Sunday, October 20, 2013


Today I turned 59 years old.

If I were a regular worker  on the pay list of a company, I have one more year of employment before being ushered into the limbo of retirement.  I found out that in certain educational institutions, a professor can only retain his full-time status until the age of 60.  Not unless you are an educator earning the much revered status of a fellow can you be allowed to stay in the classroom to mentor students until you hit 65. 

Otherwise you can only work on a part time basis.  You can no longer ba regular employee with the privileges of a Full Time teacher.  Just when you reach that age when you need all the semblance of financial security for the inevitability of autumn leading to winter, you realize that you are sent out to the pasture to go fend for yourself and practice the Law of Survival.

Not unless you have a sense of foresight and accessed the experience and expertise of people handling your money, hitting the later part of your professional career may not only be described as difficult.  It is the hardest point of your professional life because people will make you feel that seniority is not marked with much deserved respect for years given to work. 

Instead, it is to confront the fact that no one is indispensable ... and your number of years of service really do not matter outside the computation of the retirement and separation pay. It is confronting the fact that this is the cycle of life --- and that all things must come to an end regardless of how good you are in your work or how much of your life you have invested in your profession.  It is the admission that your time is up and that you have to give way for the new generation to come in and take your place.

That is the biological cycle, right? We grow old, we physically deteriorate and die because we are no longer of any use in reproducing our species. The moment you stop being productive --- you are discarded, dispensed with ... and relegated to obliteration.

And it is not your fault because that is the way it is.  That is the way it has always been. That is life.

I am glad I am not caught in that rigid template where your usability is measured by your years of earthly existence.  

Yes, at 59 --- there are things I can no longer do as the time when I was 29.  But I do not think I would want to do the things I was doing at 29 even if had the power and energy to do that.  Years may diminish physical strength and stamina but this is replaced with something more important --- wisdom.

Yes, it is also true that in our teen all the way up to our 20s, we can sustain ourselves to as much as 48 hours without sleep, relying on the powers of adrenaline and Lepovitan.  But now that's over.  We work hard to keep ourselves healthy but do we really want to allow ourselves to be enslaved for 24 straight hours of work just to be able to afford Birkins and Jimmy Choos? Huwag na lang po.  

(I have long ago decided that a lot of hard work is meant to give you a good life and not to prepare for suites at Saint Luke's with the best view of The Fort.)

You cannot change the natural course of aging ... and, God knows, how many people try to reverse the process by injecting gallons of Botox on their faces ... only to look not young but embalmed. 

What is perhaps most unacceptable is the presumption that after a certain age, you are already no longer good for doing some things or anything.

Admittedly I can no longer regain the waistline I had when I was 19 or 29 (and, boy, my gym buddies can attest how hard I try with my leg raises, crunches and overdose of cardiovascular exercises), this does not mean that my brain cells have turned into a mucky substance with the consistency of baby food.  

Although repeated to the point of irritating redundancy, age is indeed nothing but a number ... but in life we are always judged by numbers. A man's worth or worthiness is calibrated by how much he has, how much he earns, how much more he can make ... and how old he is.  In a world unfortunately obsessed with youth, age is somewhat equated with a curse.  Growing "old" is like "living death" because your options become smaller and shorter and narrower and fewer as you add more candles to your cake.

Unfair it is indeed, but that is the way of a world that changes faster than it can be understood or perceived.  Therefore no one is surprised that the advancement of years is simplistically equated with deterioration ... and not with fermentation or even maturation.  To be young and new mean everything --- but the greater misfortune is that youth and newness carry a very, very short lifespan.

I have often heard or read comments hurled against me and people  my age of being "OLD" --- as if it were an insult to reach nearly six decades of life. 

The adjective "old" is spat out with contempt as if the only value we have on this plane of existence is to turn into a pot of organic fertilizer.  There seems to be such a contempt, a hatred ... a phobia for old people as if these creatures were abusing their earthy stay.  A peer once commented, "Respect for elders has long been diminished into a ritual of being polite but certainly not a practice that is felt."

After all, how many times have we heard the terms "old school" to describe the way things were done before --- and still being done today.

But there are two sides to all this. Indeed, you cannot be doing the same thing you have used to define your comfort zone for the past too many decades.  We must all evolve.  We cannot stagnate just because we assumed we have reached a certain level of competence or goodness ... if not complacency.  

The moment you stop growing and evolving, then you turn into a dinosaur and subject to the possibilities of extinction.

That is why I believe age is only a number.  Even if the years have affected by dexterity and that almost everyone around you complains about their BPs or their latest attack of the gout or that every gathering of old friends becomes a brainstorming of medical assistance where people catalog their latest ailments, the true essence of staying young is all in the mind.

