Filipina in America · Starting Over Again

TATTOO BIKINI AND WINE

You are never too old to become younger!

MAE WEST

My Inay came to California, last year.  I told her- America will make you feel young.

Curiosity got the best of her. I kept telling her about American women  her age (and older).  They wear skinny jeans, do yoga and still drive around.

In their 80s, they still use makeup and wear hair pieces — looking younger than their age. At 90, they are dating and getting married. They dress young and feel young.

At  CVS cosmetic section, a  woman in her late 70s was walking with a cane. I offered to help find what she was looking for. She said – lip stain and EYEBROW TATTOO! I thought she was in the wrong section!

I can almost see my spinster aunts shake their head and say – “NAGMUMURANG KAMIAS” (not age-appropriate).

When I moved to the US and I’d see birthday  cards for 90th –95th—99th  — I thought it was a joke. Until  I met people in their late 80s and even 90s -still being active.

Dying Young

My husband, Dave who read on retirement in the Philippines, was shocked that–  average life expectancy for the Filipino male is 66 versus the American male of 75.

He asked – why do you die young?  I asked myself  — why do we “live old”?

In the Philippines, at the age of 50, you start feeling old. At 60, you are treated as “lola na” (grandma). My brother  says – he feels old with lots of aches and pains .  At 52!

I started observing and obsessing. Did the Americans discover the fountain of youth? What are they doing differently?

The American Fountain of Youth

IS IT GENES? But the Bible says- “70 years is all we got, 80 years if we are strong”. That is meant for everyone — not just for a particular race. Filipinos are dying ahead of time.

IS IT STEM CELL? Our accident law firm  works with chiropractors who use stem cell for injured clients. These elderly patients who had stem cell swear by it – they feel bionic!

IS IT THE WINE? Filipinos are not big wine drinkers. We say, let’s grab coffee vs the Americans who’d say – let’s grab a drink.

IS IT THE WEATHER? Does heat make us age faster?

I am not a geriatric expert, but this is what I observed– Americans don’t retire! They don’t stop working. It’s almost synonymous to – they don’t stop living.

My mother in law at 85 still drives to work every day.  And she loves it.

I met  74-year-old insurance agent. Still  busy at work, newly wed and just got back from her honeymoon! She looks fabulous.

Work is America’s fountain of youth. If done right, work keeps us young and current. It gives us purpose.

So, if work is the fountain of youth, coming to the US in my early 50s was a God-given gift. In a land where they can’t even ask your age — there is no limit to opportunities.

Most Filipino migrating to the US, past their 50s are wondering – “What will I do in the US? I am too old.”

Past 50, I found out that I am still competitive. Some friends, also new immigrants, are doing well. One is a nurse in a big hospital in Palm Springs. Another friend, in her 60s, got a job with Chase Bank. ( I don’t know of any Philippine bank who would hire and train anybody past 50.) We’re all trailblazing.

In my previous job, I worked side by side young marketers. My boss was skeptical. How can a Filipina, new immigrant, in her 50s compete with young blondes? I told him – Watch me. Give me a month.

Lawyers convention in Las Vegas

It was not difficult. In conventions, our young marketers were interested in the blond blue-eyed attorneys. I looked for the decision-makers. They stayed out partying at night — I was in my hotel room sending emails to new clients. While they were having breakfast mimosas (on top of their hangover), I was in breakfast meetings.

Most US employers appreciate the value of mature workers. Wisdom. Stability. Critical thinking. This is the gold in the golden years.

The Gold in the Golden Years

Well known pastor, Ed Lapiz says – unless you are very young or very old and sick, we must keep working.

Why then, is retirement the big goal for most? Worst, why are we FORCED to retire at 65 in the Philippines? I remember my father lied about his age, just to keep working. Why cut the productive years?

Tragic. We are imprisoned by the limitations set by society on what our golden years should be. What we should do. How we should behave.

Our cultural views on retirement contradict an important part of God’s design. Man is designed to work. There is no word for retirement in Hebrew.

At the pace I’m going, I can’t see retirement. This frustrates my husband, who looks forward to sailing in the Bahamas or spending his days in a hammock in Coron.

Dave enjoying Coron

My “retirement” – is working where I want , at my own pace. Maybe, the Bahamas is not such a bad place. Hopefully, at the age of 80– I can reinvent myself into something again. Youth is America’s gift to me.

And so, when Inay was in California — at 75 she bought and wore her first bathing suit. And, I think for the first time– age did not seem such a bad idea. She felt young. This is America’s gift to Inay.

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