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On ageing in this young country


On a recent visit to Tacloban, Leyte, a complete stranger gave me an unexpected reality check.

It was a bright, sunny morning and I decided I’d take a walk and have breakfast at the nearest McDonald’s, only because it was on the harbor and gave a refreshing viewof the sea. I was wearing flip-flops, slacks, a plaid blouse,

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and my usual face—which means, plain me, a bit of color on my lips, slightly darkened eyebrows, and baby powder, unevenly applied because the lights in my no-star hotel room weren’t bright enough.

I ordered egg muffin, minus the ham (Or was it pancakes? My memory is sagging!) and asked for tea (which they didn’t have, never had, I guess, and apparently won’t offer anytime in the future). That left me without hot breakfast beverage so I asked for the bill.

Here’s how our conversation went:

Cashier (in his late teens or early twenties, alternated glances between me

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and the cash machine): May senior citizen’s card ho kayo?

Me (in my mid-fifties, in a surprised tone): Ha? Bakit mo naitanong ‘yan?

Silence from the cashier (who noticed my near state of shock, looked down and appeared to count a wad of bills).

Me again (in a low, hushed but emphatic tone as a few others were behind me in the queue): Wala. Wala akong senior card.

Wow! This earnest young man just made history. He was the first to ask me if I were a senior citizen. That’s still five years into the future! Soon, though, it will be just four more years.

I’ll remember him, perhaps, the way I remember my first failing grade in a college examination—with humor, accompanied by a realization. I’ve been around for more than half a century and I’m older than two presidents—Noynoy Aquino and Barack Obama. It seems that, in most gatherings, everybody else is younger than I am. But here’s one consolation: I’m definitely younger than the United Nations.

The author is older than PNoy. (credit: Malacanang Photo Bureau)

So, is it time to call in the dermatologists, the youth doctors? Or buy all these night creams and

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schedule a weekly facial? And consider getting lightweight girdles, particularly the Spanx Power Panties which, the New Yorker says, has sold six million units since it was introduced in 2002? Or follow Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s beauty regimen?


Our former president elicited a chorus of wows after she appeared on TV looking gorgeous and enviously young at 64. Her photographs were posted on

Her secret? “Masasabi mong siyensiya siguro yung hot pack science… mga nira-rub samukha in that sense. Wala yung mga invasive.”

When the reporter asked who did her facials, Arroyo replied that it’s her manikurista who goes to her La Vista home. For the higher-tech hot pack and machines used on the face, she visits the Zen Institute.

Well, to each her own desire—and treatment. Since cost is a factor, I’ll stick to my current paradigm: stay with the natural. Three basic things: exercise, diet (As my mother and elementary school teachers used to say, “Eat your vegetables!”) and sleep. Yes, sleep deprivation is fatal to one’s looks. Who wants to carry heavy eye bags?

Still, I expect my experience in Tacloban to be repeated elsewhere in the country. After all, we have a young population. The youth, ages 15 to 29, comprise about a third of us. Some also talk of a youth bulge. One study says that the sixty-and-above age group will comprise only ten percent of our population in 2020—and that’s still a long way to go.

Many of the young, I imagine, look at anybody who is outside their age group—30 and up—as “old.” I know this is sounding like an excuse for the McDonald’s cashier. But this is the context in our society—so here’s my message to those who have been wrongly identified as senior citizens: Don’t fret!

Maybe this is one reason I enjoy being among Westerners. Whenever I travel to the US or Europe, where the demographics are different, people always think I’m much younger. When I was on a year-long fellowship in a Massachusetts university—I was thirty one then—the liquor store person asked to see my ID before he would sell me a bottle of gin. Of course, that was a long time ago. But you get the drift.

Well, we can also see it this way: age 60 is just a demarcation, the way birthdays are. It marks the beginning of one’s senior citizenship, announced by a discount card.

In a few years, I’ll be there. And I can see myself with Mr. McDonald’s. He need not even ask me for my senior citizen card. I’ll gladly offer it—and enjoy my hefty discount! – Newsbreak


CATEGORY: Blogs, Marites Dañguilan-Vitug
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  1. You could be in big trouble there. Some people equate UN for League of Nations which was established in 1935.

  2. Sonam Gulagov says:

    I am a whisper away from 60 and my abs look like brick walls; my biceps are steel balls when I curl them; and my hamstrings don’t look like ham and definitely not like strings. And my memory — I remember names as quickly and as sharply as I remember debts owed me. In short, I look extremely well and I am sharp. We do age, of course, and as we go through this process, we simply have to accept it in gratitude and graciousness. We’ve arrived this far — in great shape. Remember, that as we skate effortlessly through the years, our potentials continue to get fulfilled and our lives continue to unfold. Winston Churchill became prime minister at the age of 77. Colonel Sanders founded the Kentucky Fried Chicken at 65. Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote at the age of 58. And Grandma Moses started to paint at 72. And who knows? Many among us will still invent something or be the leader of a country or lead a strike. So cheers, and yes, never fret.

