MAKAABOT kaha ta ining edara, Lan?,” asks Dr. Noel Ponce, my father’s doctor.
Today, Daddy is 100 years old. We could never thank the Lord enough for this blessing of a father, our idol, our man for all seasons.
He joins the 8,000 estimated number of centenarians in the Philippines. For a country population of 100 million, that’s just .008 per cent. Life expectancy for Filipino men is 66 years old, according to the 2010 census by the National Statistics Office.
“Ako, Doc, dili tingali. Abusado man ko sa akong lawas,” I replied. I don’t exercise, don’t watch what I eat (despite my foods and nutrition degree), sleep late and generally, have only five-six hours of sleep every day since my high school days.
I know I should have at least eight hours of sleep. I’ve tried, but I think my body rebels, saying “What, you teaching this old dog new tricks?”
So I compromise. For the past week, I’ve been trying to have an afternoon nap for one hour. I enjoy it, of course, but I wake up feeling sluggish. So each night, I end up sleeping later than usual, about 2 a.m.
My father, Vicente Bautista Echaves Jr., on the other hand, has always been the family’s model of health. I remember growing up seeing him never failing to have his regimen of exercises. One set each for every part of the body…eyes, neck, head, arms, hands, legs, arms, and everything else. To this day, he shuns rice; “so I can reserve my stomach for the viand,” he says. Of course, this is a running debate between us. With his caregivers, he holds his sway. When with me, he allows two spoonfuls, and that’s it. Somehow, I’ve learned to accept this modus vivendi.
When Daddy reached 86, I asked Dr. Ponce if he recommended some dietary restrictions. Seeing how his annual exam results have always been exemplary, Dr. Ponce said, “No, Lan, these are his bonus years. Let him eat anything.”
That’s okay by me; my Dad never eats beyond one helping. His lifetime motto for good health: “Always leave the table a little hungry. Eat only enough to tide you over to the next meal.”
So, regular check-ups with his doctors--Dr. Ponce, and doctors Bienvenido Cimafranca and Edwin Lim--the family celebrates his good results with a hearty lunch that includes his favorite chicharon bulaklak, chicken dinuguan, sweet sour fish fillet, embotido, a bottle of beer, and three scoops of ice cream. Still no rice, thank you, and I keep my peace.
If he had his way, Dad wanted to follow my mother not too long after her death 23 years ago. But his surrender to the Lord’s will is prayerful in itself.
When he’s pensive, it’s always because he wonders “if the Lord has forgotten me.” I just remind him what our good friend Monsignor Achilles Dakay said some years back--that life is a gift from the Lord, and we must continue to appreciate this gift.
“Also, Dad, that’s because the Lord knows I’m not ready to lose you yet.” He smiles and says, “Okay,” but I know he’s just being polite.
Still, I praise the Lord for His best gift to me and family ever.