My father, Antonio Alcantara Reyes, died a year ago in Los Angeles, California. He was over 100 years old, and he lived and died a happy man.
In the eulogy I gave during his funeral rites, I recalled how he lived and what could have been the secret of his long and happy life.
My father was a chain smoker until he was around 85 years old, but he never consulted a doctor, or was treated for any lung disease or any other ailments associated with smoking.
Being a typical Batangueño, his favorite dish was the cholesterol-laden bulalo or beef stew, but he never had any heart problem, and as far as I can remember, he maintained normal blood pressure even in his old age.
He never had any regular sport or routine exercise. Perhaps his only major physical activity, particularly in his senior years, was doing errands for my mother such as going to the grocery.
What could have been the not-so-secret reason of his long life was the fact that he lived a stress-free or tension-free life. He was what the millennials will now term as “cool.”
As a child, I don’t remember him easily losing his temper, shouting, or even getting fussy or upset about little problems or inconveniences.
My father did not have that work-to-death attitude, but he was a very good provider. He was able to build a relatively big house, sent all his children to exclusive schools, and lived quite comfortably. He was the Forrest Gump of his time.
His most sterling quality, which perhaps also contributed to his long life, was his innate, natural, and almost noncatechetical faith in God. When problems came, as when he did not have enough money for our dormitories or tuition, he would just say, “May kaloob ang Diyos (God will provide)”; and providentially enough, his needs were met. When things happened not the way he wished or expected, he would say “Kaloob ng Diyos (It’s the will of God)”—an expression not of resignation but of faith and hope.
Just like his brothers, he loved music and used to play the Spanish guitar and bandurria (bandore), musical instruments that I keep up to now.
Just as he lived, he had a stress-free death. He literally just fell into deep sleep after having been visited by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren the night before he died.
But most importantly, he found his right match in my mother, Rosario Barrion Tenorio, whom he loved so dearly that he literally served as her caregiver several years before she died. Their ideal relationship was even recognized by the Province of Batangas in the early 1970s when our family was awarded as one of the outstanding families there.
He used to talk of how he struggled to win the approval of the family of my mother, considering his social and economic standing at that time compared to the family of my mother. But in the end, love won. That nonacceptance by the family of my mother apparently even spared the couple from joining my mother’s clan, which went into hiding in a ravine toward the end of World War II. Most of the members of the clan were massacred.
As he reiterated many times, their relationship seemed to prove the old saying, “Happy wife, Happy life.” That could have been also the not-so-secret and tested formula for my father’s long and happy life.
* * *
Victor T. Reyes ([email protected]), 68, is a former practicing lawyer, professor of law, and legal consultant in some government agencies.