My Shoe Story

 

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Whenever I pass by a shoe store, a flurry of pleasant emotions never fails to overwhelm me as I give the array of shoes a sweeping glance. Yes, you guessed it right – shoes are my weakness, even at my age.  According to Helen Berkun, a fashion photographer and shoe collector, “Shoes are the one accessory women can never have enough of.”  I absolutely agree, as do most of the women I know.

But despite my soft spot for shoes, getting a new pair is not something that I rush headlong into and then regret later (although it has happened a few times). The choosing, the fitting, the buying, the unboxing and, finally, the wearing – each is an important link in the chain of a process that I take seriously and cautiously, because I believe that shoes speak louder than words.  I know a lot of people who make “shoe contact” before “eye contact” when meeting others for the first time.  As Forrest Gump said, “There’s an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes.

If I were rich, I’d buy new shoes everyday because new shoes fascinate me no end. They always exude a fresh, comforting smell that relaxes my senses regardless of the material they’re made of.  Like a freshly minted coin or a newly made piece of glazed pottery, they have nary a flaw, no nick or scratch, smudge or stain, no tell-tale marks of the ravages of time and long distances. I feel confident when I am wearing new shoes because I don’t have to conceal a run-down heel, a scruffy toe, or a misshapen  vamp, and they’re for all the world to see in every which way.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when my fondness for shoes began. When I was a little girl, I took it as a matter of course that I only had one pair of formal shoes at a time and that I could have a new pair only when I outgrew the old one. It was my parents, my mother particularly, who decided on the style and color of my shoes, and they got me mostly black Mary Jane shoes because black went with any color dress.  In those days, children usually wore Mary Janes because being closed, low-cut shoes with rounded toes, low heels and thin soles, they were snug and comfy.   And since they had one or more straps across the instep that were fastened with a buckle or button, they were highly unlikely to slip off  the feet of even the most active child. Thus,  I got stuck with Mary Janes until I was old enough to wear shoes without straps.

Perhaps my penchant for shoes started when I was a pre-teen and I needed a pair of white shoes for a special event in school. My mother took me out shopping and, for the first time, let me choose the style I liked. After a long and thorough search, I finally settled on what I thought was the most beautiful pair of white shoes I ever saw. It had a lightly embossed crosshatch pattern like linen stationery, cut-out sides with daintily braided borders, and most of all, half-inch heels, which made me feel all grown-up and ladylike because I did not have to wear bobby socks with them. I wore those shoes to church and dress-up occasions until they became shabby and discolored.

In high school, I basically had only two pairs of shoes (not counting the rubber shoes I used for physical education classes) – one for school wear and the other for church and formal events.  School shoes were mostly dull and boring because they were pretty much the same style, so I did not give them the same serious attention that I did in choosing my dress shoes. Back in the ’60s when Op Art was the vogue, I had a pair of modish sling backs in black and white geometric patterns with low Cuban heels. I wore them on our school’s Cadena de Amor ceremony, during which the seniors turned over to us juniors, who were dressed in pink,  a long garland of the cadena de amor vine to symbolize the passing of responsibilities. On my high school graduation the following year, I wore brand-new medium-heeled beige pumps with my white academic gown, which for me was the closest thing to wearing high heels.

When I was in college, I had more leeway in getting the shoes I liked because I studied in the city, where  big shoe stores sold a wide array of ladies shoes in various shapes and sizes. But because I was the proverbial starving student who depended on my parents for pocket money, I had to go by their rules and got to buy a new pair only at the start of each school year.  Nevertheless, there were a few times when I managed to sidestep this unwritten parental edict in exchange for good grades. The shoes I bought were inexpensive but tasteful, and since I used them with utmost care, I somehow managed to accumulate an assortment over time, which gave me a feeling of (false) abundance.

Over the years I witnessed shoe trends come, go, and come again, their revival marked by clever changes in clips and ornaments, colors, material, and heel and toe shapes, but looking basically the same as their predecessors. I had become a certified shoe lover, but certainly not a blind one, so I did not let the craze of the moment define me. I chose my shoes sensibly, making sure the style was appropriate for my age, personality, occupation (I was a teacher) and, of course, my budget.

When platform shoes became the fad in the ’70s, I acquired several pairs, but I eschewed the ones that had outrageously thick soles and chunky heels because I knew I’d look ridiculous in them.  In the ’80s I fell head-over-heels (no pun intended) in love with stilettos, which made a re-appearance from the years before. With the ‘90s and 2000s came revivals of the platform soles of the ’70s, along with platform-style Mary Janes, platform flip-flops, and wooden platform sandals, which I did not really fancy even if they added inches to the wearer’s height.

But my great favorites at the time were sling backs and pumps of various styles – black pumps, Mary Jane pumps, t-strap pumps, peep-toe pumps – which I liked to wear to work and special events. In later years, I owned a pair or two of metallic shoes and strappy sandals for formal occasions, and a good number of wedges.  Some of my shoes were gifts, but most of them were bought with hard-earned money.  Then as now, I never invested in expensive shoes, and whatever pricey-looking ones I had in the past I got from sales and bargains.

By the way, in case you are wondering, I did not own a single pair of sneakers, flat shoes, or flat sandals back then, except for rubber flip-flops and thongs, which I used only for casual or informal events, and bedroom slippers for indoor wear. Flat footwear, no matter how au courant, embellished or bejewelled, did not appeal to me at all.  They made me feel underdressed and dowdy and, believe it or not, ill at ease.  When I walked in them, I had the sensation of floating and losing my footing. Even when I was heavily pregnant with my babies, I refused to wear flats, to my mother’s consternation, and so to placate her I wore shoes with one-inch heels, the flattest I was willing to go.

