With Due Respect

On reaching 80

As my New Year message, may I continue sharing (from last Sunday) an edited portion of my closing remarks during the staging of “Ageless Passion.”

General MacArthur. Many are wondering how, at 80, I could still serve as a director or adviser in more than a dozen huge corporations and in more than half a dozen foundations, with almost 100-percent participation in all meetings and activities; how I could travel abroad six times a year; and wallop tennis and golf balls four times a week, work out in the gym thrice a week, and swing, boogie and tango occasionally.


On a purely human level, I find the answer in the famous words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur:

“Youth is not entirely a time of life; it is a state of mind. It is not wholly a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips or supple knees. It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the springs of life.


“Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles  the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair—these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fears, as young as your hope, as old as your despair. In the central place of your heart, there is a recording chamber; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer and courage, so long are you young. When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snow of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then—and then only—are you grown old.”

Simpler journey. My life is much humbler than this legendary general. Looking back, I find myself journeying with the simple farmer who prefaced our musicale. I identify with the good luck and the bad luck, the good news and the bad news that buffeted him. Like him, I have always trusted in the majesty and generosity of our God because in the totality of my journey, He always intervened and made His presence known.

When I was new in the Supreme Court in 1995, I composed this prayer:

“The Lord is my Shepherd. There is nothing I shall want. He has given me more than I deserve—a happy home, a healthy body, a loving wife, accomplished children over whom I no longer worry, a stable career, a chance to serve our people, an opportunity to be remembered longer than my own life. Other than fulfilling my role in the Court, I have no more earth-bound ambition. I live my life with only one consuming passion: on that inevitable day when I will finally knock at the pearly gates, my Lord and Master will open the door, spread his arms and say: ‘Well done on your earthly sojourn. You have passed the test. Welcome home to my everlasting Kingdom!’”

Pains and gains. As I reminisce poignantly my trials and triumphs, defeats and victories, frustrations and exaltations, I always find my faithful God.

Indeed, I miraculously recovered from premature death as a six-year-old during World War II to face you tonight as a recycled octogenarian; I journeyed as a poor newsboy in the backstreets of Sampaloc, Manila, to the presidency of the most widely read broadsheet in our country; as an ignorant Catholic to membership in the highest lay council of the Catholic Church in the Vatican; as a frustrated applicant for graduate studies to father of five wonderful children who each achieved my impossible dream of finishing in a pedigreed US university; as a lowly bootblack to being welcomed in the board rooms of the largest blue chips in our country; as an aspiring chemical engineer to a reluctant lawyer and, finally, to the highest magistracy of our country.


As I contemplate my life and move toward its sunset, I know that God has woven my many pains and gains into a magnificent tapestry showing His mystical presence. Truly, there is one constancy in my unworthy life: the presence, care and providence of my one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To Him, I dedicate all that I have been, all that I am, and all that I will ever be. To God be the glory!

(Visit for the full speech.)

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TAGS: life, New Year, Old Age, youth
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