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FIELDNOTES: Manners for Mature Members of this Universe and Some Memories

Tito Genova Valiente AFTER some forty years, an old friend – that modifier “old” assuming a literal meaning now – has reconnected with us. He is Vincent Guballa and he is, in his own words, “hurting” mentally, emotionally and physically,’’ as a senior citizen. The last time Vincent and I saw each other was in the mid-70s. We were what, seventeen, eighteen? He was not attending school because he was getting ready to leave for the States upon the petition of his father. Then the day came. He asked me to accompany him so he could be fitted for a suit, an “amerikana.” That was our generation: we had to have suits when we were to travel abroad. Foreigners wore suits. Who told us? The movies did. It is 2018. Many of us have retired; some of us managed to hold on till the system allowed us to stay there in the workforce. Some of us (like this writer) continue on and on, writing, lecturing, doing cultural works, at ease with our age. The social universe, of course, can never get use to senior citizens. We are in a youth culture where to be young is to be cool, and great and grand. Enter the politics of things, the correct politics of life. An act declaring special privileges for senior old people, now appropriately called “senior citizens”, renders power to a sector privileged by age. The name attempts very hard to hide the very essence of physical seniority – age. Which is just as well, because to be a senior citizen one need not be ingloriously weak, and helpless. Which means, also, that a senior citizen can still stand there with the rest of the world as the world moves on. This brings me to this new phenomenon of arrogant old men and women, or senior citizens aware of their privileges and unaware of the nobility that goes with those gifts from the state or community – and from others. Levity aside, here are reminders on how to be maintain proper senior citizenship. 1. Learn to recognize a line. It is a straight phenomenon formed by people who respect other people as to who got there. A straight line has the same process as aging: you are there because you were ahead of others, like being sixty over someone being fifty. Do not insert yourself anywhere; only thin objects, not even thin people get inserted. 2. Related to the above, do not form a line outside another line and assume people will assume you are senior. Age sometimes is not revealed by the body. 3. Be polite. Good manners come with wrinkles and are not assumed to disappear with loss of memory. If you are from this region, the land prides itself with old people saying “po” and “opo” to individuals younger than them. Believe me, this aspect of culture is worth more than all the divine volcanoes and hot springs you can advertise. 4. Invest on good shoes. Rheumatism and arthritis, with the fact that bodies do not grow young, should tell us to avoid boots. When our walk is as unsteady as our income, it is best to have something that will enable us to walk like a human being and not like a crab. 5. And while we are on crabs, please avoid crustaceans. It is hard to spell “crustacean” and even harder to digest them, with stomachs that have witnessed perhaps a world war, declaration of martial law, and several coup d’etat. 6. For those who wear make-ups, and I am referring not only to senior women but also to men, avoid cheap and very pale foundation, the kind that cakes and melts. Age can still be correlated with death and therefore, do not give away your sense of mortality and morbidity by looking as if you are destined for the casket and the grave. 7. Tell good stories to your grandchildren. Speak to them of life in the farm and how it was to plant rice; narrate to them how you were taught how to slaughter chicken; relate to them how you survived the war and curfews. These are experiences they may not have anymore. 8. Refrain from gossiping. 9. Refrain from cursing, however, colorful your language and your choices of obscenities. Our age and the world that age has allowed us to witness are the colors we can share with this generation. 10. Do not feel irrelevant at home and in the community. Studies show that the presence of grandparents or granduncles and grandaunts contributes to the general well-being of the youngest generation in the family. Senior citizens in the households and communities are bearers of cultures and histories. That is why we are grand. I would have wanted to interview our good friend, Señor Vincent, but deadline has caught up with this senior of a writer. Vincent says in our exchanges that I should just share the fact that we have, after almost fifty years, discovered him to be alive. That is the best lesson of being a senior citizen - that we are discovering each other to be alive, to see sixty and seventy and, maybe ninety more years of being good, respectable, intelligent citizens.

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