Thursday, October 12, 2017

ON ARRIVING home from a tour of duty as overseas seaman, my younger brother Randy greeted me jokingly, “Glad you’re still alive, brother!”

It was not just because of my age – a seven-year senior at 67 – that he said that. I took it as a compliment, since I had been diagnosed as a victim of emphysema. I told him that my latest x-ray showed that the disease was gone.  So we drank some beer to celebrate.

He asked, “What medicine cured you, Manong?”

I could have attributed it to “faith in God,” but that is already a “given.”  So I mentioned a secondary reason – eating more fresh fruits and vegetables while minimizing fatty meat. I had read the book Stop Inflammation Now by Dr. Richard Fleming, saying that inflammatory diseases could be reversed by going vegetarian or semi-vegetarian.

It must be a blessing in disguise that I can’t afford to stay sick. Otherwise, I might have relied on money for consequential hospitalization.

The vitamin advertisement “Bawal magkasakit” strikes at the core of the bitter reality that the average senior citizen eventually turns poor in this country – no thanks to expensive medicine and hospitalization. My late parents, both educators, had exhausted their retirement money that way. My father died of cancer; my mom, of accident.

On second thought, why die now when I enjoy privileges available to senior citizens only? I get 20 percent discount on food, medicine, entertainment and transportation; as well as VAT-exemption.

May I brag that at “sexty-seven,” I’m not over the hill yet?

What about the human brain? Does it deteriorate with age?

Obviously, yes. Many times, when I write, I struggle to remember forgotten words.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle stood pat on his belief that “learning is an activity in which we can engage as fully in old age as when we are young.” Unfortunately, he met his unexpected end at 63 due to stomach ache.

Socrates could have lived longer had he not been poisoned at age 70.

Plato never stopped learning and imparting philosophy till he passed away at age 80.

Old age, however, makes us senior citizens ask: Is this all there is to life?

In his book Think a Second Time, Jewish author Dennis Prager took to task a rabbi for preaching, “Judaism does not believe in life after death. Rather, we live in the good works we do and in the memories of those we leave behind.”

Prager argued, “If there is nothing after this life, then the Nazis and the children they threw into furnaces have identical fates. If I believed such a thing, I would either become an atheist or hate the God who had created such a cruel and absurd universe.”

In the words of the Dalai Lama, “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”

As for me, I believe in God as my constant guide. I may not have gained financial wealth, but I relish my wealth of experience in the field of journalism. I held a fun-filled job as an entertainment reporter in Manila newspapers and magazines for a decade; and that meant rubbing elbows with glamorous movie and TV personalities in the 1970s.

That made it easy for me to have the biggest movie producer at that time, the late Dr. Jose Perez of Sampaguita Pictures, as one of my wedding sponsors.

In April 1981, I moved away from that lifestyle to help my friends – spouses Danny Fajardo and Maria Santillan-Fajardo – put up a newspaper here in Iloilo City.  It is this 36-year-old newspaper in your hands, Panay News. ( /PN)


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