So in the perennial debate between the “comfort of flats” versus the “confidence of heels,” I naturally sided with the latter. There was no question about it – I was an avid high-heel wearer. Maybe my fascination for high heels began in my childhood when I took a fancy to a pair of red stilettos my mother owned, and I would walk clumsily and noisily around the house in them, which were twice the size of my cute little feet.  As a full-grown adult standing at five-feet nothing (blame it on my genes), I’ve worn all sorts of high heels since college to boost my height by an inch or so.  But being deficient in height was not the only reason why I loved clicking along in high heels, despite the risks of bunions, pain, and injuries. It was the feminine grace and confidence that I felt and exuded while wearing them. Panna Munyal, Assistant Luxury Editor, says it all for me in one sentence: “I love the way my walk changes, the way my hips swing, my shoulders roll back, and my posture straightens.”

I must admit that it was not always a love affair between my high heels and me.  There were times when I shuffled and hobbled about in them unattractively because of the pain they caused. Before pedicabs (three-wheeled, pedal-operated public conveyances) came to my hometown, people went from one place to another on foot (myself included), or on a motorcycle or bicycle if they owned one (I didn’t).  Every Sunday, I would walk (in 3-inch stiletto heels) the whole distance from my house to the church, which was many blocks away, on dusty and unpaved streets, and when church was over, walk back to the house (in the same 3-inch stiletto heels).  Then there were the formal parades around the town that teachers like me were obliged to join every year – the town fiesta parades and the school parades that marked historical milestones.  To look my best in those events, which people lined up in the streets to watch, I had to be in high heels!   In the classroom, I preferred to stand rather than sit for the entire time it took to deliver a lesson or give a lecture, to enable my students  to see me better and to hold their attention.  Every time I proctored a test, I would go around the classroom and make myself omnipresent with the tick-tack and click-clack of my high heels to deter the students from cheating.   At the end of the day my feet would kill me, but being young and idealistic, I dismissed those discomforts as part and parcel of a fashion choice that was no one else’s business but mine.

Now that I am in my ’60s, the sands have shifted.  I still love shoes with a passion, but my preferences have changed quite dramatically. Maybe it’s part of the wisdom that comes with aging and the realization that they’re actually safer, more sensible, and more comfortable, or maybe because they’re the “in” thing nowadays,  that I now find myself favoring flats over heels.  From what was an unimaginable prospect in the past, my modest shoe collection now includes a few pairs of sneakers that I use for my keeping-fit walks, and ballet flats, flat sandals, and loafers for practically everything else!

I still wear heels, though not as much as before. When I retired and relocated, I gave away most of my high heels but kept a few pairs that I was not ready to part with just yet – black wedge pumps, D’Orsay pumps, ankle-strap sandals, a pair of nude sling back wedges with metal-encrusted heels, white espadrilles, black peep-toe pumps, and the stilettos with black-and-white patterns and pointed toes that used to be my favorite.  Sometimes I put them on and sashay before the mirror like a flippant young woman, but the truth is I don’t really need them any more than I need my old bell bottoms and mini skirts. I know that it won’t be long before I will have to let go and release my attachment to these relics from my past. Then maybe I will acquire a new pair or two to remind myself that I am living in the here and now, where life is happening, and not in the illusions of days long gone, which are over and will never return.

“To change skins, evolve into new cycles, I feel one should not continue to live with the same objects. They reflect one’s mind and the psyche of yesterday.  I throw away what has no dynamic, living use.”

Thank you, Anais Nin, for these wise words.

 

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MY RELIGIOUS IDENTITY (A Blog for the Holy Week)

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Like most Filipinos, I am a cradle Roman Catholic and, despite occasional moments of doubt back in my youth, I have never lapsed in the faith. I am not extremely religious, but I can say that I have a strong Catholic identity, which has been shaped by many factors.

A good deal of my earliest childhood memories revolve around religious practices and traditions in which my mother was a central figure. From her I learned how to make the sign of the cross and to say the traditional prayers.

As a little girl growing up in a predominantly Catholic and deeply religious Philippine town, I looked forward to Sunday mornings when my mother and I would hear mass at our centuries-old parish church and I would wear my Sunday best.  In those days before Vatican II, masses were said in Latin, which I totally did not understand. But I always tried to be on my best behavior lest my mother not take me with her to church again. By my mother’s account, the only time I threw a tantrum in church was when I went with her to the communion rail to receive Holy Communion but the priest did not give me any because I was not yet the right age.

The month of May was my favorite time of year because of the Santacruzan and Flores de Mayo, two religious festivities that are celebrated throughout the country. The Santacruzan, popularly known as “Santa Cruz” in my hometown, commemorates the search for the Holy Cross by Queen Helena and her son, Constantine, and is marked by nine days of prayer or novena.  Back in the day, as the month of May drew near, makeshift chapels of all types and sizes would start sprouting in practically every corner of our town. Each chapel bore the name of the neighborhood association in the area, such as “Evangelista Union Catholic Action” (EUCA), of which my family and most of the families residing along Evangelista Street were members.

Every night for nine consecutive nights, my siblings and I would rush through supper and join the other children of the neighborhood, playing and running in the vicinity of the chapel as we waited for the prayers to begin. I especially loved the songs that were sung during the novena, and as a child I learned each song by heart over many years of being an active follower and, eventually, a prayer leader of the Santa Cruz.

The Flores de Mayo (Spanish for “flowers of May”) is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Every afternoon throughout the month of May, children and adults alike would offer flowers to the image of the Virgin Mary in church. In my time, preparing for the Flores de Mayo (commonly known to us as “Flores”) was such a big deal. After lunch, my sister and I would go out with friends and cousins under the heat of the summer sun to pick the prettiest flowers we could find. Then we would soak the flowers in water to keep them fresh before we settled down to take our obligatory afternoon nap.  My mother strictly enforced the afternoon nap routine so that we would be well-rested and ready for the long hour in church later in the afternoon.

