Two steps forward, one step backward

Ask most senior citizens in the Philippines and they’ll probably say they can feel the love. In spite of technical “potholes,” most senior citizens really enjoy and take advantage of the 20 percent discount they get for many things, specially medicines and restaurants and arbitrarily on travel. There is also the 20 percent discount extended on parking fees and, one of the favorites, priority boarding at airports.

The potholes of course are such cumbersome requirements such as having to show your senior citizen hospital/medical booklet as well as “only” the senior citizen ID rule and nothing else. While we all agree that the “booklet” is some form of control to stop people from hoarding discounted medicines for resale, there is the law that you must show your prescription and prescriptions are checked off after being filled or sold by the pharmacist.

Given the fact that many senior citizens have limited mobility or are physically strained just to get around, business establishments and retailers should also be considerate enough to remember or realize that many senior citizens gradually become forgetful. They don’t necessarily suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but their memory and attention span is not what it used to be. The spirit of the law is compassion and consideration, not simply regulation.

Speaking of being compassionate or considerate, I came across a “Two step forward/One step backward” situation in the City of Pasig. Pasig City by all accounts is senior citizen friendly, has established senior citizen centers in almost every barangay and during Christmas is known to give gifts and cash allocations to senior citizens.

Last week, someone identifying herself as being from City Hall called to inform me that I was entitled to a cash gift of P3,000 for what I understood was a delayed Christmas gift to senior citizens. The caller then informed me that in order to avail of the cash gift, I will have to go in person to the Pasig city quadrangle and collect the cash gift.

In the past, I have been contacted by the Barrio Kapitolyo senior citizens’ office regarding the cash gift, which would only be available for one day at the multi-purpose gym. Twice I was out of town and so I just sent a letter of authority to the barangay and donated the gift to charity. This time I could not do that and, given that I had just recovered from Covid before Christmas, then the flu at the start of February, the idea of mingling with a thousand senior citizens in an open quadrangle was not enticing, for P3,000.

Please don’t get me wrong, I could use the cash. I could bless someone with the cash but requiring senior citizens to travel away from their neighborhood or barangay and exposing themselves to potential risk or infection reflects a lack of appreciation and logic behind giving such a gift. Imposing a one-day only policy to collect the cash gift pre-supposes that senior citizens are sitting around doing nothing, disregards the fact that many need a travel companion or caregiver, while just as many are physically unable to leave their homes.

If the cash is the city’s gift, then let it be a gift given with love and consideration, not impositions. Don’t dangle it like candy in front of a child. I hope Mayor Vico Sotto or one of his managers can review this whole system and immediately correct the matter. Don’t let insensitive or indifferent clerks misrepresent the city and the mayor. Leave it to the Barangay Senior Citizens Office to attend to the seniors in their community.

In any case, thank you for loving senior citizens.

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Why do bad things happen to good people? I’m sure you have heard or read that line or perhaps, you’ve found yourself in such a situation; innocently victimized by bad people or bad situations.

For nearly a year now, I’ve been encouraging a public figure of sorts to step up his game and be more proactive in addressing issues or problems that get to him or irritate him. Being a respected and well-connected individual, I believe that he could make a difference.

It was, however, out of character for him, since he liked working away from the limelight and avoiding direct political confrontation. Then one day he became a victim of bureaucratic abuse of power that caused him sleepless nights and nearly cost him hundreds of thousands of pesos. But what really bothered him was being helpless against the bureaucratic abuse. That’s when I told him: now you know how it feels to be an ordinary Filipino.

Avoiding conflict, not having position, not being wealthy are simply excuses not to get involved until one day we become the victim. Filipinos are relational and reliant on the kamag-anak or ka-kilala system. We refer to it as having connections. That in itself could make some difference or help correct what is wrong.

The general mistake of Filipinos is that we do not water the garden of relationships socially or professionally and unless asked, we don’t readily or generously offer unsolicited help or service to mentors, friends, contacts and contemporaries.

Another limiting mistake is that we stay in our comfort zone or don’t cross borders or boundaries or age groups. The buzzword of the 90’s was networking but in reality, networking was driven by personal agendas or selfishness.

Based on what I have been learning recently, many successful individuals are part of an undeclared support system driven by mutual respect, willingness to serve and grow each other’s goals. As simple as social media and the internet may seem, it is a very powerful force for change driven by ordinary citizens. Ordinary but not helpless citizens!

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