almost relented when I realized he had all white hair but later stood my ground as his face didn’t look any older than mine.)
Man: Ok, walang problema (gesturing for me to line up ahead of him).
He was quite friendly and later, he said “Akala ko po kanina buntis kayo e.” When I raised by eyebrows and looked at my tummy, he persisted “Totoo, di kayo mukhang senior. Dahil siguro mukha kayong masaya palagi. At siguro bago lang kayong senior.” I am sure he was making life in Manila tolerable. The train was long in coming and we couldn’t just twiddle our thumbs. God bless him. I often advise Igorot young women not to believe what Manila men say. That’s a personal opinion, take it or leave it.
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The 20% discount on fare for seniors allows us to travel far and wide. One time, 4 of us seniors rode the taxi. Knowing our privilege, we seriously asked the taxi driver if he gives fare discount. He replied “Libre pa nga kayo e.” And we all laughed. If each one of us demanded 20% discount, we would have rode for free…. almost free. He made our day, so, in our happiness, we told him to keep the change when we got off the taxi.
Before I became a senior citizen, the bus conductor gave me a discounted ticket. Wow, I look young enough to be a student! Of course, I didn’t want to be offended so that was how I interpreted it. In later years, however, when I had a sprinkling of white hair, when they issued me a discounted ticket, I would protest “ But I am not yet a senior citizen.” Talk about arrogance and pride.
We take pride in our tricycle drivers in Bontoc who must be the best in terms of keeping the fares standard. Even if you are the lone passenger, the fare is the same. Seniors get discount so from the regular fare of P9.00, we pay only P7 (this is for the regular distance). Just to make sure I get the discount, I show the driver my senior citizens ID as I pay my fare. One time, a young driver said “Senior ka et ya entrabtrabaho ka paylang.” I was in my office uniform then. I could have given him a lecture but I was in a hurry so later I talked with a senior member of the tricycle drivers/operators association to orient their drivers on senior citizen privileges.
Another time, I showed my senior citizens ID to a senior tricycle driver as I paid my fare. He said “Uray haan mon nga ipakita dayta IDim.” Woohoo, so much for my ego.
The first week of October is Elderly Filipino Citizens’ Week so this issue is dedicated to all senior citizens. Being senior is fun and a privilege. We can do a lot to make life happier for ourselves and for those around us, our families and co-workers, and yes, co-passengers. Enjoying our senior moments is one of them. A happy senior is fun to be with. Cheers!***
“Wisdom is with the aged. With long life is understanding.” Job 12:12