Old and free | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

MENAGERIE of household pets: (clockwise) Upright dachshund, yellow and black dog, lechon, two light blue ducks, turquoise turkey, fat hen with dots. ART BY GCF 2005
MENAGERIE of household pets: (clockwise) Upright dachshund, yellow and black dog, lechon, two light blue ducks, turquoise turkey, fat hen with dots. ART BY GCF 2005

Old gives you the right to be cranky, bitchy, bossy, looney–after all, who’s gonna get back at a lame old dame!


Nothing beats being 83 and free!  Free to do what?  Anything! When I feel I’ve been too much of a Goody Two-shoes, I want to be intransigent, irreverend, incontinent, stagnant and repugnant. To be old is to be awarded freedom to be funky, outrageous, stupendous, sparkling, adorable and durable. You can be mad or sad. You can be the life of the party or the death of your friends.


You are now free to kiss your younger friends’ handsome, or firm and luscious, husbands.  It’s too late now to be labeled a cougar, or maybe a revered old elephant about to be shipped out to a reservation. You no longer get a rise out of the wives, in fact, they egg you on to hug and kiss the beast.  (That’s what I don’t like—what happened to my sting?)


Some old people like the freedom of being in duster and slippers, uncombed and undone. I like the freedom at last to be intolerably vain, which I never was before. To take all the time in the world to put on my makeup, whether it’s an opera I’m going to or the palengke.


It takes practice to do your makeup to look like no makeup.  I don’t try to look younger—it’s so déclassé if it doesn’t work.  It’s better to look weird. No one can classify weird.


Old is being able to stand your ground. When else can I enjoy wearing my maroon and blue blouse with feathers and swimming swan at the back, or the quarter jacket with embroidered wings, or the gored jacket whose panels are painted red and silver, or the peplumed top derived from the silk bathrobe of my departed father?




Weird doesn’t get passé. It’s just always there, trying and irritating, blasphemous, contemptuous, audacious and conspicuous. It’s a test of which friends will stick by you. Today, my teenage maid insisted that she paint my nails a lurid shiny blue. It made me look like I’d run out of oxygen (but I will scratch your eyes out if you don’t like it!). Luckily, my son next door did not peep in to confirm his fear that, “Susmariaosep, malala na talaga ang sayad ni lola!”


In my ripening years I got a lot of good advice from concerned friends. From Danny Dalena: Break all the rules.  From Manny Chaves: Break all the rules. From Odette Alcantara: Break all the rules. From Fe Arriola: Break all the rules.  From Maita Gomez: Take no prisoners, spare no one! And so when tradition threatens to suffocate one because it has become unbiodegradable and unproductive, noxious and obnoxious, don’t wait for a gas mask—run!


Old gives you the freedom to tell people off—the policeman lurking behind the pillar who tries to arrest you for the violation of some sign he put there himself; the fashionista lighting a cigarette in an air-conditioned café; the jeepney driver parked in a no-parking zone and sleeping with his feet on the wheel. Old gives you the right to be cranky, bitchy, bossy, looney—after all, who’s gonna get back at a lame old dame!


Old is the freedom to discover that friends are better than lovers. Lovers grow old, wear adult diapers, don’t like to take a bath. Friends grow old too, wear adult diapers and don’t like to take a bath either, but they don’t spoil your fun.


It never ceases to astound me that my friends, 14 to 16 years younger than I, have become grandpas and grandmas. One of the most comforting sights was to witness National Artist Rio Almario, two seats away from me in a UP show, carrying a pretty grandchild with her head lying on his shoulder. He was patting and pacifying her when she got bored while his wife Lyn and I gabbed and gabbed away.


Karina Bolasco, the publishing dynamo, has become grandma to the baby of one of her twins. My favorite nephew Butch Santos is now a veteran lolo. Mariel Francisco’s house is crawling with babies. Babeth Lolarga and Pablo Tariman are caregivers to their respective apo, Kai and Emman. Rolly Fernandez ends up as Kai’s yaya, too, in Baguio. Julie Lluch is lola not only to Andres Bonifacio and Mayor Lacson but also to cute and naughty grandkids. Even CB Garrucho is a lola and this is interesting. She has two adopted daughters and they are now married. When CB asked the older one whether she and her husband were going to try for a kid of their own, Cybelle said they had opted to adopt a little boy! That’s Mateo—now the apple pie of Lola CB’s eye!




Old is to be free to stick to your real flock, the age range you feel most comfortable with. Mine is the 50 and below group. (Mariel is getting too old for words!) There’s Jetro Rafael and Robert Alejandro, Bodjie Pascua and Avic Ylagan, Rody Vera, Steve de Leon, Ambeth Ocampo, Jeroen Van Stratten and Cecile Zamora, Grace Nono and Bob Aves, Mitch Dulce, Gino Gonzales (I’m enjoying this enumeration. I hope they transfer me to some society section), Myrza Sison, Banaue Miclat, Clinton Palanca, Cora Alvina, Felice Sta. Maria, Don Salubayba, Elmer and Plet Borlongan, Rica Bolipata Santos and about two sacks more.


Aside from them, there’s the lovely mix I love of straights and swingers, wimps and tibak and a few ancients—Mercy Fabros, Freddie and Daisy Arrastia, Nancy Reyes Lumen, Agnes Arellano, Pepe Abueva, Gabriel del Casal, Satur Ocampo, Mark and Sandy Higgins, Jimmy Laya, Raymond Lee, Nonon Padilla, Dr. Joven Cuanang and my love, Dr. Wilfred Dee (whom did he cut his beautiful locks for!), Chito Vijandre and Ricky Toledo, Susana Sta. Ana. You better do the sorting out yourself before editor Thelma San Juan gags me.


Gays represent both extremes of the pendulum. The left are the macho generation of my father (Boys Don’t Cry club), the right are the extremist feminists. The gays are neither male nor female. They’re talented, warm, cuddly, always caring but also pushy—they like to push my wheelchair and me around. I love them all.


It’s 4 a.m. and I’m still writing. No rest for the wicked!  Happy New Year!