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Dekada Sitenta and aging

Manay Lizing lay quietly on the banig (handwoven mat) on the floor, exhausted but rested, with a pillow tucked under her knees. The baby›s loud cry enveloped the entire household. Her younger sister, Lung, gently comforted her after a few hours of labor as the madrona fixed her delivery bag so she could leave after the two-hour delivery.

That was the bed or banig scene for Lizing on May 9, 1954, on Ojeda Street in old Naga City.  The baby’s cry continued until, finally, the young found comfort in suckling her mother’s breast for milk.  Lizing’s Mama Sisang and Papa Binong momentarily halted everything to attend to their eldest daughter giving birth while the father was in the US for his Navy training.    

It was a memorable day for the whole family because it was the first and only birth delivered “manually” by madrona, not in the hospital. The first three children were born in the hospitals in Manila. The baby girl was also the first, the eldest daughter.

Looking back now, that baby was me seven decades ago. That period was a decade after World War II and a time of recovery, the Korean War; it was the period of Ramon Magsaysay, the Filipino First policy of Carlos P. Garcia, and the Hukbalahap, a powerful peasant movement during and after the Japanese occupation. The civil rights movement and the Cold War were significant global events worldwide. I discovered that one other world event - the death of Evita Peron in 1952, wife of Argentina President Juan Peron - profoundly impacted Lizing that time so much that she named her eldest daughter after the revered Argentinian icon, political activist, and artist Evita.

And today, as that Evita in 2024, I celebrate my 70th birthday in what I may call the dekada sitenta of my life.

What makes it quite notable is I am also a child of the 70s, the period of turbulence, martial law, milestones, historical movements, revolutionary change, mass demonstrations in the streets for freedom and democracy, the height of the CPP-NPA-NDF,  MNLF-MILF, the beginning of the Internet, Boeing, and the end of the Vietnam War. As a child of the Age of Aquarius (the 60s and 70s), I remember I was a fanatic of the Beatles and the Monkees, who also raved about bell-bottoms, astrology in pop culture who wondered about the hippie movement and followed every basketball game pitting YCO against Meralco and Mariwasa.

New shifts in aging

How fast time flies. I now have white hair and some wrinkles appearing on my forehead. Aging can be pretty unkind. At age 65, I stopped dying my gray hair and grew it naturally white. I felt good, but I struggled until I learned to enjoy abstaining from junk, unhealthy foods, and drinks and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It was tough at the start, and until now, I can still be tempted to splurge on crispy pork skin and sweets like leche flan and yema.

With age, I now realize that my bones are becoming vulnerable and may begin to shrink in size and density, making them more susceptible to fracture. I notice my muscles start to lose strength and flexibility, unlike before. Our son reminds me and agom, Bobby to constantly move around and not sit the whole day and to take 10,000 steps as much as possible. He had to physically bring us to the gym and show the rudiments of weight-bearing exercises, climbing stairs, and walking to build strong bones and slow bone loss as we age. Without physical activity, our bones and muscles weaken, which affects body coordination, stability, and balance. Calcium, vitamin C, and D supplements promote bone and muscle density. It is about a healthy, balanced diet and the need for lots of physical movement, which many senior citizens like me need to remember to do or fail to do. Another new intervention is acupuncture and bone alignment which I began to include in my regular health regimen.

How often must I remember schedules, names, places, and keys? At age 70, I expect to have more memory and thinking skills lapses. I know that brain changes as we age may have minor effects on our memory or thinking skills, and I will find it more difficult to multitask.

But what can I do?  I won’t stop working and playing. Work and play keep the body and brain healthy; again, health experts emphasize the value of physical and brain activity to promote cognitive health and increase blood flow to the body and brain. Studies show that regular exercise of the body and mind is associated with better brain function and reduces stress and depression.  My current work is in community development with Tabang Bikol Movement, the Mariners schools, building social enterprises, doing business, culture and arts, CenPEG, writing a weekly column for Bicol Mail and my loving family. What a life!

But I still have another bucket list of new experiences I hope to accomplish, from being dekada sitenta today to many more years ahead.

It is still about promoting health and the environment in community development, a passion I have long embraced many decades ago. I pray I shall conquer.


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