Turning 88

I turn 88 today, relatively healthy, with my recollection of things past and present still sharp as when I was young.

I consider myself blessed by God for reaching this age. Except for aches and pains that come with old age, and the dozen or so maintenance pills my doctors prescribed for me, I can still write this column, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

There are distinct advantages. Nobody can dispute my senior citizen’s card and deny me its advantages. When I fall in line to pay for something, attendants show me to the fast lane. When I wait to consult my doctor, the young give me their seats. Thank heavens there’s still chivalry in this world.

It’s only when people call me “Lolo” that I protest. “I am not your Lolo,” I tell anyone who dares. It must be my white hair.

The only thing I regret about being old is that when I go to shopping malls with my wife, I see those young things in their short shorts. I say to myself, was I born too early or, that things have really changed.

My wife and I marked our 60th diamond anniversary last May 14, 2015. But, Santa Banana, when we started listing whom we could invite, our list was limited to less than 10 who were still alive and kicking. The rest have gone ahead of us, are wheel-chair bound, or suffering from dementia.

Thus, we canceled everything, even our long-planned trip to Japan. Why spend so much for a trip which is a waste of money that we could just save for hospital expenses (something my wife and I expect to come suddenly at our age; she is now 82)?

I have been a journalist for 65 of my 88 years. I have had the privilege of walking the corridors of power, being close to many presidents, heroes, nation builders and advocates.

The only thing I regret all these years, having gone full circle in print and broadcast media, is that things have not changed. The more people talk about change, the more things remain the same.

The only change I have seen in government are faces. Corruption? It seems endemic here.

My gulay, even as early as the Elpidio Quirino administration, allegations of corruption persisted onto the Ramon Magsaysay regime with scandals about dollar import quota allocations.

During the Carlos P. Garcia administration, things became worse, with reparations scandals making headlines in newspapers. This continued until the time of Diosdado “the poor boy from Lubao” Macapagal.

The Martial Law regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos made everything far worse, with cronyism and abuse of power. While admittedly, the early Martial Law regime of Marcos did some good for the country, and Imelda brought forth the renaissance of Philippine culture and the arts, the latter years of Marcos erased all that.

We had high expectations with the breakaway group of then- Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, President Fidel V. Ramos, then chief of the PC/Integrated National Police, and then- Col. Greg Honasan of the RAM (Reform the Armed Forces Movement). During the time of the late President Corazon Aquino, there were also allegations of abuse by the “Kamaganak Inc.” headed by some of the President’s relatives.

The worst part of it all was the closure of the Bataaan Nuclear Power Plant, supposed to furnish power to Luzon, which resulted in the “Dark Ages.” We experienced power outages lasting almost 12 hours. Some relief came when President Ramos came to power, but the problem was that power and electricity costs hit the ceiling. There were also allegations of corruption because of the construction of the Centennial City at Clark.

During the three years of the Joseph Estrada regime came allegations of corruption that gave birth to charges of plunder against Erap for which he was detained for seven years and then convicted of plunder. He was pardoned, however, by his successor President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and restored his civil and political rights, that gave him the opportunity to run for president in 2010.

He lost, but was vindicated when he won as mayor of the City of Manila in 2013.

The last five years of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III did not give us the change we expected. In fact, things became worse with the misuse and abuse of the people’s money through the much-hated pork barrel system and that mongrel called the DAP or Disbursement Acceleration Program.

The well-known vindictiveness of the Aquino regime has made his straight-path mantra a joke.

It was the Mamasapano slaughter of 44 police commandos that exemplified the character of BS Aquino III. He showed incompetence and insensitivity.

How can we forget the Yolanda disaster? Some survivors are still living in tents.

In the early 50s, when the country was being reconstructed with American aid, we were next only to Japan’s economy. But, soon after that the country started its decline.

Santa Banana, in my 65 year as a journalist, I have witnessed the steady collapse of the nation’s industries, like textile and garments. Now, every piece of clothing we wear comes from China.

The Marikina shoe industry is gone, too. So are our furniture sector. Coconut and copra have steadily declined. Steel? Rice? Now we are importers!

Despite these, I remain an optimist. My advice to journalists: There is no substitute for hard work, patience, and prayers.

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