Back then, children wore white to the Flores.  My sister and I had identical white dresses and veils of white lace and tulle, and cute little tin baskets in which we placed the flowers we had picked early on. The church was a noisy sea of white as we children, some dressed as angels, waited eagerly for the big moment when we would march to the altar and offer our flowers to the  Blessed Virgin Mary, singing along with the choir in our shrill, discordant voices, “Mangadto kitang tanan, sa mga bulak magdala, ihalad ta kang Maria…” (Let’s all go together, let’s bring  flowers and offer them to Mary…).  The strains of that song still ring vividly in my ears and never fail to evoke pleasant memories of the Flores de Mayo of my childhood.

My paternal grandmother, Lola Téa, who lived close to us, also played a prominent role in the shaping of my religious identity, being herself a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic. I and the rest of the grandchildren would listen in rapt attention to her stories about heaven, the angels, and the saints, as well as about hell and the devil, as she showed us black-and-white pictures in her worn-out prayer book. One picture I found terribly horrifying was that of a dying man in his sickbed, surrounded by his grieving family.  On his chest was a black heart, which was an indication,  according to my grandmother, that he was a sinful man.  To his right stood a weeping angel, her face slightly turned away, and to his left was the devil, all creepy, dark and ugly, looking down at him with a triumphant sneer. Another picture showed people falling into a dark abyss, pure terror etched on their faces, while down below a huge fire blazed as demons eagerly waited for them like snarling dogs. That was how my first concept of hell was formed.

When the church bells struck the hour of six o’clock in the evening, we would all gather before Lola’s little altar to pray the orasyon (Angelus). But what I most fondly remember was tagging along with her to the barangay (short form for “ Virgen sa Barangay”or “Virgin of the Barangay”), during which a group of people would converge in a different home every night and pray the rosary together. (Literally, barangay, a  Filipino term, means village.) An essential religious item used in the barangay was the estandarte, a banner mounted on a piece of plywood and depicting, along with texts foreign to me at the time, the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary dressed in the native baro’t saya, carrying the Child Jesus. After the rosary, the estandarte would remain overnight in the host’s residence, to be taken the following evening to the home of the next host, where the rosary would then be prayed…and so on.

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Estandarte of the Virgen sa Barangay

But it was not until I was about eight years old that I received my first formal instruction in the essential dogmas of my religion.  By that time, my family had relocated to Cebu City because of my father’s job.  My sister and I were enrolled at the Colegio de San Jose (a Catholic school run by Augustinian Recollect priests), where religious education was taught as a subject in the curriculum. My father was not a particularly religious man, and neither were we rich, but when we were living in the city he insisted that we study in Catholic schools, the cost notwithstanding, because of their high academic standards.  It was at the Colegio de San Jose where my sister and I had our First Holy Communion, a very important milestone in the life of every young Catholic.

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My second grade class at the Colegio de San Jose, Cebu City

After a year, we transferred to the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion (better known then as “Inmaculada”), a Catholic school run by the Daughters of Charity.  In our religion classes we were taught basic Catholic doctrine through the catechism, which included questions and answers on God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mystery of the Incarnation, sin, the sacraments, etc. Basically, we learned the catechism by rote, and it came as no surprise that by the end of the school year many of us could memorize the answers to all the questions in the text from cover to cover.  In fact, I was awarded a gold medal for being Best in Religion at the end of my fifth grade.

Aside from learning about the Catholic religion, we also engaged in faith-focused activities, such as opening and closing each class with a prayer, going to confession on first Thursdays and receiving Holy Communion on first Fridays, attending masses on church and school holidays, and reciting the rosary in class everyday in the month of October, the month of the Holy Rosary.

The school also involved us in activities that were intended to develop our social conscience and sense of social responsibility at an early age.  For example, a “Drive for the Poor” was held each year on the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, the patron of charities and founder of the Daughters of Charity. We were required to bring to school various stuff that we no longer used or needed at home, such as old clothes, shoes, toys, etc. and donate them to the poor.

The impact of my Catholic education on my impressionable young mind became evident one afternoon when I was about 11 years old. After classes, still in my school uniform and without my parents’ knowledge, I went with classmates to a friend’s house just within walking distance from our school.  Along the way, two boys from a nearby public school kept following and taunting us in the most annoying manner. At first we tried to ignore them, but when we could not stand their rudeness any longer, we retaliated by making faces and calling them names.  Feeling affronted, they hurled a barrage of stones in our direction, one of which landed on my head with a thud.  Seeing my white blouse splattered with blood oozing from the gash in my head, I just panicked!  I thought I was going to die, so I asked my friends to call a priest.  They took me to the nearest hospital instead, where the wound was promptly cleaned and sutured.

An investigation into the incident was made in school. When our religion teacher, a stern nun by the name of Sor Gregoria, learned that I had wanted a priest summoned, she commended me in class for acting prudently under the circumstances, which she credited to my good religious education. At that time, her words didn’t mean much to me.  But I did feel a great sense of relief that we were not reprimanded or punished in any way for putting up a fight with those pesky boys!

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A picture of me in fourth grade at the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion

When I became a teenager, my religiosity changed in some way. I started to doubt and question in my mind some of the traditional practices and beliefs that I had grown up with, and my interest in spiritual activities began to decline. Going to church on Sundays became a perfunctory activity rather than a religious duty. Praying the rosary was a chore, and so was going to monthly confession. I did not realize then that as an adolescent, I was seeing things from a whole new lens, and that I was going through a stage of identity formation of which rebellion is a normal part.

In college I studied at the University of San Carlos, a Catholic university run by SVD priests, and where taking at least 4 semesters of theology courses was a must for all students.  But attending all those classes in theology did little to alleviate my faith crisis. I must hasten to add, however, that despite my identity struggles at this stage, I never considered leaving the faith or embracing another religion, maybe because I was not bold enough to disrupt the status quo or risk being different from many people I knew.  So I continued to go through the motions of practicing my religion as was expected of me.

From early adulthood until I was into my fifties, I was busy with developing myself professionally, being a wife and raising four kids, and living the life I had wanted for myself and my family. My husband and I tried our best to integrate religion into our busy lives and bring our four children up as Catholics, initiating them into the faith through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, penance, and holy communion.  Now that they are adults, we have given them the freedom to choose what they find to be most fulfilling and have refrained from forcing them to follow a specific religious path. Wherever their beliefs may take them, I know that at the end of the day they will go back to find comfort in the faith on which their hearts have been grounded since they first came into our lives.

