By: HERBERT VEGO
EARLY this year, I wrote in this corner how I had turned from happy to sad while queuing to pay my basket of goods in a shopping mall four years ago. Since I was at the tail-end of the line, I wondered if I could sashay to a shorter lane. There was one with only two elderly women lining up. It was the “senior citizen” lane.
Presently a blue-uniformed usherette sidled up to me, saying, “This way, Sir. It’s the right lane for you.” She was pointing at the “senior” lane.
I could feel my heart sink as I moved hesitantly to that lane. The reason was because the lady had deflated my ego. I thought of asking her, “Do I look like a senior citizen?” If truth be told, I had not yet turned 60; I was only 58.
On second thought, I opted to thank her for saving me from the “agony” of a longer queue.
The other day, a similar courtesy presented itself. I was tailing a dozen other bank clients lining up at the Banco de Oro, SM City-Iloilo. This time, having turned 62, I wished a bank official would recognize me as a senior citizen who deserved priority attention.
Thank God a security guard presently came to me and asked whether I was a senior. I eagerly fumbled for my senior citizen’s ID and handed it to him. He held it and stepped up to the tellers’ counter. Within a minute, a beautiful teller called my name. Wow, I rejoiced at the thought that there’s more to old than more facial and body wrinkles.
She looked at the picture in my ID, smiled at me, asked me to sign the back of a check as was presenting for encashment and gave me cash. I could imagine the younger folks, who had fallen in line, eyeing me with envy.
I am happy to be both a dual citizen – a Filipino citizen and a senior citizen.
I have accepted old age as an inevitable stage with an advantage. I am a beneficiary of Republic Act No. 9257. My senior citizen’s ID entitles me to the following benefits: free medical, dental, diagnostic and laboratory services in all government facilities; 20% discount on the same services in private facilities; 20% discount on VAT-free prescribed medicine; 20% discount on VAT-free meals in hotels and restaurants; 20% discount on fare on air, land or sea transportation; and 20% discount on funeral and burial services, but hopefully not in the near future.
And, thanks to a memorandum of agreement entered by Mayor Jed Mabilog and the SM City management, we Iloilo City senior residents have more fun: We may see a free movie at any SM City theater every Tuesday.
Iloilo City has an energetic OSCA head in the person of Emilia J. Drilon, herself a senior citizen, who personally attends to the problems of senior citizens in her City Hall office. OSCA, incidentally, is acronym for Office for Senior Citizens Affairs.
If there’s one privilege I wish I could avoid, it’s the medicine discount. In spite of the Cheaper Medicines Law that does not live up to its promise, I would rather not get sick than buy medicines. Prevention is always better than cure. I recall that my late parents had exhausted their retirement money in expensive hospitalizations.
And so eating in a fast-food restaurant has become an “addiction” aimed at boosting my health. More often than not, I order fish and vegetable concoctions because of a heart dysfunction that could worsen with each fat bite. It could be cheaper than cooking (damn the prohibitive cost of LPG) and eating at home.
Nowadays, it’s hard to find a fast-food restaurant serving breakfast at below P50. But I recently found out that I could still eat in one at P36.43. This was when I got into a burger joint and ordered sausage-and-egg sandwich plus coffee. The winsome lady punched the said amount after excluding the 12% VAT and deducting the 20% discount. Sans a senior-C ID, I would have paid its tag price of P51. After all, I still work for a living and don’t intend to retire from my writing profession while alive.
If the younger men and women of this generation do not envy us, it’s probably because they have the advantage of longer life expectancy for leverage.
But of course, we senior citizens have as much right to hope and pray for a longer life expectancy before checking into Kingdom Come to meet the Creator.
The other day’s floods that hit Metro Manila and the provinces of Central Luzon – as well as some barangays in the city and province of Iloilo -- must have been the most widespread in Philippine history. Let us brace ourselves for their lingering effects for a long time.
In times like this, we may blame the government and ourselves for not doing enough to safeguard the ecology.
But all that is water under the bridge. Let us learn from experience and move on with positive thoughts. One quotation I never forget is this from Winston Churchill: “These are not hard times; these are more challenging times.”
Let us face the challenge.