Yeah, yeah, yeah: there is this thing about age appropriateness.

There must be that cut-off age when you can wear skinny or carrot jeans without looking stupid.  Or dyeing your hair apple green. Or wearing Doc Martens half-boots.  Or going around Bonifacio High Street with a hashtag of YOLO emblazoned on your forehead.  That all depends on how you want to define your world --- with or without the changes happening within it.

And when you really come to think of it --- if it involves your follicles being colored as if it had chlorophyll ... or wearing jeans to delude yourself that you can still move like Jagger ... why the hell not? It is, after all, your life ... your choice ... your groove. Right?  To hell what other people think. 

Yes, today I am 59 years old --- and, believe it or not, I have never felt better.  Because in more ways than one, I care for the things that require caring about and couldn't give a flying f--k about things that ... well, don't matter to me in the long run.

Last Friday I had a beautiful dinner with classmates from my college days --- and they are all. No, I stand corrected --- they are all very successful not because of the positions they have achieved in life but because they are happy with who they are and even happier with the families they have created. I look at them and see how far the journey has taken them ... how far the roads we have traveled have taken us.

I am 59 years old --- and I work out four to five times a week as I have reached that point in my life that I know how to differentiate what I want from what I need

I no longer want to kill myself just to be able to flaunt to the world that I was able to buy something in six or seven digits without selling my soul to the devil.  I have stopped killing myself at work because you reach that point when you realize that, honey, you can't take that with you.  I've stopped trying to kill myself to make other people rich ... and, worse, to show the world what a good life I have.  Isn't that not only ironic ... but downright stupid to sacrifice your life to prove that you have a fabulous existence?  I almost died doing that years ago ... and I said, nevermore.

Besides ... no one remembers you for how rich you are ... but rather what kind of a person you have become in trying to be the person you want others to see.  The most important person you must confront is the reflection you see in the mirror when you are alone at night and you ask yourself, "What am I doing here? What have I done? What is there left to do?"

I am 59 years old and I do not feel it because I can still wear skinny jeans and people don't see me as a fool. 

I can do three straight spinning classes which people half my age can't seem to endure (and I love watching those thirty year olds fall off the bikes with tongues dangling matched with lungs heaving).  I can still argue as to why I believe Katy Perry is a far superior artist than Miley Cyrus by comparing the songs "Road" and "Wrecking Ball" with academic gusto.

And, yes, I can do Robin Thicke's dance steps in the video of "Blurred Lines."

Over and above all that, I have the wisdom and information of 59 years to tell anyone younger than me that I only wish he can reach my age --- and feel this happy. Because, Sir, that is the biggest blessing you can get from the good Lord. To have lived this long ... and to still have very good reasons for living. And I am thankful.

I have also come to realize why the youth have such an aversion for old age. It is because they are scared. It is because a great number of them cannot imagine themselves any farther than who they are in the here and now.  And a great number of them indeed will not reach old age because they will kill themselves in the process of defining themselves for what they can accumulate in a life purely dedicated to the truth of the moment.

That is sad ... because they can never experience the pleasure of growing old and being old.

I am so thankful to be in the here and now inasmuch as I can never regret growing "old" because not too many have gone this far in the journey that I have taken.

P.S.: The greater the number of candles on the cake, the brighter glows the room.  And that's the truth.

Friday, October 11, 2013


I can only thank the heavens above that I already reached the suburbs before the rains came a-pouring. But even if there was not yet a drop of rain from where I stood, the tsunami of Facebook shoutouts, Twitter yelps and text messages expressed the same degree of overwhelming alarm. "Oh, my God! Not again! Visibility zero with this rain ... and the waters are rising fast."

Welcome to Manila.

That overflow of complaints expressed not only frustration but downright outrage.  I was all too grateful to be spared of that kind of experience again.  The longest haul I had to endure was when I was stuck in traffic close to three hours from Tomas Morato in Quezon City to reach an event Makati. And that was because we indulged in the greatest act of self-flagellation by using EDSA as our route right after a rainfall.

Well,it's not only the traffic that gets your blood and bowels boiling: it's the threat --- the constant threat that any moment your vehicle will be submerged in waist deep water because there is no more telling what are the flood prone areas in our dear "It's More Fun Out Here"-metropolis.  

Streets that were once exempted from rising mucky waters transform into virtual canals in less than thirty minutes. Somewhere in Timog, some unlucky chap happened to park his car in the most flash flood-prone area of the stretch so that after the rain, he saw his vehicle literally floating. A case of bad luck, that's all.   As somebody in showbiz once said in a quote gone immortal, nowadays "you can never can tell."