I read somewhere that people get more religious as they age, an idea echoed by Steven Jackson, who wrote that “whether you are a Gen-Xer or a Baby Boomer, you are likely to become more religious as you grow older.”  Many reasons have been advanced to explain this tendency. Some say that in old age, people begin to have a greater understanding of the good in their lives or the inevitability of “life’s twilight.” Others say that the older people get, the more they become aware of their own mortality. They become more reflective about their lives and turn to religion and spirituality to get answers to life’s deeper meaning, which cannot be provided by status or material possessions.

Whatever the reason, I want to affirm that at this stage in my life religion has become very important to me.  I engage in more religious activity than before and turn to religion to cope with my problems. But it is not for me to say that I have become a truly religious person.  I do pray fervently, attend Sunday mass without fail, read the scripture, and observe days of fasting and abstinence, all outward manifestations of being religious, granting that I practice them from an inner core, which nobody knows except God and myself. But my faith has taught me that being religious also means keeping Christ in my heart by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and comforting the sick, the poor and downtrodden in whatever way possible, no matter my age or status in life.

Through all the times of doubt and uncertainty in the past, I have remained a Catholic and will always be one.  But while I believe in the teachings of my own religion, I have always looked at other religions with respect and understanding. For, indeed, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

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Estandarte of the Virgen sa Barangay

Image by Basilio III de Castro on http://www.flickr.com

 

Enjoying the Perks of Olderhood

 

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olderhood: a new evolving phase of life beyond adulthood. We began  in childhood, then we moved into adulthood.  Now as the years have moved along, we transition into olderhood.  (from Urban Dictionary)

I personally know a lot of people who, upon turning 60, couldn’t wait for the sun to set so they could apply for a senior citizen ID card.  My husband is one of them.  The day after he officially became a senior citizen, he wasted no time in getting this mighty ticket to the legislated perks for the elderly.  When he finally had it, he waved it proudly in my face, as if to say, “Now, I’m an entitled old man!”

Not in my case.  But please don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely have no misgivings about being a senior and leaving the sweetness of youth behind.  I swear by the quote, “Do not regret growing older. It’s a privilege denied to many.” I tell you, I was as excited as a kid at Christmas eve to turn 60. As a matter of fact, I held a big party to mark my “coming of age.”  I mean, my family held a big party for me, but it was I who decided on the text of the large background poster at the party venue – “Life is great at 60!”

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Life is great at 60! My 60th birthday party with my family beside me and the poster in the background

My new “citizenship” notwithstanding, I just didn’t have the motivation nor the inclination to go and apply for a senior citizen ID.   I didn’t think it would be of much use to me, anyway, or that I would be missing out on life’s blessings if I didn’t have one.  I tried to justify my apathy toward that humble little card with the following excuses: 1) We rarely ate out, so what did I need a discount on meals for?  2) Thank God, I didn’t have to take all those maintenance drugs that old people were spending a lot of money on, so I didn’t need to avail of the rebate on medicines.  3) Except on official business, I hardly ever travelled, and my personal travels were so few and far between that their cost hardly made a dent in my wallet, so it was okay not to get a tiny reduction on my fares.  And so on and so forth. Then I shelved any further thought about getting myself that ID card, at least for the moment.

After a few months, my mother, who is older than me by 23 years, handed me a senior citizen ID  application form she got from the local Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) for me to fill out.  (An “old old” doing a “young old” a favor.) When I was younger, the neighbors thought I was a senyorita (a local word derived from the Spanish term señorita, a form of address used to an unmarried woman).  The local term has a negative connotation because it could also refer to a young woman who is lazy and likes to get people to do things for her instead of doing them herself.  In the neighbors’ eyes I was  a senyorita because I had a penchant for asking others (my mother, especially) to do stuff or run errands for me.  Little did they know that, more often than not, it was my mother who volunteered to do certain tasks on my behalf, like going to the seamstress, mailing a letter at the post office, buying this or that, and when I got married, taking my babies to the doctor.  When I resigned from my first teaching job and didn’t have the nerve to break the bad news to the school principal myself, it was my mother who met with her to hand in my resignation letter.  What a blessing that somehow we complement each other, because while I hate leaving the confines of my comfort zone, she takes great pleasure in going out, meeting people and, if I may add, doing things for me!

Old habits really do die hard.  My mother was about 83 years old (she’s almost 90 as I write this) when she volunteered to get my ID card for me.  I think she found it a bit odd, perhaps even alarming, that some time had passed since I turned 60 and I still hadn’t lifted a finger to obtain something so integral to the life of the “old lady” I had become.  At 83, my mother was not your typical frail and doddering oldster.  Except for a few minor aches here and there, she was as spry, healthy and energetic as a woman half her age, and she was so eager to help me that I felt not the slightest pang of guilt when I took her up on her offer. She waited patiently while I filled the form out, walked the distance to the OSCA to submit it and went the whole hog, from start to finish. Thanks to my mother, I could finally enjoy the benefits and privileges to which the senior citizens of this country are entitled!

Since then, my husband and I have made it a point to use our IDs to avail of discounts at every opportunity  – dining out, watching movies, travelling by air, sea and land, booking hotels, and availing of medical and dental services. In the course of enjoying these financial benefits, we’ve had amusing experiences. Once, when we were scheduled to take a boat trip back to my hometown in Leyte, the lady guard at the terminal waylaid us and asked for our terminal fee tickets.  We told her we were senior citizens and exempted from paying the terminal fee.  She gave us a dubious look and said we certainly didn’t look like seniors, which I took as a compliment, of course! (Funny note:  I don’t know what made us look “un-senior” in her eyes – was it the facial moisturizer I have been painstakingly using all these years, or was it my husband’s head of thick, black hair and small body frame?)  After giving our IDs the once-over,  and convinced that we were not a couple of cheats, she decided to let us through.  Every time we relate this incident to our friends, we always share a good laugh!

