The three lovable Delgado sisters sit in a front pew of the Power Plant chapel at Rockwell for a Mass commemorating the anniversary of Cory Aquino’s death. As usual for any Cory occasion, they are dressed in casual-chic yellow and, as usual for just about any occasion, wearing their golden-brown hair neatly teased. In their late 80s now, they look frailer than when I saw them last, but they remain bright-eyed and enthusiastic.
It seems the Delgados have been in every Yellow Brigade I can remember, from Cory’s presidential campaign rallies to her funeral to her orphaned son’s own run for the presidency. Only naturally something has changed through the sisters’ own long run. They are no longer sitting shoulder to shoulder, for instance; beside each one sits a white-uniformed caregiver.
Blessed with wealth and stature, the sisters could have lived in comfort all their lives, but they have chosen to work in the family businesses and also involve themselves not only in charities, but also in campaigns that not only get one’s hands dirty, but could actually get one hurt because these are pursued out in the streets—freedom and other cause-oriented campaigns.
Indeed, for me, such campaigns would not have been, and will never be, the same without them. They are among the ladies who have shown the way to gracious aging. I’ve had a number of them in my life.
For the epitome of chic, for instance, I have Tita Loleng. Tall and slim, she looks fresh and always interested in things happening around her. I’m told she requires her yaya to dress not in a uniform, but like her—in yellow if she’s in yellow, in animal print if she’s in animal print. It is, she says, for easy spotting.
She reminds me of my own mom, who wore everything in matching sets—bag and shoes, jewelry, eyeglasses, even cane, though not a matching yaya. She and Tita Loleng have the same sense of fun and excitement—looking good, eating well, and laughing at everything and everyone, including themselves, even as they compared illnesses.
For many reasons, my list has to include Tita Techie. Indeed, she makes me feel blessed for knowing her—efficient, reliable, positive, practical, generous, loving. She’s never one to complain. She has no fear of anything, least of all death. Now in her late 80s, she would no longer partake of any long-life noodles. Recently on her own birthday this month, she served short, stocky penne. She buys what she can in sachets, no longer in anything bigger, not even for the best bargain.
Her children, daughter Ana in particular, won’t allow her to surrender to challenges brought on by age, however. For hair loss, they took her to a specialist.
But, says Tita Techie, “I don’t see that as a problem at all. It’s cheaper to buy a wig. In fact, I could buy many different wigs for the cost of the entire program.”
She may be herself reluctant to age in such expensive style, but she goes along to make her children and other people around her happy. For, indeed, the treatment makes her look good!
For Miles and Susie, making their separate sets of children, all living in the United States, happy is the main challenge at their age. Now travel gets to their bones, and the month’s stay for the Christmas season longer and longer and colder and colder. But they just can’t seem to imagine a season without their grandchildren. Trust Susie to find a solution: they’re bringing their driver of many years with them.
But my favorite example is the lady I see whenever we collect our senior’s allowance, in midyear and around Christmas, at our barangay office. The grand dame arrives in a white SUV driven by a uniformed chauffeur. She is helped onto her wheelchair and pushed by a caregiver, a nurse carrying her purse standing by.
Done collecting and sitting through a short program, she socializes a bit with fellow seniors before she is wheeled out, on her lap a bottle of water and a lunch pack from Jollibee. She hands her P1,000 over to her nurse, who puts it away. She beams and waves goodbye to everyone along the way, announcing, “It’s the only thing I receive from the government, so I’m happy to take it.”
That’s the spirit of aging—palaban, and in style.
For style, nobody holds a candle to Gilda Cordero-Fernando, mentor, friend and idol, stuck at 81, a class act to the finish. In her last column, she described her exit from Capitol Medical on her wheelchair. I still can’t forget how she first welcomed her “Willie”: “Whee! I’ve got wheels!”
I just had to text her: “The image of the royal pageant of your retreat from the hospital in your wheelchair all the short way to your house, under the shade of your polka-dotted pink parasol, escorted by your entourage, will linger in my mind to ever make me chuckle.”
It seems Gilda is simply incapable of doing anything—celebrating a birthday, launching a book, hosting a meeting or going home from her neighborhood hospital—without leaving her mark.