  3. You can start with the church where anybody 2 years older than you is called Ate or Kuya. But then this is only my experience with the Evangelicals in Pinas since the Texas-based BSF (Bible Study Fellowship–Luchie Cruz, another journalist, attends this)lodged by the GCF (Greenhills Christian Fellowship) facility in the Ortigas Center that I attend hews to the American system of first-name basis for everyone. After my conversion, and I became active among evangelicals, I was shocked by this age hierarchy that is manifested in the use of a “respectful” title added to one’s first name, because I got so used to the collegial environment in UP Diliman, where we don’t address each other as other than colleagues–in writing workshops, you could get slugged no matter what your age is, because what you’re worth is your work, regardless, with due respect!

    I’ve always thought you’re as young/old as you feel and age is just a state of mind. But it could also be a prejudice, an attitude e.g., arrogance, and a mode of disempowerment. If you let the youth culture get the better of you, then you’d better muster enough courage to put them in their place since I suspect that much of their put-down of seniors is a closet insecurity of their real worth.

    You have the power to be where you want to be–in any century of your choice–but there is definitely one place you want to be: OUT OF THE BOX!

  4. Maybe my comment is not in any way connected to the concerned article because it doesn’t look like I’ve used foul or offensive language. You can opt not to publish it.

  5. Rejoice, we are and will always be much, much younger than mickey mouse. 8-))))

  6. indeed! we look pretty young against other western country and also if our children are bigger and taller than us. well, what can i say…welcome to club of beauty beyond fifty.


    Hi Jenny,

    Sorry. There’s a timelag from the time you post to time a comment gets published coz we moderate them for offensive language. We just published your comment.

  8. avie g. perez says:

    Was also asked for a senior citizen’s card not too long ago as I paid my parking fee in Alabang. “Ha? Senior card? Ikaw naman,” I chided the girl inside the booth. “‘Di pa ‘ko senior, ha,” I chided the girl manning the collection booth.
    “Ay, sorry ma’am,” she said, suddenly flustered. “Kasi, dati pinagalitan na ‘ko, ‘di ako nagbigay ng discount …”
    “Aba, ‘di naman ako humihingi ng discount, ah,” I cut in, but the damage to my ego had been wrought.
    For the first time in my 57 years, someone actually mistook me for a senior citizen! I blamed the gray strands of hair on my scalp for the embarrassment, being too lazy to go to the salon to have my hair roots dyed. I blamed my not having make-up on that day and eye bags on a sleep-deprived face. I blamed the heat for the day’s discomfort … oh, I blamed a lot of things. That included some people’s lack of sensitivity.
    But I came to a conclusion: NO ONE should ever ask for anyone’s senior card, never. If none is offered, none should be asked. That should save everyone something more valuable than money, and that’s … face. In more ways than one.

  9. johnny lin says:

    Mark Twain,”Age is an issue of mind over matter, if you don,t mind, it does not matter”. Myth: women everywhere are more conscious of their age.Fact:Asians are youthful looking than westerners!

  10. Hec Soliman says:

    Hey Marites….come to think of it, I have not had the distinction of being asked my senior card and I am quite a few years older than you…baka naman natiempohan lang…haha…but yes, I shall soon relish getting that 20% discount…inside tip…they process the senior cards super fast in QC OSCA…my mom got hers in an hour flat…

  11. as long as what matters doesn’t age, what the young thinks doesn’t matter :)

  12. danilo narciso says:

    You are looking great…it’s just another 3rd world manners issue, sending my complaint to McDee

  13. Rvl Gimenez says:

    Something I always tell my nephews and nieces: when it comes to age and waistlines, none of them can beat me. I’ll always have the bigger numbers. ;-)

  14. Would I be construed as rude if I found the article funny? hehehe

  15. Pilar Garcia says:

    maybe the cashier was just being efficient, it sounded to me like he was reciting part of a protocol in dealing with customers – you know, like the singsong good morning of all fastfood chains…certainly not a reaction to your looks, why, you’re forty-ish in your profile photo!

  16. danilo narciso says:


  17. Priscilla Bojador says:

    napagkamalan kang senior citizen?!! i guess i am luckier – when i say senior citizen i am challenged to produce my id! One time the driver said,”me senior citizen bang naka shorts”!

  18. Rvl Gimenez says:

    One other thing: my wife flashes her SC card every chance she gets. More interested in the discounts than how she looks (hey, she’s pretty!) Saves me quite a sum!

    Note: I’ll have my own card early next year. Holding my breath! LOL!

  19. Marietta Yandoc says:

    Totally agree with you. By the way, there are a lot more to “like” in being a senior citizen, one of which is not miserably moisturizing oneself to death and wishing foolishly to be young again.

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