We can't leave it at that. The better question to ask is: "Are we still supposed to be surprised that any moment Manila will turn into one giant estero at the slightest suggestion of rainfall?"  Oh, come on, let's face facts, OK?  Let's not even dare complain ... again. Why? Because we have to admit the truth: It is not going to get any better.

I have the compulsion to repeat that: It is not going to get any better. As a matter of fact, I have a very strange feeling (and to think I make no claims of being the next Madame Auring) that: It is going to get worse ... then worst.

So at what point did I let go of my usual sunshiny disposition and irrepressible optimism?  Because I am dealing with the obvious. I can always imagine some divine intervention to change the course of inevitable events but it isn't going to happen.

Folks: we will be submerged in deeper and deeper floods because we have reached that point that we cannot do anything about it ... not unless some process of geographical bewilderment and wonderment will raise all of Luzon to the altitude of Baguio City.

Let me count the ways that can justify this fear in me:we keep screaming our heads off trying to pinpoint somebody ... no, any body to be responsible for correcting this disaster.  I mean, who's in charge here? Who's responsibility is this?  The MetroManila Development Authority? The Department of Public Works and Highways?  Da who?:!

And we simply have to stop this finger pointing blame game (a favorite Philippine sport) that has become a battle of the rich versus the poor. Don't we all love that sort of conflict of a story line?  Don't we all want to hurl rocks across that cultural divide between those who go through their days with bare feet versus those who can afford custom-stylized Havaianas? 

The government points to all those clogged waterways that has been transformed into garbage disposal chutes by the informal settlers (called squatters by the politically insensitive). These are residents who have turned the borders of esteros into their own cute little baranggays, defying warnings that rising waters resulting from torrential rains can prove a threat not only to their possessions but their lives.  But even if we are no longer considered Third World (o di ba?), we have not yet outgrown our developing worldly ways.

Then again, the much maligned poor point the fingers to the greedy rich. Indeed, they ask, what's screwing up the sewerage system that has greatly aggravated the flooding in the Metro is the mushrooming of high rise buildings in every imaginable nook and cranny of the city.  If it's not billboards, then it must be condominium buildings ... rising like cultured species on petri dishes without control and seemingly without planning.  

A very irate taxi driver once bewailed, "Bakit ba kami na lang ang laging sinisisi?" (Why do they always blame us, the poor?) Then he pointed to all the high rise buildings around the area of De la Salle University in Taft Avenue and said, "Noong araw naman, nawala na ang bahala dito sa area na ito. Pero bakit bumalik? Kasi di kinakaya ng drainage ng mga buildings na yan, Sir." (The flooding problem in this area has been solved until they built these buildings which the street drainage can no longer handle.) 

Well, yes: Manong Taxi Driver has a point there.

It is not a matter of dredging the bays and the waterways or literally scooping out all the non-biodegradable waste ... it also has got to do with urban planning and foresight.  Finger pointing is not going to solve anything ... added to the fact that knowing the problem is the first step to finding a solution and NOT the solution at all.

Yes, with global warming making its omnipresence felt, the rising water levels all over the world will definitely sink certain cities now infamous for being flood prone. And sad to say --- what was really bad before, like Ondoy, will happen again and again.  And whether we like it or not, it is going to get far much worse ... and there is seemingly nothing we can do about it.

Again, if we take Dormicum to ease all that aggravation and calm our nerves because of the epic traffic jams we confront almost every rainy day ... it is still not going to solve the problem. There will still be floods.  There will still be Ondoys and Pablos and name-your-favorite-weather disturbance.  Nothing will change.

Ventilating our frustrations is therapeutic.  We can curse anyone from the MMDA to the Secretary General of the United Nations and even include the Emperor Penguins who populate the remaining glaciers.  But it will still not solve anything.  

I have come to a resigned conclusion that we can only TRY to make our lives better --- and learning to live with this outrageous condition that has been prophesied years before by both harbingers and scientists. Let's all buy amphibian tanks ... or if that is too expensive, nicely decorated bancas to the tradition of our cute and quaint jeepneys, complete with chrome horses and burloloys.

What we must accept is that floods and traffic have become a fact of life --- but that does not exempt the powers that be to ease the pain, use the available resources and this time to gain foresight to insure that the damage is minimized.  Yes, there can be no miracles but there could perhaps be more ... efficiency?

Hey listen: if we have to live with this predicament, then this does not spare the government of an even greater responsibility of taking care of its tax-paying citizenry. Not only that, isn't it about time that we really did something to deal with such problems with accountability and ... yes, credibility. 

We cannot simply sit back and shrug and mutter, That's life because work does not stop with resignation. Or wait for the next Ondoy to mutter, "Ang buhay ay parang life."

There may be no miracles in sight but at least we know where our taxes go... even it is spent for siphoning muck, mud and floating garbage. That's better than what we hear about nowadays, right?