Aside from discounts, express/priority lanes are also provided for seniors in private and government establishments, like banks, supermarkets, payment centers, airport check-in counters, etc. to shorten their waiting time.  When I renewed my passport as a walk-in a few years ago, I had to wait in line for hours to submit my documents.  When it was finally my turn to be served, the man at the desk looked at my ID and said that I didn’t need to queue because I was a senior.  I should just have gone straight to the counter and avoided all that hassle. Too late.  Anyway, when I came back the following day to finish my business, I went straight to the priority lane where, thank goodness, I was promptly attended to.

The existence of priority lanes does not only expedite a senior’s transactions; it also makes them feel valued and special.  For example, after shopping at a mall in the thick of the Christmas rush one evening, we went to a taxi stand for the ride home.  As we took our place behind the long queue of people waiting for a ride, I agonized at how long we would have to stand in line and endure the discomfort, especially since incoming taxis were getting scarce by the minute (we were not familiar with Grab and Uber then).  But my fears were soon allayed when the taxi stand attendant made an announcement on his bullhorn.  All seniors were told to move to the head of the line, with chairs to boot for those waiting their turn.

In another incident, I was with a group of academics going on a visit to Vietnam and Cambodia.  There were about 20 people in the group, but only three of us were seniors.  At the airport, we seniors went straight to the priority lane to check in.   As could be expected, it didn’t take much time for us to get our business over and done with.  Our younger companions, on the other hand, had to stand in a long line of passengers all waiting their turn at the check-in desk, the line moving pretty much like a human centipede.  From time to time they would cast what I imagined were envious glances at us, eating their hearts out as we seniors lounged comfortably in the seats nearby.  What more, at boarding time, we got to board the plane first, along with the PWDs and pregnant women.

Just as important as the legislated perks to which my ID card gives me access are the heartwarming entitlements that do not require an ID. These are the simple courtesies that do not oblige seniors to show proof of their olderhood.  The wrinkled  face, gray, thinning hair, slow gait, sagging skin, and toothless grin are enough evidence that a person is over the hill. While it is true that not everybody loves the elderly – many think they are debilitated, irrelevant, unworthy of attention – there are those who treat them with kindness and respect.  So uplifting were the times when young people gave up their seat for me in a crowded shuttle bus, or when a young lady, who was ahead of me in a restroom queue, changed places with me so I could go before her because she understood my urgency.  And there was that  time when, as I was making my way with great difficulty, bags in hand, to the departure area in a jam-packed  passenger terminal, the security guard stealthily opened the movable railings a bit to allow me and another senior to pass through the side entrance and avoid all that pushing and shoving. Thank God for putting kindhearted strangers in my path!

I read somewhere that people are horrified at the prospect of getting old because they equate it with bad health, bad looks, dependency, disability, even degradation.  But old age is inevitable; we can run but cannot hide away from it.  As the years roll by, the cells in our body just wear out and deteriorate, and all those anti-aging drugs and cosmetic procedures to wall off aging will not be of much help. In his book, Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom writes, “If you’re always battling against growing older, you’re always going to be unhappy, because it’s going to happen anyhow.

Before I close, here are beautiful lines to mull over:

Life is a journey and our faithful travel companion is our aging mind and body. We can prepare for the trip with maps and plans and wishes, but the road ultimately leads where it will.  The best way to enjoy the trip is to appreciate each moment, each new sight and sound and feeling.  Live, learn, love and keep going.  Who knows what lies beyond the next sunrise…( lovebeingretired@hotmail.com)

Rather than cursing what we cannot control, the least we can do is recognize and accept the fact that getting old, with all its physical and mental travails, is a natural part of the cycle of life. In the meantime, let’s thank God for taking us this far in our journey, and enjoy the perks of olderhood while we can!

 

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Blast from My Past: Going to College and What a Mess It Was (Part 2)

We arrived at the ship shortly before its scheduled departure. Unlike the others, my mother and I didn’t have to go on board early or book tickets or push and shove for accommodations by virtue of our being members of the captain’s family.  In times when passenger turnout was heavy, my father would let us use his cabin to make our cots available to paying passengers. The cabin was hot and cramped and just a little bigger than a box, with a rickety old fan and a small wooden bed that was permanently attached to the wall. It was not much, but I loved being cooped up there. My father had a good supply of Reader’s Digest and Time magazines that kept me so occupied I didn’t even notice how hot and stuffy the place was.  Besides, staying there made me feel important and privileged because I was the captain’s daughter!

With the opening of classes close at hand, college students were expected to leave for Cebu City in droves that evening. Thus, the ship was filled to the rafters with passengers, mostly students, including a good number of those who were not able to book tickets  early on.  People were all over every inch of space in the small ship – loitering, milling around, perching on the edges of somebody else’s cots  – one could barely pass through the aisles.

As a rule, a ticket was one’s passage to the ship, but in those days these things were taken for granted.  Practically anybody could go on board, with or without a ticket, perhaps unaware that they were flouting passenger safety norms. Those without tickets would boldly take the chance that they could wangle a free passage, make themselves invisible, or hope and pray that the Coast Guard would not be too strict.  But even at an age when the safety of sea travel was not taken seriously, no passenger ship was permitted to leave port by Coast Guard authorities if it carried more passengers than it was officially authorized. Non-compliant ships had to stay berthed at the wharf until the Coast Guard cleared them, sometimes only after so many hours.

To avoid this, the crew would conduct a preliminary head count, often repeating the process until the permissible number was reached, before calling in the Coast Guard for the official head count.  In between the preliminary head counts, those without tickets would be told to disembark, but it usually didn’t work because some people were just plain stubborn. One strategy the crew used to keep the number of excess passengers to a bare minimum was to surreptitiously hide them in places where the Coast Guard would least likely look, such as in the cargo hold or the lifeboats which were attached to the ship, where they would be covered with tarpaulin and adequately concealed from view. They would be allowed to come out of hiding only when the “coast was clear,” meaning the Coast Guard people had disembarked and the ship was underway.

