Being old in the new year
Today starts the second week of the first month of this year, 2021. For many people of advanced age like me, being part of this world up until now is truly a blessing, a gift of time from some power up there, however you call such an awesome source of life. And this is why I describe myself as chronologically gifted, rather than “old.” The latter is like a dirty word, especially for many of us in our ranks who still have to come to terms with the pains and debilities associated with aging. In many Cebuano-Visayan speaking parts of Mindanao, there is a popular “injunction” used to heckle older people: “Tawga lang ko ug kawatan, ayaw lang ko tawga nga tiguwang (Call me a thief, rather than call me old).” To this, some naughty youngsters would retort: “Tawagon ta ka ug kawatan, tiguwang nga kawatan (I’ll call you a thief, an old one)!”
Aging is a phenomenon that all of us go through. It is an equalizer of sorts, a reminder that all human beings experience the ephemeral nature of life. This is true for all, except for those whose lives are cut short when they are still babies, teenagers, or young adults. Yet this is where the equality ends. For some individuals whose lives have been marked with seemingly insurmountable daily challenges, their bodies age quite rapidly. Years of hard work under the sun take a heavy toll on their bodies, faces, and extremities. Sometime back, when I was still actively doing field research before retirement, I interviewed a woman in one rural community in Sarangani province who I earlier thought was in her mid-50s. It turned out that she just turned 30, but she already had two grandchildren from her eldest daughter. Like her, her daughter also became a mother at 16. And like all other impoverished rural women, the daughter will also age quite quickly,
not having the needed resources to defy the downsides associated with aging.
On the other hand, the affluent can always defy the ravages of time on their bodies and faces using all possible means available to them. Many of them manage to look so much younger than their age. And they also use their money to embellish their looks, making them cosmetically attractive, enough to land them on the covers of elite fashion magazines. Remember how Imee Marcos was featured as a cover girl for a glossy magazine when she turned 60?
Yet there are those whose lives are snuffed out at an early age, at a time when they are not even able to speak for themselves or to defend themselves from being hurt by others. Among them are child victims of the war against drugs, and children of families forced to evacuate due to armed conflicts. There are also those who meet their untimely death at the prime of their youth and career, like Christine Angelica Dacera, who was from General Santos City. She died just as 2021 started, in a hotel in Makati, far from where her parents were. As of this writing, the cause of her death remains a mystery to many people, even to the investigators of the Makati City police. The mysterious nature of her death has spawned wild speculations about how she died. But for her beloved parents, it is devastating news that diminished their enthusiasm at welcoming another year. For the family of Christine, the beginning of this year is quite painful to remember.
Christine and those who died early like her have been spared from experiencing the challenges of aging and the debilities associated with it. But at the same time, their early deaths have also deprived them of enjoying life longer with their loved ones.But for the many who are gifted with time like me, we become apprehensive of our imminent passing. Being old in any new year always gives us some chills that sooner, and not later, we will be called on to take our final flight.
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