Viva la Libertad!

“Long live freedom!” I thought of shouting this out when I heard the good news. 

Finally, after 15 long months, the decision-makers at the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) have come to their senses by granting us, fully vaccinated seniors, the freedom to get on with our lives, as we want it, well, almost, as there are still some restrictions. Nevertheless, they couldn’t have done it at a more auspicious time – the day before our country’s Independence Day!

At first, I was livid when they initially declared that even when fully vaccinated, we would still be restricted to our residence, while those in the 18-65 age group who we see on TV, partying like there was no pandemic and without any form of face cover, would be free to go wherever they please. I thought, “What’s the use of the vaccine and all that drama in assigning us to the A2 priority group?” Good thing they realized that it would have been a big mistake.  

FREE AT LAST. Senior Filipinos can finally experience once again the joys of being part of the outside world as the Inter-Agency Task Force now allows those over 65 years old to go outside of their homes, provided they are fully vaccinated. 
I know that IATF’s restrictions on seniors’ activities have good intentions, and I appreciate that. But, as much as it safeguards our continued existence, it also prevents us from having a life!

I accept that we are more vulnerable to this virus than the younger age groups, but we are not weak and helpless. And I resent being lumped together with those below 18 years old, a lot of whom are seen to be careless in their preventive measures against the virus. The IATF should have realized early on that, compared to these teenagers, we, seniors, have had more than 65 years of experience in discerning how best to protect ourselves from any form of danger.

Moreover, IATF also disregarded the fact that we have been looking forward to enjoying our twilight years. We worked so hard for so many decades, so that we could eventually reward ourselves with little luxuries and life’s guilty pleasures in our sunset years. But their misguided policy kept us on suspended animation!

At the onset of the pandemic, we followed all of IATF’s guidelines to the letter because, as mature and experienced individuals, we realized that the medical sector was still figuring out how to handle COVID-19. But, as months progressed, more information on the virus came to fore, and doctors declared that as long as a person avoids crowded places and protects himself very well with the standard health and hygiene equipment, chances of infection will be minimal.  

Fully vaccinated seniors can spend time with their families and friends outdoors after 15 months of being cooped up at home.
Yet, even if we protected ourselves with properly worn face mask, face shield, hand gloves, and unlimited supply of hand sanitizers, we, in the above-65 category, continued to be on “house arrest”.  But those between 18 and 65 years old could freely roam around town, clearly exposing themselves to or becoming spreaders of the virus because their face shield covered only their hair, and their face mask, only their chin. 

Having been cooped up at home for more than a year and bothered by IATF’s unfair treatment of my generation, I had to find a way to reconnect with the outside world, to keep my sanity intact. Thank goodness for a friend who assigned me to write about a certain tourism establishment and issued me a corresponding APOR (Authorized Person Outside Residence) so I could leave the house without any hassle with the authorities. After completing my task and, feeling like an escaped prisoner, I excitedly drove to a fine dining restaurant in a 5-star hotel and, served by a solicitous maître d’, enjoyed to the max my favorite juicy steak and wine. It was a delightful experience I have craved for so long.  

"I accept that we are more vulnerable to this virus than the younger age groups, but we are not weak and helpless."

But some of my senior friends were not as lucky. 

One was given a birthday treat by her family who brought her to a fancy restaurant on the other side of town. The food was pre-ordered but, upon their arrival, the restaurant’s guard refused her entry for being a senior. No form of bribe nor cajoling could make the guard “bend” the rule. Since the food was ready and they were too far from home, the family decided to let my septuagenarian friend, the poor birthday celebrant, partake of the food alone inside the family car in the parking lot, while the rest of them continued the celebration, dining in the restaurant. My friend was all tears after the incident.

Another elderly friend celebrated the high school graduation of her only grandson by bringing him to shop at an upscale mall because, she told me, her months of continued confinement at home made her miss the simple joys of being a part of the outside world. Of course, the guard did not allow her inside, which saddened her so much. She said her world crumbled because she imagined herself as a prisoner who was sentenced to reclusión perpetua for being a senior!

A recent article by Gil Yuzon of the Inquirer said, “seniors have the psychological need for personal and social interaction, and that isolation can lead to depression, weight loss, cognitive decline and other medical complications.” I definitely could relate to this because I have experienced all four physical conditions.

In fact, there have been many days the past year that I felt despondent, having been restricted for what seemed like an eternity to the confines of my home. This prolonged isolation from the outside world, mixed with the feeling of helplessness, often drove me to wonder if I should start writing my goodbyes through my version of Mi Ultimo Adios.

Speaking of “adios”, I had another senior friend who followed all IATF guidelines to the letter and, even if already allowed, refused to hear Mass at his neighborhood church for fear of the virus. He preferred to just wait for the pandemic to be contained so that he could enjoy life to the fullest once again. He had a stroke the other day and died.

Pope Francis has declared July 25 as the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to coincide with the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. He said this is His gift to us, seniors, to further emphasize the pastoral care of the elderly as a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community.   

The IATF decision-makers must have followed the Pope’s lead, or maybe their equally suffering parents chided them for robbing us, seniors, of our lives! Or, probably, they realized that even with the pandemic gripping the entire globe, no other country in the world has prevented seniors from going out because of our significant contribution to the economy. In fact, now that we have a life, I’m sure our country’s businesses will be on the rebound faster through unprecedented sales!

Thankfully, we’re free again and, regardless of what made IATF liberate us from bondage, I’m appreciative. Using the exact words of my late mother, every time she would express her extreme gratitude to someone who did her good, let me convey to IATF, “Desde lo mas profundo de mi corazon, gracias!” (From the deepest recesses of my heart, thank you!).


What’s the opposite of Irony? Wrinkly.

For feedback, I’m at [email protected]

Topics: Inter-Agency Task Force , Senior Citizen , COVID-19
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