That evening, the usual problems came up and those without tickets were told to disembark before the Coast Guard was summoned. A few sensible heads eventually did as they were told and left the boat, but a good number remained adamant and refused to budge. The crew coaxed and cajoled, but their pleadings fell on deaf ears. And the “transgressors” were so many that there were not enough hiding places to keep them away from the Coast Guard’s prying eyes.

I was unperturbed by what was going on, so snugly settled was I in my father’s cabin, reading my favorite magazines. My mother was worried that it might take some time before the ship could sail because of the excess passengers, but I was too deep in euphoria to be upset by what I thought was a minor snag in the order of things. Then all at once the cabin door opened. My father thrust his head into the doorway, and by the look on his face I could tell that there was something amiss. Then, in the tone he always used when he meant business, he said that my mother and I had to skip that trip and take the next one instead, which was two agonizing days away.  Then he dropped the bomb – we had to disembark!  The reason: We had no tickets and we were excess passengers!

In my family, my father’s word was law. Reasoning out, asserting oneself, or giving him as much as a reproachful look was considered an act of defiance against authority, which usually merited an intense reprimand or, in severe cases, physical punishment. So, without a word, I collected my bags and pretended to look straight through the crowd as my father, my mother and I made our way toward the gangplank. I tried to appear nonchalant and keep the profusion of unpleasant feelings in my heart at bay. As  we inched our way through the crowded aisles, the cacophony of loud, discordant voices subsided as people stopped talking to look at us. Then I heard someone say in the local language, “Look, even the captain’s wife and daughter are getting off the ship!” I was to learn later that as soon as we had left, several others followed suit, which was exactly what my father hoped to happen by the example we had set.

By the time we left the ship, it was rather late into the night. The streets were quiet and deserted, and nobody said a word as the three of us trudged the distance between the pier and our home. My heart was as heavy as my feet. There was a lump in my throat and my eyes were hot with the sting of unshed tears.  To say I was miserable would be an understatement because I felt the whole gamut of negative emotions –  sadness, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, and many more. I didn’t realize it then, so engrossed was I about feeling sorry for myself, but, thanks to my father, that incident taught me a valuable lesson that I would, in later years, uphold in my work  – to keep a clear divide between my professional and personal interests.

As soon as my father had taken us home, he went back to the ship. Later on he would tell us that when he got there, the number of excess passengers had considerably whittled down and not long afterwards, the Coast Guard gave them the go-signal to sail.

Back home, I spent the entire night crying. I felt the floodgates of my heart open and release the flurry of emotions that I had earlier kept in check for fear of incurring my father’s displeasure. When I woke up, my eyes were red and puffy and I kept to myself the entire day.  But the following day, Sunday, I felt much better. I had finally come to terms with my “misfortune” and realized there was nothing more I could do about what had happened.

On Sunday evening my mother and I resumed our aborted trip. This time around it was smooth and hassle-free, and we left Palompon and arrived in Cebu City on time. I checked in at the dormitory very early the following morning, with plenty of time to prepare for my first class.  Since my classes were done early that afternoon, my mother and I still had enough time to go shopping and meet my father for dinner before they sailed back to Palompon  later that night.

That experience has taught me that life has indeed a way of surprising us with unexpected things, but what is meant to be, will be. To borrow a quote, “Things might not always go as you planned, but they’ll always end up as they should.”

 

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I had this photo taken of me in my uniform a few weeks after the start of classes, just as I had settled into the routine of my new life in college.

Blast from My Past: Going to College and What a Mess It Was (Part 1)

I was passing by my Alma Mater one day when…BOOM! Memories of going to college in that prestigious institution suddenly came rushing back to me in waves and surges.

Many years ago, just a few weeks short of my 17th birthday, I had to leave home and go to college in Cebu City. After my high school graduation, I just couldn’t wait to go to college. It may seem atypical for a young girl who had never left home for more than a few days, but the prospect of studying in a place far away from home filled me with pure excitement. In hindsight, it was not the entirely new academic experience that made entering college exciting. It was basically the thought of being a “semi-adult,” of living away from home, of running my own life!

When enrollment time came, both my father and mother accompanied me to the University of San Carlos (USC), where I was to study in the next four years. I felt really proud and special that my father took time out to be with me on that day, albeit it came as a total surprise because in my family, such matters were exclusively my mother’s turf.  But, perhaps, he, too, was excited about the thought of sending a child to college for the first time, which was a significant milestone in his life as a parent. Being the oldest in the brood, I was the first among his nine children to go to college.

Up until then, the only other important event in my life that my father attended was my high school graduation. By sheer coincidence, our graduation ceremony happened to be held exactly on the same day and time that my father’s ship docked at our small town of Palompon, Leyte. You see, he was the captain of a small inter-island ship that plied the Cebu-Leyte route, and Palompon was among their ports of call. After dropping anchor, they would usually stay in port only for the length of time it took them to take on or discharge passengers, load cargoes and supplies, or do repairs. Then the ship would get underway for the next port. So that explains why, at least physically, my father was hardly ever present in our family’s important events.

But, by a lucky twist of fate, he made it to my high school graduation! I was so happy I was grinning like a Cheshire cat as I joined the processional with him as my escort.  And to top it all, for the first and only time in my life, it was he, rather than my mother, who went up the stage to pin my ribbons. (In those days, my school gave away ribbons instead of medals to honor students and achievers.) I don’t know if he felt proud of me because he never, ever showed the slightest hint. But I sure was the proudest graduate, all because my father was there. For me, his presence made all the difference.

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That’s my father and me at the head of the line during the processional.

