“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”

There’s a yearning among senior citizens like me for those bygone eras when everything was cheap. It was in 1967 when I first got myself a secondhand Chevrolet I bought from an American serviceman for P4,000. According to my well-meaning friends, it was highly priced; it should have cost only P3,000. But I was happy with it. It was a good secondhand car. It wasn’t a guzzler because a full tank could take me to Baguio with still a few liters left after getting back to Angeles. Price of gasoline then was 18 centavos per liter. Diesel fuel was much less.

Earlier than that, and it was in the fifties, an orchestra ticket in any theaters in Angeles was 25 centavos. I remember Devry, Marte and Eden movie houses were all in the downtown area. A plateful of pancit luglug inside the San Nicolas public market cost 10 centavos. When I was still in primary school, I was given five centavos as my baon on school days. Ten centavos was for the kids of well-off families. If 10 centavos was given to me, I could consider luxurious spending like having a special halo-halo and a mamon to go along with it. And that five centavos was fair enough. I could already have one boiled sweet potato and a hopiang mungo and a clean drink from the water pump in the school garden.

The daily wage was P4 for ordinary workers. And with that P4, basic needs of a family of five or sometimes seven or eight could be met. Only rich families owned televisions. And only they could afford cars and motorbikes. Only they could travel abroad. And traveling abroad in those years was a big deal. Ordinary folks went to Pintakasi on Sundays and the kids would be happy going to a movie even only once a month. Others only once in a blue moon.

The Angeles-Manila round-trip ticket was 85 centavos. There was no air-conditioning in buses then. Two of the popular bus lines were La Mallorca Pambusco of the Enriquez family of Macabebe and San Fernando. Its main competitor on the road was the Philippine Rabbit Bus Lines of the Paras and Buan families of Tarlac. Fare was a lot cheaper when taking the government-owned Philippine National Railway train that ran from Damortis, La Union to Tutuban in Divisoria in Manila. It made stops in Angeles, San Fernando and Malolos in Bulacan.

I paid P105 as matriculation fee for one whole semester when I entered first year at College of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Sto. Tomas. That was in the sixties and Diosdado Macapagal was President. Our country had the second biggest economy in Asia. At P40 a month, there was already boarding and lodging in a well-appointed apartment around the so-called university belt in Manila. Me and five other friends stayed in what they called a bedspace room priced at P50 per month. And the six of us shared less than P10 for the rent.

Now this is the challenge of the BBM administration. How can they halt the spiraling prices and match these with present-day wages? President Bongbong Marcos will have bothersome items in his menu. There is also the West Philippine Sea issue. There is still the drug problem. There is also the almost P13 trillion debt and more. We can only wish him the best of luck for the sake of our country.