Filipino Love
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By David Haldane

October 26, 2023



I was having dinner with a Filipino friend at a Manila restaurant recently when he pulled out a card. The check had just arrived, and I wondered whether he was offering to cover it.

“I’ve got a disability,” he explained, “and it’s worth a 20% discount!”

“Does it include me?” I jokingly wondered, making light of his pronouncement.

“It includes anyone I’m with,” my friend declared.

“Wow,” I said, genuinely interested now. “If you don’t mind my asking, what’s your disability?”

“Anxiety,” he said, and just like that, my world changed. “You can also get a discount for depression.”

All of which was news to me. And which plunged me into a state of deep introspection. Back home in the US, you can get a special parking permit if you live in a wheelchair, have no legs, or your arms are amputated above the elbows. Short of that, well, good luck in making it to the front entrance of your local mall.

Here in the Philippines, apparently, it’s different.

My friend said he got his disability card after spending two months in the hospital last year for treatment of pneumonia and a collapsed lung. The experience was so stressful, he said, that he lapsed into a state of almost constant anxiety. So, he saw a psychologist who certified his ragged state of mind. Then applied for a disability identification card from the office of the Philippines National Council on Disability Affairs. Its mission: to assure inclusive education, provide economic empowerment, harness technology and innovation, and oversee humanitarian concerns on behalf of disabled people.

Which is how now he rates a legally mandated 20% discount on almost anything he buys. Even though, to untrained eyes like mine, he seems no more anxious than the rest of us, including me.

“Wow!” I repeated, this time genuinely impressed, “I want to get me one of those cards!!”

There are genuine reasons, of course, why disability discounts for anxiety and depression aren’t readily available in the United States. Perhaps the most obvious is that, if they were, practically everyone in America would be on disability.

But there’s also another, even more pressing, motivation for keeping discounts out of the hands of anxious Americans: making those symptoms disappear is a booming business. “A search for ‘anxiety relief’ on Google pulls up links for supplements in the form of pills, patches, gummies, and mouth sprays,” a recent Wall Street Journal article headlined The Booming Business of American Anxiety begins. “There are vibrating devices that hang around your neck…weighted stuffed animals, bead-filled stress balls and coloring books that claim to bring calm.”

Not to mention, of course, the scads of online therapists and “anxiety coaches” available to calm your nerves for a price.

“Americans are anxious,” the newspaper concludes, “and a flurry of old-line companies, upstarts and opportunistic entrepreneurs aim to fill the demand for relief.”

All of which is fine, I suppose, if you have the money to pay for it. But I don’t. And, anyway, I live in the Philippines. Which leaves me with just one burning question: where do I sign up for my personalized anxiety discount card?

Not knowing is making me anxious.





David Hadane’s latest book, A Tooth in My Popsicle, is available on Amazon and Lazada. An award-winning journalist, author and radio broadcaster, he is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer with homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Gold Star Daily.


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