Back then, there was no learning institution in my hometown that offered college courses, so those who wanted to go to college had no choice but to leave home. Cebu City was easily the most popular destination simply because it lies just across the sea from us, although the only means of travel to Cebu City then was by a slow boat, which took at least eight hours. But our affinity with the place has more to do with the common language that we speak than with spatial proximity. Palompon is in the western part of Leyte, which faces Cebu, and our native language is Cebuano.

It is thus not surprising that in those days many of us regarded Cebu City our second home. Parents who had the means sent their children there to study. Since there was no local hospital, mothers either gave birth at home or delivered their babies in Cebu City hospitals. When people needed items that were not available in the local stores, they shopped for them in Cebu. Once in a while, especially during school breaks, my father would take me and my siblings to Cebu City for an entire day, two children at a time, to watch an English movie (usually a musical or comedy), or eat Magnolia ice cream at his favorite restaurant. We always looked forward to those simple pleasures that could not be had in our little hometown.

So when it was time for me to go to college, where I would study was never an issue for me or my parents. Cebu City was a “given.” Manila, although the seat of the country’s best universities, was never an option. First of all, schooling in Manila was expensive and my parents couldn’t afford it.  Secondly, I had never been to Manila myself, and it seemed too far away, too unfamiliar and too urbanized for a naive girl like me who had spent most of her life in a peaceful, laid back town. From what I had heard and read, I envisaged Manila to be a very scary and intimidating place, where evil people of all sorts lurked in street corners – killers, swindlers, muggers, thieves- ready to pounce upon their innocent prey. No, Manila was just not for me.  Cebu was my safe haven, my beautiful place, and I felt so at home there.

My mother and I found a dormitory for ladies just a stone’s throw away from the university.  It was so near that we residents would only step out to go to our classes when we heard the drone of the electric bell to signal the next class period. At that time, our dormitory had no official name, but it eventually became known as the “Pink Dorm” because of its pink color. I would stay in the Pink Dorm until I finished college, and for three more years after that when I taught English to high school girls at the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion  soon after graduation.

With my enrollment done and my dormitory booked, I went back to Palompon and waited there for the start of classes. By this time, my excitement had reached fever pitch. That the days seemed to drag only made my life miserable. Tia Elena, my father’s sister who worked for an American family at a US air base near Manila, had been home for a break that summer and, knowing I was leaving for college, left me her big red suitcase and a matching overnight bag. My first set of luggage was a pre-owned hand-me-down but I loved it like it was especially bought for me. I simply couldn’t wait to get it packed!

Finally, after a long and agonizing wait, it was time to go. Classes would start that Monday, only three days away. My mother and I were scheduled to leave for Cebu City on Friday evening and arrive there early Saturday morning. We had made great plans for Saturday. After checking in at the dormitory, we would go shopping for clothes, a pair of shoes, my first-ever wristwatch, and other personal stuff I would need for my new life as a college student in the big city.  I was simply bursting with enthusiasm!

(to be continued)

 

Never Too Old (My Vision Board)

A few days before 2018, when I was well into my second year in retirement, I decided to create a vision board instead of the usual New Year’s resolutions, which I do not follow anyway – or which I follow with zest and zeal at the outset, but only for that zest and zeal to peter out after the first two weeks or so, for reasons only my body or brain knows.

My vision board is actually nothing fancy, just a collage of words and pictures that convey my biggest goals and dreams.  No, I haven’t stopped dreaming even at my age because I believe that “you’re never too old to set another goal or dream another dream.” Actually, I got the inspiration to make a vision board from Jinti Fell’s YouTube channel, of which I am an avid subscriber, with a few ideas from the internet.

So how did I go about creating my vision board?

First, I drew up a list of my goals and dreams which, I must hasten to add, was surprisingly  lengthy, considering my age, so I narrowed the list down to those I am most passionate about and came up with eight.  Woman over 60, eight big dreams.

Next, I went to Pinterest and looked for pictures that would best depict each of those eight, printed them, cut them out and tacked them neatly into a cork board and…voila!

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This board is displayed in a strategic nook in my bedroom, where I can easily see it when I wake up every morning.  They say that looking at these visual representations of your goals every single day and imagining that they are already fulfilled is one way of activating the Law of Attraction.

So let me describe each of the pictures in my vision board in order of their importance to me.

Keeping the Family Together

“The number one thing a man wants for his family is to keep his family together.” -Eric Wiggins

When the children were little, keeping the family together was never an issue because we knew they were not in a position to leave home.  My youngest son, then 4 or 5 years old, did attempt to leave home early one evening over something I cannot quite remember.  We noticed his absence only when my good friend Melanie rang me up to say he was at their house (just a few houses from ours) and had told her that he was running away from home.  Over amused giggles, my friend and I conspired to get him to return home pronto, which he did.  It was as simple as that.

Now it’s altogether a different story.  The children have grown up, flown the coop and are running their own lives.  We can’t keep them home any longer because they are pursuing their dreams, just like we did once upon a time.  But many families are torn apart because of the absence of one member or the other.  Thus, the challenge that confronts my husband and me is not so much how to fill the void in our empty nest, but how to keep our family close despite the physical distance and psychological spaces between us.  As the saying goes, “We may not live as one, but our family will always be home.”

Attaining Peace of Mind

When I was young, I basically thrived on challenges and pressures because I wanted to prove to myself that I was a strong person.  But the weaknesses of old age has caught up with me and now I just want a life of peace and quiet.  Somebody wrote, and I agree: “The older you get, the more you realize you have no desire for drama, conflict, or any kind of intensity…You just want a cozy home, good food on the table, and to be surrounded by lovely people who make you happy.”

But life is not perfect; it’s not even old-age friendly.  Attaining peace of mind in the midst of life’s imperfections requires considerable effort. My goal is to develop a greater sense of inner peace in order to remain calm and in control of my mind, even in the face of life’s stresses and storms.  That way I will stay healthy and fit in body, mind, and spirit.

