Wake Up, Philippines!

Senior citizen perks a dream for many

Posted in Laws, Senior Citizens by Erineus on February 2, 2009

LAST Thursday was a celebration of life and also of death in the family. It was the 12th anniversary of my triple bypass operation at St. Luke’s Medical Center, and each time I swing a golf club, I am reminded that the fine work of surgery done by my cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Estanislao “Stan” de Castro, has allowed me to keep going through the last 12 years with relative strength and comfort. Doctors Greg Rogelio, Butch Recto and Helen Ong are also on my mind for their care and concern during the early phase of my ailment.

It was also the 30th death anniversary of my father, Modesto Farolan, and I thank Dr. Greg Patacsil for the care and attention extended to him during critical times of his life. Dad would have been 109 this year. A self-made man with just a high school diploma to his name, he carved out several careers in journalism and government service through sheer determination, hard work and discipline. In the tough world of newspaper work, he rose from cub reporter to become publisher and editor in chief of the Philippines Herald, one of the major dailies of his time. Wading into uncharted waters, he organized the Philippine Tourist and Travel Association (PTTA) and became the nation’s first commissioner of tourism under President Ramon Magsaysay. His work in this industry earned him the title “Father of Philippine Tourism.” A string of diplomatic assignments as ambassador to South Vietnam, Switzerland and later Indonesia would round out his career in government.

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At the age of 88 going on 89, former Senate President Jovito Salonga continues to fight for our rights as he has done through a lifetime of service to country.

Last December, he went to a Jollibee eatery to test the observance or lack of it of the Senior Citizen law. To his disappointment, the outlet refused to honor his credit card, insisting that he pay in cash. They probably thought an old man would not make too much fuss over the matter, even as they must have known with whom they were dealing. His credit card had his name on it.

Well, that was a big mistake. Right after the incident, Senator Salonga informed Vice President Noli de Castro of his experience, citing my earlier encounter on the same issue with Mercury Drug. He added that “despite my advanced age, I am prepared to follow up this matter so they will follow the rule of law instead of the rule of convenience.” The Vice President then wrote the president of Jollibee, Mr. Ernesto Tanmantiong, “enjoining them to comply with the law allowing the Senior Citizen discount for both cash and credit card purchases.”

Apparently as a result, a meeting was held at the office of Senator Salonga with Jollibee personnel in attendance. Briefly, the explanation given by Ms Meldyjane Pizana, Jollibee Acacia Lane branch manager, for the non-acceptance of his credit card was “kasi, wala po kaming credit card facility machine.” Senator Salonga found it difficult to accept that “the most popular fast-food restaurant in the whole country” didn’t have such a machine. Ms Pizana replied that their application for the machine was being processed, but could not specify an actual operational date. She apologized for the inconvenience, adding that once they had the machine, credit cards would be accepted.

Somehow I share Senator’s Salonga’s skepticism about Jollibee—a food giant in this country—not having a credit card machine. On the other hand, it is possible that a newly opened branch may be in such a predicament.

Jollibee could have easily avoided this incident if its personnel immediately informed Senator Salonga about the absence of the credit card facility—a case of faulty communication skills. We continue to receive complaints about business establishments not accepting credit cards for senior citizen discounts. We must always be prepared to call attention to these violations of the law if we are to eliminate the “rule of convenience” as practiced by some firms.

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Another former senator, Eddie U. Ilarde, at 75 the oldest living radio-TV personality in the country today, and president of Golden Eagles Society International, sent me some notes on his dream of putting up a Philippine counterpart to the Senior Center in Frisco, Texas that I mentioned in an earlier column.

The Center would be called Golden Eagles Arcadia, after a region in ancient Greece offering rural simplicity and tranquility. It is certainly an ambitious project indicative of Ilarde’s concern for the welfare and dignity of the elderly in our country. His goal is for Arcadia to be a health and spiritual retreat for our senior citizens. Eddie explains that “heaven smiles upon those who care for and service the sick and the elderly.”

Incidentally, Eddie’s “Book of Seniors,” a compilation of jokes, medical advice and words of wisdom concerning senior citizens, makes for interesting reading for people of all ages. One striking bit of information comes from Ann Pawliczko of the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF). She says, “during the next two generations, the number of the world’s people older than 60 will quadruple, rising from 606 million now to 2 billion in 2050 … They will outnumber children for the first time in human history. More and more, it is not the children who are our future, it is the seniors … the most significant population shift in history.”

Last Saturday, Ilarde received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) for his “long service in media as a disciple of truth in information.”

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One of the more poignant letters that I have received from senior citizens comes from Bienvenido M. Quizon of Barangay San Jose in Lipa City. It highlights the widening gap between the haves and have-nots in our society. For many of our elders, the perks of senior citizenship remain just a dream.

Quizon writes: “There are more poor senior citizens than the ‘have’ ones. Poor senior citizens do not patronize restaurants, KFC and other fast-food chains. We make do with ‘turo-turo’ or ‘karihan.’ Concerts and seeing movies are alien to us. I for one have yet to enter a hotel. We are regular tricycle riders. Buses, LRT, ships and airplanes are for the moneyed senior citizens. We are clients of faith healers and ‘arbularios.’ Even at discounted prices, drugs are not within our reach. How much more enjoying the comforts of St. Luke’s and other well-known, expensive medical centers.”

Until we can narrow the gap between rich and poor in the country, many of our laws do not effectively serve the interests of the vast majority of our people.

By Ramon J. Farolan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:19:00 02/02/2009