Is 30 years old considered old? I remember back in 1995 when the World Youth Day was held in Manila, the event was supposed to be for the Catholic youth which included the kids up to those who are 30 years old. I remember reading that in disbelief because I thought that any 25 year-old would’ve been labeled an adult, much more a 30 year-old.

Now that I’m actually 30, I do consider myself to be relatively young. I’d actually still feel young if not for some health concerns I didn’t have to worry about back when I was still 20. I now have a higher blood pressure, I’ve had some cysts removed, and I had a kidney stone episode. These things reminded me that I’m not getting any younger.

Other things that remind me of my growing older come from external sources, too. Friends and family get married and have children. Their children who were mere babies a few years ago are now starting primary school. My younger cousins who were still in elementary school when I left are in college now. I have friends who have passed away, too, due to health-related issues.

I remember my uncle who refuses to have his hand placed on our forehead when I was growing up. This placing of hand on the forehead or kissing it is a show of respect to one’s elders in the Philippines called mano. He said that it makes him feel old. I used to think to myself upon his refusal for a mano, “well, you are old.” But now I’m at probably the same age he was when he started to refuse our show of respect, I realise that maybe he actually didn’t feel that old himself.

Another Philippine form of respect to one’s elders is to use the word po or ho in sentences. In English, I guess the words “sir” or “madam” could be used as an approximate translation of po, but po is only used when talking to someone who is like a generation older than yourself.

I use po whenever I’m talking to my parents, my grandparents, my teachers, and people who I feel could be my uncle or aunt. Nowadays though, it’s starting to become harder to determine which people to say po to. Some Pinoys I meet look like they could be my aunts’ age when I was growing up so I’m more inclined to say po to them. But when I think about it, these people could actually be just about ten years older than me and I just didn’t realise it.

When I went to my friend’s pre-wedding party a few weeks back, I remember using po to the older women that reminded me of my Mom’s sisters. But should I have done it, really?

I used to think that older people prefer they be addressed with po when you talk to them as a sign of respect. But maybe not all of them wish it. After all, when people start using po when they talk to you, it could only mean that these people think you are actually old. Specially those older people in denial.

Speaking of which, Raquel and I went to buy some groceries at Coles last weekend. While at the checkout counter, the Asian girl busily scanned our groceries. She paused after a while and asked me in English, “er, are you Filipino?”

“Yes,” I replied in an unsure tone.

“Can you speak Tagalog?” she probed again.

This time I replied in Tagalog in the affirmative “oo”. It would’ve been silly to continue speaking to her in English when we can both speak in Tagalog anyway. Not to mention more difficult, anyway.

She mentioned that she’s only been in Australia for a year and that she came with her parents. From the looks of her, she seemed to be around 16 or 17 years old. I asked her if she was adjusting easily to Australian life (and accent). She said that it isn’t really a problem. Ah, youth. It must be easier to adapt to the slang and accent if one is younger.

Anyway, my conversation with her got me a little disconcerted. Unnerved even. She used po when she was talking to me! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t stop her from using po though thinking that maybe I do look old. Maybe I look like the same age as her parents. And maybe that’s true, too, specially if her parents are around 36 years old.

In my mind I always think I’m still young but the reality of it is that I am getting old. Or at least older. I keep thinking that my college days happened like it was only a couple of years ago when in reality, over a decade has passed since then. If I was the cashier girl and I was talking to my older self, I’d probably use po, too.

It was a shocking revelation that has pre-occupied my mind for the rest of the weekend. If I’m upset now, I just wonder how upset I’ll be when I have my midlife crisis in another decade or so. I’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Published in: on May 2, 2006 at 12:01 pm  Comments (4)