I stood there speechless, but only because it felt like the prudent thing to do. If I hadn’t stopped myself, I’d have over-appropriated Miriam’s “Whah!,” which expressed my precise reaction when I laid eyes on my newly collected blue card, which entitled me to a range of senior benefits—allowances, holiday goodies, grocery discounts and exemption from color-coding rules for cars, among others.
I had lost my old card to a bag snatcher and didn’t expect to be punished so severely, and, more or less, permanently: From that day forward, Junjun Binay, the Makati mayor, and I were fated, by some city ordinance, I presume, to be together on my card, if only in pictures.
Still, it did not in the least ease my discomfort, and I must have shown it to the girl at the senior-affairs desk: I did catch her avoiding my incredulous gaze, her lips pressed together to suppress an impertinent smile. This was crude enough political self-promotion, but to make me a part of it, even photographically!
Makati is senior-friendly enough, so why the seeming insecurity of this young mayor? His face on my card somehow feels like a reminder of a patron to whom I owe my senior entitlements. For one thing, it has taken away the pure sense of gratitude I used to feel whenever I collected my allowance, a windfall of P1,000 every half-year, and my bag of canned goods at Christmas.
Which brings me to another gripe. Last year our barangay, San Lorenzo, had only a bag for each senior couple, not a bag for each senior spouse, as had been the case until the year before. But that’s not even half as irritating as finding your canned goods loaded with killer preservatives, salitre most pronouncedly.
Dented and bloated
Adding insult to salitre, many of the cans came dented and some bloated, obviously unsafe for either humans or animals to consume in both cases and fit only to be dumped.
How cruel, indeed, that such a joke should be played at Christmas on people too advanced in age to need any help departing!
To be fair, Makati has in fact led the way to making life better for seniors. Free movies, for instance, allow seniors in at any time on any day, unlike elsewhere. At any rate, my husband and I have become rather choosy, passing up movies that have bad reviews or are too long, which seem the current run. Indeed, we now rarely go.
Another senior treat, no doubt given without questionable intentions, is the birthday cake that arrives on the exact date as surely as the birthday greetings from St. Theresa’s Alumni Association. It’s touching to be remembered, but I wish they’d forget the cake.
That its baker prefers all this time to remain anonymous is curious, although what’s even more curious is that the Makati government has continued to engage such a bad, anonymous operator at all.
Anyway, I’ve tasted better mamon. I could swear that the palitada of icing is colored, sugared Purico, my generation’s lard. To be sure, it’s not easy to bake a cake. I myself avoid it and stick to easier pies. So, if a cake can’t be decently baked, even out of any ready mix, send in either the pies or some unpretentious mamon instead.
But for all the air of patronage that surrounds it now, with Junjun’s face pasted on my entitlement card, I still intend to collect my allowance, due in June and December, timed with school opening and Christmas.
That P1,000 seems to carry with it some sort of socially leveling effect: Everybody gets the same amount, and no one minds being seen queuing for it and the bonus packed lunch and bottled water. It also arouses some measure of active citizenship.
A grand dame being unloaded from her SUV, being sat in her wheelchair, and being pushed to her spot in the queue, a caregiver and a nurse waiting on her on each side, is some sight. No one needs to ask why she bothers. After signing for her bonanza, she rolls away with it, remarking it’s all she gets from the city: “Ito lang ang consuelong natatanggap ko sa gobyerno.”
Apparently her cake and canned goods don’t reach her. She should be so lucky.