A new year always energizes me. Obligations that fall due—beating their deadlines—especially those that promise early-bird discounts are the first of the challenges I meet: insurance premiums, condominium dues, village stickers for cars, property taxes, in which particular case the huge discount makes me feel like an absolute winner.
But when I was told 2015 was my last chance to get any kind of life or medical insurance, I didn’t bother. At my age, I hate threats, veiled or open.
The last time I succumbed, it was humiliating.
I dragged my husband to the bank branch on our street on a tip from a friend, a fellow senior, on some kind of insurance plan providing ambulance service three times a year for less than a thousand pesos; I last heard that the regular service cost at least three times more. Our friend was pleased that he himself was able to use up his quota and even more pleased to have lived to tell the tale.
It was easy enough to convince my husband; he was yet recovering from the trauma of having to drive me to the emergency room at one in the morning.
All three bank personnel (it’s a really small branch) looked as though they were not expecting anyone, least of all us. Trying to maintain our senior dignity, we inquired about the deal. They looked at each other, looking lost. Finally one of them spoke, to ask how old we were. We should have turned around and left at that point, and spared ourselves the cruel truth—we missed our ambulance by about 10 years.
We seem just too old for insurance of any kind, which is precisely what we need at this time.
What I don’t need at all are New Year resolutions, but, for some reason, I insist on making promises to myself at the start of every year, even jotting them down. I could just as well do it without the drama; after all, there’s nothing new on the list.
Anyway, I doggedly keep at it, year after year. The only thing new, I suppose, is that every New Year I sense a shriller urgency in my voice as I read through my list.
There’s something about energizing the promises with your voice and committing them to paper that somehow help you along. Otherwise, halfway through the year, you won’t have a clue what you promised.
Now I can’t even remember where I wrote them. Not to worry; for all I know, I may have fulfilled them already, or else why would I feel so good with my life.
Now, where was I?
Oh yes, some things are indeed looking better for us seniors. We can get a senior discount on top of promo discounts. Some senior hero fought it out for us successfully in court. Still, not all shops honor it without a fight. But militant seniors like Vergel and me get energized by the challenge.
I’m pleased that the semestral allowance for seniors of Makati are now distributed, thanks to the new management, with the proper deference to its collectors—to the very people the money is owed.
The distribution used to be an ordeal, one I dreaded but just couldn’t escape without forfeiting the benefit; it was chaotic, humiliating, sometimes taking an hour or longer. One sensed a reluctance to part with someone else’s money. Those days are gone.
We enter, and young bright faces greet us, hand us bottled water and a pack of Graham crackers. The less ambulant among us are helped out of their cars into wheelchairs or walked to waiting chairs.
I warn my friend and schoolmate, Delia Rosal, the former ambassador, about a problem that arises in my case every distribution time. I have changed my name from my maiden Roces to my married Santos, but, while it now appears on my senior cards, City Hall has not made the change in its records. As a result, I was pulled out of the S line and put in the R. Still, I had to make a credible case with the cross-checkers. I did get my money in the end, but what a hassle!
Last year, to make matters worse for me, a City Hall representative took my blue Santos card, promising to fix it once and for all. It was never returned it to me, fixed or unfixed.
I therefore anticipate an even longer delay this time.
Immediately, a personable young man comes to listen to my problem. It seems minor to him and is indeed fixed in no time. He traces the confusion largely to the confusion caused when a senior is issued cards of all sorts of color—white, blue, yellow or whatever. He promises a much simpler, computerized system. He further assures that no mayoral face will appear on my card.
Vergel and I enter the distribution hall and are accompanied to our assigned table. In no time our money is in our hands.
On the way out, we are each given a piece of white paper; with it, we proceed to claim our bags of Christmas goodies, and are helped to our car. In less than half an hour we are off. The package is generous, and one is given each senior, not each senior couple, as was the case under the old management.
Also, because of abuses in the past, no cash or goodies may be claimed by proxy, although, with proper authorization, that is allowed, for later claims, at City Hall.
The only disadvantage, if you can call it that, is there’s hardly time to pass for chats with our fellow. But there are programs for camaraderie of that sort, and I’m quite interested in The Zumba for Seniors.