Being a senior citizen in Makati
To be recognized as a senior citizen in Makati City, one has to be a voter first and foremost, and registered at the Commission on Elections office. A senior citizen’s ID is a white card that entitles the bearer to a 20-percent discount on purchases of medicine, meals in restaurants, and others. The card comes with a booklet for medicine purchases, and another booklet for grocery purchases (the bearer is given a 5-percent discount on the costs of the basic items listed therein).
An elderly person can avail him/herself of a BLU card stating that the bearer is entitled to “any and all assistance.” To me, such words carry a lot of weight. A BLU card entitles one to claim the twice-a-year financial assistance from City Hall in the months of June and December. The acting mayor has promised to increase the current amount, but I don’t know when this will come into effect. A senior citizen also gets a birthday cake as well as some banged-up canned goods in December.
A yellow card allows all residents to visit a health center for free medical checkups and free medicines or to go to the Ospital ng Makati, more popularly called Osmak. The only government hospital in the city, Osmak is located at its farthest eastern end, in Barangay Comembo; all services are free there, including the drugs to be prescribed. The yellow card is good for one year only but is renewable. Makati, a very wealthy city, has only two other hospitals apart from Osmak: St. Claire Hospital, where the patients are mostly women and infants, and the high-end Makati Medical Center.
Senior citizens are given a pass to all movie houses in the city, a pass that needs to be renewed every six months for a small fee. Recently, I decided to try out a cinema near my place. I was told by the counter person that I had to wait for a “buena mano” before my pass could be accepted because the owners are Chinese and the practice seems to be a Chinese tradition. Fair enough.
At the taxi lines in the city’s shopping malls, priority is given to pregnant women first and the elderly second.
I used to carry only a BLU card and a white card. I thought these were sufficient for medical needs and the twice-a-year bonuses, until two of my friends told me about their yellow card. So I got myself one and they accompanied me to my first visit to the health center in our barangay. I was very pleased to note that filling out a form, getting weighed and measured for height, and finally being checked by the doctor took only 30 minutes. I used to wait for three hours to see my doctor at Makati Medical Center.
This pleasant and efficient lady doctor gave me a prescription for medicines, but it was only good for 15 days. The Planet drugstore where one gets the free drugs is in Bangkal, the farthest south end of Makati, and we had to take a taxi to get there. When done, we planned to take a taxi back but not one was in sight as the area is not the usual route for taxis. We luckily and finally got one at the South Super Highway despite some risks from speeding cars and buses. We were able to turn around, but we got stuck in traffic at Osmeña Highway.
The taxi ride cost about P250. And after running out of the prescribed drugs, I had to go back to my regular doctor.
My nephew had the foresight to enroll me in a Lifeline Ambulance service, and one day, for the first time in my life, my companion and I enjoyed an ambulance ride. The service was quite efficient; they took a small stab at my finger to check my blood sugar level, and I didn’t feel a thing.
At Osmak, one is not allowed in if one doesn’t have a companion. My companion filled out forms while I waited with the ambulance personnel at one side, seated on a wheelchair that I prayed would not collapse on me. They pricked my finger to draw blood for the sugar level again, and it hurt really bad.
I was wheeled to an area where others before me were waiting their turn for the doctor. “Companions” are not allowed to sit as there are no seats available for them, but they can wait and sit outside and, when needed, are summoned through a loudspeaker. It took about an hour before a lady doctor approached and asked me a few questions. Later, she gave me a bottle of medicine that I was to take three times at 15-minute intervals. If that didn’t work, she was to slip a needle in my hand for an IV drip while seated on a wheelchair with passersby swishing and swirling around me.
When 45 minutes had passed, I miraculously recovered and announced to my lady doctor that I was feeling better and ready to go home. She was all smiles, and she gave me a prescription to be filled for free at another Planet drugstore just outside the hospital.
Osmak is a well-run government hospital despite an obvious lack in some areas. They probably need more government funding. But with just three hospitals in Makati to go to when sick, I better not get sick again.
Shirley Wilson de las Alas, 77, says she enjoys being a senior citizen in Makati and getting some benefits from the local government, especially the free movies. She adds: “I like meeting and chatting with other senior citizens while waiting at the lobby for the film to start.”
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