It just happened. Right after work and straight to the gym, like a thief in the night, somebody asked me from behind “Kumusta ka na Tita? Tagal nating di nagkita.”
In my head, I wanted to scream and lash at her “Kamag-anak ba kita?!! Bakit Tita ang tawag mo sakin?!!” But her sincerity in asking how I am was mirrored in her face so I answered with a smile, “Dami kasing byahe sa office kaya ngayon lang ako nakabalik.”
So just like that, I was not an Ate anymore, I metamorphosed as a Tita. It was the same with my friends. One recounted the day she was baptized as a Tita at the gym when she wore a neon orange top and white socks. All her clothes were branded but it was truly an 80s icon look made popular by Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.
Don’t we have some signs that confirm our entry to Tita-ness or Tito-hood?
Welcome to middle class Tita-ness and Tito-hood
Looking at my groups of friends today, almost all grew up in middle class families whose parents were also employed professionals. I also had a good number of friends whose fathers went abroad as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in the mid-80s when the country’s economy slid to a slump. We did not experience hunger at any point in our younger years neither did we have the chance to eat at a hotel.
Today, we are now the middle class Titos and Titas of Manila. Still leading a simple life but with a little more to spare for some luxuries such as out-of-town trips with the family.
To answer the question on how we entered this new age chapter in life, my close friends since high school and college helped me. We surmised that one is a confirmed middle class Tito or Tita if you:
• prefer to stay indoors than go out at night for fun and that includes get-togethers
• think that the grocery, home world, and hardware sections are like candy stores for kids
• start and end your day with coffee
• talk about symptoms of illnesses since some, not all, of your friends are now on maintenance medicines for diabetes and hypertension
• like to reminisce about your high school or college days to teens who do not care about stories of the past that usually start with “’nung panahon namin…” or “dati nung…”
In demographic cohort, the middle class Titos and Titas of Manila that I am a part of are members of Gen X or those born from 1965 to 1979 (sometimes listed as 1965 to 1980). As Gen X professionals, we have common characteristics aside from being part of the middle class then and now.
For one, we are comfortable with technology since the use of computers, beepers, mobile phones, emails were introduced around the same time that we joined the workforce. We are flexible and can adapt to lifestyle changes because our parents went through tough economic times.
In my case, my father had to work abroad when the publication house he worked for was shut down after the 1986 People Power revolution. Having witnessed this mishap, Gen X’ers aka middle class Titos and Titas of Manila like me value freedom and responsibility in the workplace.
Almost all of us now are two-income families to ease worry that we might experience the same mishap in the past. Unlike our parents who helped financially almost every relative in need that resulted in lack of retirement savings, we are more prudent with our money to save more. However, we all prioritize the medical needs of our parents.
Lastly, we value work/life balance so regular trips with family and friends are a must to de-stress us. The motto “Work had, play hard” was perhaps coined during our time. It is during these precious travels that we make memories, talk about our plans, and laugh about our past.
Blast from the past
With less energy but a little more money to spare, meet-ups and get-togethers for middle class Titos and Titas are a regular thing. Most of the time, these are potlucks and held at one of our friend’s home.
Ride along. Before middle class Titos and Titas of Manilas rode AUVs, we were happy with owner type jeepneys which were cheap, convenient, and spacious that more than a dozen passengers can squeeze in so it was perfect for big families. For my friends whose parents worked in multinationals or conglomerates, they drove around in a box-type Mitsubishi Lancer.
All night long. Being part of the middle class before becoming professionals, the Titos and Titas of Manila today have painted the town red, albeit only during special occasions. Some of the most popular hang-outs to go disco dancing were Faces, Jealousy, Equinox, Heartbeat, and Ozone Disco which was among the worst nightclub fires in the world.
Music. Some of the bands and singers that ruled the world of middle class Titos and Titas during their younger years are still very much alive like U2 and Madonna. But Fra Lippo Lippi, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Cyndi Lauper have ceased to be active in the music industry.
Reliving happy memories is a way to escape the stress. Middle class Titos and Titas who are usually senior managers or executives of multinationals and conglomerates are working double-time these days to save for retirement when they graduate to being called a Mommy or Daddy.