Canlas: This is not goodbye!

LOOKING back, there are times when I felt I am in reverie when I replay the screen of my past this last seven decades. The road is crossed with humps and streams in-between only made humanly bearable by the mystique of faith. That is to say flaming determination and unshakeable reliance in HIM, got me to the finishing line. There are many people to thank for not to mention the many incidents that conspired that enabled me to safely sail that proverbial journey of a thousand miles. Worth-mentioning is my compadre, Joe, who brought me to Manila to join him as a bootblack. But GOD has ordained everything.

Yet, I must confess that my gift of learning bow to the acclaimed achievements of our famous cabalen led by Apung Dadong Macapagal, my ultimate benefactor, who started from humble origins. They are my inspiration and, thus, share their philosophical outlook that education finds social relevance only when shared in the service of one’s community and beyond.

True enough, in 2012, I obligingly assumed the responsibility of serving the cause of senior citizens in my barangay and subsequently the higher call at the Municipal, Provincial and Regional levels primarily within the purview of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act or RA 9995. Among the salient provisions of RA 9995 are the tax-free and discount privileges on certain purchases on basic needs and services. Over-all, RA 9995 is a welcome relief although some enterprising fast-food establishments smartly circumvent the discount privilege through the “promo offer” gimmick.

Since then, there are challenges and unresolved issues that impede if not actually deny the much-deserved social and economic benefits due our elderly sector. There is consensus that this saddening scenario stems from the bureaucratic arrogance and discrimination in the dispensation of mandated health and financial assistance which, more often than not, is orchestrated by some local officials for political patronage. Hopefully, this bureaucratic abuse will be addressed if and when the proposed Senior Citizens Commission will become a law and solely takeover in the administration and dispensation of statutorily-granted benefits to senior citizens.

On a personal note, I find it most fulfilling to exchange ideas with peers representing their respective local federations. For it broadens my social commitment more than the academe and my public service stint did. Above all, the collective vision and brotherhood nourished in such association has sustained my conviction that the wisdom, patriotism and solicitude that are innate in our senior citizens are indispensable not only in advancing their sectoral well-being but also in the task of national-building. If only this vital human resource be harnessed by statutorily empowering our elderly to participate in local legislation, there is hope that the potentials of our 42,000 barangay will be unleashed and perform their assigned role as frontline partners in national development. There is optimism, though, that sooner than later, Congress will mandate the active participation of senior citizens in our local law-making bodies in the same manner that the youth sector is.

For the rare privilege in assuming a public burden, I salute the: officers of the various senior citizens federations of Pampanga, ably assisted by the respective offices of Senior Citizens Affairs headed by Mr. GIL YAPYUCO; members of the Board of Trustees of UPSCO, headed by its indefatigueable President, LINDA G. DAVID; and the Board of Trustees of FESCAP-RIII, under the chairmanship of Roberto A. Mateo, for their trust and confidence. May you summon the kindness to love my shortcomings which are many.

Most of all, our profound gratitude to Her Honor, the Governor, for the use of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Session Hall as venue for the monthly meeting of the officers of Senior Citizens of Pampanga. Indeed, our elderly cabalen will be doubly honored should the commitment of our beloved ‘Nanay’ Governor to provide a permanent edifice for the province’s senior citizens be forthcoming. I also wish to acknowledge the supportive role of our good advisers, namely: Mayor Emmanuel Alejandrino who kindly administered the oath of office of UPSCO’s first Board of Trustees; and Asec. Leira Buan for diligently espousing the construction of appropriate integrated housing facility for the elderly, hopefully with Pampanga as a pilot area.

In echoing this sentiment, let me re-affirm my lifetime vow to help promote the cause of our elderly. But it is my wish for now to fulfill that pledge in other capacity. Thus, I am yielding my present responsibility effective immediately. I hope I made it clear that I am not bidding farewell. The “Seniors’ Corner” will continue to articulate the cause of senior citizens.