Last Wednesday (Aug. 7), I was invited to speak before a group of senior citizens. There was no special reason why I was chosen except for what they say that I was the best person to represent our town mayor in her absence, even if I was told about it the night before by one of the mayor’s staff.
Blessing in disguise that I stayed quite late in the night enjoying my thing on Facebook, WordPress, Yahoo and Google – they are just my most favorite stuff on the internet. I received the text message at this time and had a little time to prepare for my message.
I am sharing with you that short message here.
My dear respected Senior Citizens:
Good morning. I am delighted to be associated with you on your meeting today. This is one rare opportunity where I consider myself fortunate and blessed because I mingle with the cream of the crop of our society – the wise men and women of our time.
I must admit that I envy you for several reasons: First, I envy you for your dual citizenship – that of being Filipino citizen, and now, senior citizen (draws laughter from them). Second, I envy you for the 20% discounts that you enjoy (another laughter from them). Third, I envy you for being so loved and respected. Fourth I envy you for being so privileged to enjoy the prime of your life. If there is the so-called wisdom tooth, this is the wisdom age. And finally, I envy you because you all look younger than your age and so much fit to become productive members of the society (another laughter from them. Were they inspired? I really didn’t know).
Senior citizenship is the second citizenship that I had been applying for and I am still three years shy from being qualified. While others are too diffident to be called senior citizens, I cannot wait to be identified within your lofty ranks.
The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Lucky is he who is given the opportunity to see his parents grow old, for he is given the opportunity to see Paradise”. Paraphrased, this means that when you are given that opportunity to serve your aging parents, that is lavishly rewarded by the Almighty God.
Pope Paul VI once said: “In youth the days were short and the years were long. In old age the days are long and the years are short“. This means that the older we get, the more we take our steps in life one at a time and enjoy them most of the time.
My friends, I congratulate you, not only for having comfortably reached this age, but also because I know you did a lot of extraordinary achievements in your life while you were much younger. Some of you made your children earn a college degree, something which you may not have even done for yourselves. Some of you may have sacrificed your own personal comforts in favor of giving that comfort in terms of ensuring a secured and better future for your children. Yet, oftentimes your sacrifices were not even conveniently reciprocated. And some of you may be sharing still a lot of your resources for your children and grand-children when you are supposed to be the ones enjoying the comforts that those resources can bring. Indeed, you are among those unsung heroes of our time whose achievements may just be archived to oblivion (a few of them approached me after my speech and said they were having some sentimental feelings because all of those I said were true).
But rather than lament over such situations, let us rejoice in the fact that you are now recognized as an important sector in the society. Gone were the days when you were only treated as objects of some philanthropic endeavors. Gone were the days when you were just delivered to the home for the aged. Gone were the days when a lot of people were indifferent to you. Now, you are recognized as one of the productive sectors of society. Republic Act 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, is a testament to this fact. The creation of the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs or OSCA in every level of the government bureaucracy especially at the municipal level is another proof of this recognition and empowerment.
Under this law, senior citizens are entitled to 20% discounts on food, transport and medicines as well as value added tax on these items. In addition to these, senior citizens are entitled to at least 5% discount on the monthly payment of water and electricity supplied by public utilities, subject to the following conditions:
- the meters are registered in the name of the senior citizen residing therein
- the monthly consumption does not exceed 100 kWh of electricity and 30 cubic meters of water
- the privilege is granted per household, regardless of the number of seniors residing therein
Senior citizens will get free medical, dental, diagnostic as well as laboratory fees in all government facilities. Examples of these are X-ray, computerized tomography scan, and blood and urine tests. However, this exemption is subject to the guidelines to be issued by the DOH in coordination with PhilHealth.
RA 9994 also entitles senior citizens to have free vaccination against influenza virus and pneumococcal disease that will be administered by the Department of Health. But please take note, this free service will be given only to indigent senior citizen patients.
My question is: are you enjoying all of these perks now? (I was a little baffled that some answered YES and some NO). The fact that some of you said YES and some NO means that not all of you are enjoying the same perks you are supposed to enjoy under the law. Your Association, however, with the assistance of the local government units and our political leaders can lobby for the implementation of these rights and privileges. Being organized is one thing and asserting for your rights and privileges is another. Being organized though, is already half of the way.
I do not intend to take so much of your time. I was told that you will have your business meeting after this opening program. A word of caution, though; for a group like this, there are a lot of bright ideas that may come out in your meeting but there is a very high tendency that none of them will be passed by this Assembly (I saw many of them smiling and nodding in affirmation). It is because intelligent people always have that tendency to outdo each other rather than support and improved on each other. There was this joke that “if you want things done, give them to the Japanese, not to the Americans” (I hope this is not a racist joke).
In closing, let me share with you this conversation I overheard about two elderly people who were obviously under the influence of liquor: Elderly1: “Buddy, I wish I would know where I would die”. Elderly2: “But why is that so important to you?” Elderly1 (in a raised voice): “You see, if I know the place, then why will I go there?”
Here is another joke: A reporter was interviewing the oldest woman alive at the age of 120. The reporter asked: “What is the best thing that you can say about reaching this age?”. And the old woman said: “Well, you know, I feel so comfortable. There is no peer pressure”.
Please enjoy your stay here and may you have a very productive meeting. Thank you.