MY PARENTS told me I was born in 1933 -- on Palm Sunday, amid the ringing of church bells to signal the start of the traditional morning procession. This year, my 84th birthday on April 9, 2017 also happened to be Palm Sunday. There were times, when my birthday would fall on Good Friday.
On Facebook, I came across this counsel: Those below 50 should not fear, and those above 50 should not regret. May I add: Those above 70 should be grateful and thankful. A biblical passage says that those over 70 years of age are in their bonus years. This was emphasized by Saint John Paul II when he was still the pope.
Looking back, I see some highlights of my 84 earthly years that are worth ringing bells for: (1) graduating salutatorian from high school on the first anniversary of my father’s death; (2) earning a scholarship at San Beda College; (3) marrying the “apple of my eyes” Zeny Raquid in 1954; (4) passing the bar exams of 1957, one of hardest ever; (5) sending through college our eight children, who are all professionals; (6) having been blessed with steady jobs until 83 years old, when my family said enough, and (7) having written and published a book on legislation, “How Bills Become Philippine Laws.”
Friends and colleagues asked me for the secret of longevity and I always tell them:
(1) Pray for guidance, direction and protection. As the Good Book says, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find.”
I had a mild heart attack in 1972 at the age of 39, while driving on SLEx to Makati. I went to a Mercury Drug store near Magallanes Theatre and asked if there was a doctor there. Told there was not a doctor among the early customers, I asked God, “What am I to do?” I clearly heard this in my mind: “Whatever happens, go home.” So, I drove back to Parañaque, from where my family brought me to a hospital -- just in time. God answers prayers promptly.
(2) Work honestly for what you ask. Nothing comes to you by itself. God helps those who help themselves. I was blessed with good jobs beyond retirement age.
(3) Think positively. Conceive, believe, receive and achieve, says a book. Even when one is not working full time, he or she should always think to exercise the brain. If a person stops thinking, the brain starts shrinking, and then the mind and body begin to age fast.
Once, in a meeting with the president of an association regarding a seminar on Effective Legislative Advocacy, based on the book I wrote, the first question he asked was, “How old are you, Atty. Vibal?” When I told him I was 80, he said, “You still look very fit,” and offered me the position of legal counsel. It was because I have been mentally active all the time. When the brain is active, the body is alive.
(4) Cut unhealthy habits. I used to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day. When I started having headaches while on my second pack, by sheer will power I stopped smoking altogether. I never smoked a stick since 1972. I controlled my liquor intake, too.
(5) Thank God for all His blessings. He saved my life as well as my wife’s, in the martial law years from soldiers who had thrust two Armalite rifles at my head and a .45 caliber pistol at my chest during a traffic incident in Daet, Camarines Norte. I prayed. My wife pulled down the rifles without any sign of fear, and the soldiers went back to their posts. The Bible says, “Greater love no one has than this: to lay down one’s life for another.” That night, my wife was prepared to lay down her life for me.
Those were years of living dangerously, when unarmed, innocent civilians got shot and were identified as rebels with planted subversive literature, not unlike the way “tokhang” victims end with planted (?) illegal drugs.
So, for now, I always counsel fellow retirees: Think and thank. As the Philippine Association of Retired Persons’ vice president for external affairs, I continue to think of what more benefits the elderly can get, through legislation, before they cross to the next world. The seniors deserve more support in their sunset years.
(Mafeo R. Vibal, a lawyer, worked in the House of Representatives for 10 years and served as consultant to committee chairs for 14 years. He continues to work as a legislative consultant.)