Seniors Of long-enough standing, like me, now flash our cards as a badge of privilege to seize every chance at a 20-percent discount. Indeed, our increasingly aggressive pursuit of our claims to hard-earned benefits has gained us more and more of them.
Our city, Makati, seems indeed singularly generous to seniors (why else would outsiders fake our cards?): free movies any day, a twice-yearly allowance of P1,000 for the under 72, and P1,500 for those older, medicine and grocery discounts, a birthday cake, Christmas goodies, exemption from the car-coding rules, and our own queues or a front spot on regular queues.
I see that other communities are catching up.
No wonder seniorhood has become a sort of status symbol, such that many are now looking forward to it.
At a restaurant known not to honor senior discounts on takeaways, I observed two senior ladies order what would amount to a family meal, nibble quickly at everything, then instruct the waiter to wrap what had now, after the nibbling, been legitimately rendered leftovers.
It is their kind of seniors that has gained ground for us all: Now, more and more restaurants give the discount on takeaways without waiting to be tricked; bakeshops, in general, do.
The embarrassment that accompanied senior card-showing, especially in early seniorhood, seems all but overcome. It’s the benefits, no doubt.
In the beginning, Mom would warn her fellow seniors not to show their cards until after it was time to pay. Even when she was already way past 60, an obvious senior like everyone else in her gang, she suspected that a card prematurely presented automatically sent some signal to the kitchen to adjust the portions accordingly.
Still, it’s best to be clever and aggressive.
Try to forget to bring your card, and you cease to be a legitimate senior. My own dad discovered it at 90. “May duda ka pa ba?” he asked the waiter.
After Mom died, I kept his card for him, and once used it for a trick. At a class reunion lunch for a balikbayan classmate who didn’t have a Philippine senior card, I slipped dad’s card in the stack of all-lady-senior cards for the exact count. Somehow it went through.
When the cards came back for each cardholder’s signature, I offered to take care of it, took the cards, and redistributed them after I had had each one sign, including my absent dad by my hand, on the restaurant’s copy of the receipt.
It might, indeed, be a good idea for the diners to distribute their cards among themselves to avoid the difficulty or embarrassment of having a waiter or an outsider do it, and find himself unable to match a picture to the living presence, as happened when our regular weekend breakfast group switched venues.
The waiter stood there looking lost, but who wouldn’t be? Nelson, old, heavy and clean-shaven now, looked in his picture like a young moustached Tommy Abuel. Ellen’s card, on the other hand, had turned greenish, an apparent discoloration that now blurred prints on it, which is what happens, Vergel teased, “when the card has been around too long.”
Taking over from the waiter to save him the trouble and us further embarrassment, we found ourselves similarly lost as to whose is whose. Truth to tell, we could hardly recognize our own picture.
As it happens, senior cards, passports, are issued only once, unless you lose it or change your name or voting address, in which case the card has to be replaced and updated. If you have kept your card from the start, you stay forever 60 in your picture—unless, again, you cheated so soon.
I myself lost my first card to bag snatchers on a motorcycle, a pity since I was a relative beauty there. That picture being also its last and only copy, I have had to settle for an inferior one in my new card. But that’s how it is: For seniors, even pictures don’t get any better.