The distribution of our allowance was set for Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and we are warned: no blue card, no allowance.
One of the complications of senior living in Makati is that cards are color-coded, too: white, for restaurant discounts and VAT breaks and free admission to the movies; blue for the allowance, discounts for certain groceries, and goodies coming from our barangay; and yellow (which I don’t have yet) for free city hospital service.
The allowance is given twice a year, P1,000 each time for seniors under 70 and P1,500 for those older but under 100, at which point the jackpot is hit — P100,000! Anyway, for both my husband and me, it’s been a bit of a hassle claiming ours—his P1,000 and my now P1,500.
First, my case. Having lost my white card in a bag-snatching, I thought it just as well to renew both white and blue cards and have my surname changed from the maiden Roces to the married Santos.
But that was not the only change made on my blue card; its new edition came with the mayor’s face, which I felt was a personal invasion and wrote about here.
The young mayor (the only son from the Makati dynasty whose patriarch, Jejomar Binay, is the vice mayor and presidential contender himself—his wife is herself a former mayor of the city, a daughter is a sitting senator, and another, a member of the House) promptly issued a simpatico press release, saying he had had no hand in it and vowing to do something about it. He didn’t; he hasn’t.
Meanwhile, the name change has not been reflected in my senior file, and the discrepancy comes up year after year. Fortunately, I’ve kept my old blue card, which bears, apart from my old name, a picture that still resembles me. So, after a little delay, I get my allowance. This time they make me surrender my old card and promise to do the decisive updating, but I’ve kept a photocopy, in case, like Mayor Jun-jun Binay, they’re only good for lip service.
My husband’s blue card is fine, but for some reason, the barangay officers in charge of seniors seem bent on convincing him, although ever so gently, to replace it with the new edition. But Vergel refuses. In the first place, he believes the white card should be enough for everything, and, in the second place, he refuses to have anyone’s else’s face on any ID card of his.
“Only naturally,” he says, “senior cards expire with the cardholder, and not with any mayor’s term. ”
He demands his money, and gets it, and won’t give anyone a chance to hijack it. But his birthday cake he doesn’t mind missing—he hasn’t received it in the last two years: “Whoever hijacks it deserves all that lard.”
This year’s allowance distribution is held in the village basketball court, to better accommodate the growing number of seniors. Vergel and I are there at 10 a.m., hoping to finish in time for another appointment, but it seems everyone else has the same idea; the place is packed. Although there are enough chairs, people are walking around unsure of what to do or lining up for something.
In the first line one is given a stub with two numbers; one corresponds to “page,” the other apparently for one’s place in the sequence of arrival, but what practical significance they hold for us is a mystery.
At the end of the next line a sticker that says “blu” is stuck on one’s blue card, perhaps, I can only guess, to guide the colorblind. Once done, we sit, waiting to be told what to do next. There are other queues, but for what purpose we don’t know, and neither apparently do the queuers. At the announcement of a new line, for those 80-year-olds and older, those who can hear and are up to it try to raise themselves from their chairs and hobble up.
Vergel and Toti Mendoza find each other in common cause—“the compelling incentive,” says Toti: lest their money find its way into someone else’s pocket, they’re both taking the trouble.
Trouble? It’s a mess!
Adding to all the confusion are voices giving instructions that contradict one another or otherwise don’t make sense. But we can only sit and wait. Finally a familiar fellow Theresian takes the microphone. A system is finally in place!
Well, somewhat. For one thing, it still does not solve our problem: my name has not been entered into the master file. But a nice young volunteer comes and helps.
Vergel, whose card doesn’t carry the required face, is hassled, but, once he tries to grab his card back to take his trouble elsewhere, it gets solved—until the next time.
Observing the whole scene from the very start, Ethel Soliven Timbol helps us take it all in good, if loaded, humor: “Well, what can you expect, with old people like us running the show?’’