Thinking Positive

I used to regard myself as an optimistic person.  But I think retirement and advancing age have made me an easy prey to negative thinking, which only makes me depressed and miserable.  When something dreadful comes up, I sink down into bad feelings instead of letting the light in, so to speak.  This can’t go on.  I have resolved to get rid of negativity in my life and improve myself for the better.

“I attract only good things into my life” will be my mantra. I will train myself to find the bright side and stay positive, even in the most appalling and complicated situations.  Positive thoughts bring beautiful outcomes, like happiness, fulfillment, and good health.  I believe that everything happens for a purpose, and in whatever form it may come, God uses it as a way of bringing good into our lives.

Volunteering

Audrey Hepburn, one of my favorite movie stars, and who was no doubt beautiful inside and out, said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

About a year after we retired, my husband and I joined a group of volunteers to help feed impoverished schoolchildren.  The experience of giving a little of our time, money and effort without expecting anything in return was so gratifying that we plan to do volunteer work on a regular basis.  I know there are institutions for the destitute children and elderly in our area who need our services.

Writing a Book

“In their life, everyone should plant a tree, write a book, have a baby.” Does this quote ring a bell? I have planted a tree (several trees, in fact) and had four babies, so what I still need to do is write a book.

I have always wanted to write a book ever since I could remember, but I never got around to doing it because as a mother, wife and career woman, my hands were full of more pressing things.  Now that I am retired and the writing bug is still biting, I want to really sit down and get that book written.  I hope that this time no excuses will hold me back.  To be honest, I never had any formal training in writing, but I am confident my penchant for writing will see me through.  As somebody advised, “Look into your heart and write.”

Travelling to Australia and Europe

I want to visit as many places as possible in my lifetime, but Australia and Europe top my list.  Australia, mainly  because I have family there – my two daughters, my only grandchild, two sisters and a brother, not to mention my new son-in-law.   It’s been a while since my husband and I last visited them, and although they’ve come to the Philippines a good number of times since then, nothing compares to  us visiting them in their adopted homeland.  Besides, I would really love to see more of that beautiful and exotic Land Down Under.

And why Europe? Visiting Europe has been a long-time dream.  Actually, I’ve seen a bit of it in the past – a bit of England, the Netherlands, Paris, and Belgium. I have fallen madly in love with what I have seen and I want to go back, stay longer, and cover a lot more ground.

Experiencing the Great Outdoors

Many of those who know me well, perhaps even my own family, will let out an incredulous gasp when they read this because I have never been an outdoor enthusiast.   As a child growing up in a small town, I did play outdoor games with the kids in the neighborhood, but I quickly outgrew them when I discovered the pleasures of reading.  During my free time, I would be ensconced in a comfortable chair at home, reading a book or magazine, oblivious of the noise of the children playing outside.  Since then, I have always preferred the comfortable confines and peace and quiet of being indoors.

Now I realize that my indifference to outdoor life has kept me from living my best.  Before it’s too late, I want to experience the great outdoors  and do something fun and different.  I’d like to go camping (with tents and all), trekking, hiking, and mountain climbing, and breathe some fresh air and enjoy the beauty of nature on the side.

Building my Dream Getaway

I want to have a tiny cottage in some tranquil countryside, a small but spacious home away from home that is filled with cozy charm.  My country retreat will be nestled in a grove of leafy trees with a flowing river nearby, where the air is fresh and cool and the surroundings calm and serene, and where I will wake up to the chirping of the birds and the gentle sound of the water.  I will have a beautiful flower garden in my front yard and a small vegetable patch in my backyard.  In my little front porch will sit a rocking chair, where I will slowly rock myself to sleep under the balmy afternoon breeze, or read a book while enjoying my favorite espresso, or simply take my time watching the beautiful scenery and enjoying nature’s serenity.  Freedom, peace of mind, positive energy — oh, what a beautiful life it will be!

And why not? Dreaming, after all,  is free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my Blog!

Hi, I’m Delia from the Philippines, I’m over 60 years old (66 to be exact), thus my blog’s name – Over Sixty.

After more than 40 years of teaching, I retired 2 years ago and, with so much free time on my hands, I decided to create my own blog.  Since I live in a new neighborhood and  don’t get to interact with as many people as I used to when I was still working, I find blogging  a good vehicle by which I can let loose my thoughts, feelings, ideas and experiences and share these for others to benefit or learn from, or simply enjoy reading about.

By the way, it took me quite sometime to decide on a good name for my blog.  I wanted something personal, charming and unpretentious, and which would embody my status as a retired senior citizen who was still living it up.  At first I thought about “Retired but Not Tired,” but dismissed it on second thought as overused and uninteresting.

I also toyed around with “Retired and Alive,” “Retired and Enjoying It,” “Retired and Renewed,” “Retired and Inspired,” and even, would you believe it, “Retired and Retreaded.” Yet somehow, all those “Retired and…” names seemed flat and stale, so I considered other options.

Somehow, “Wrinkle Twinkle,” which I derived from the quote “Put a twinkle in your wrinkle,” seemed to have a punch and edge to it, and I gave it a deeper contemplation than I did the others.  But, eventually, I decided to cross it off my list because I didn’t want to give my readers the impression that my blog would all be about makeovers and tips on how to prevent aging and make wrinkles disappear.

Other names that came to my mind were “Old but Bold” (oh, they might expect me to write about my feats of derring-do, which I am not in a position to do); “Enjoying the Sunset” (the word “sunset”, though, seems like I am so close to the end); “Doing What I Want When I Want” (to denote the freedom of retirement…but wouldn’t it label me as a frivolous old woman?); “Fresh Passion, New Dreams” (to show that life does not end when retirement begins).

All told, I finally settled on “Over Sixty.” Why? Because it denotes the senior retirement years, which I am now living. But, unlike many “elder blogs,” mine will not be exclusively  about retirement, getting old, dealing with age-related illnesses and all that senior stuff.  I will also be letting you in on memories from younger days and what it was like in my heyday,  and many other issues close to the heart of a retired baby boomer who believes that, at whatever age, life is for laughing, living,  and loving.

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