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Eighty-three

Last Friday, I turned 83. That’s a pretty rare event. According to world demographics, only 1.9 percent of people live into their 80s. And most of those would be women. We, men, seem to be too frail for the rigors of life, so we die earlier. So, I guess I’m a lucky one in a hundred.

It’s strange I don’t feel particularly old. Although I must admit, my body says “hey, slow down. We, muscles, can’t keep up with you anymore.” But the body is only the vehicle to keep what is “us” alive. Our brain is “us,” is the person. It’s the brain that defines us, determines who we are. It’s the brain we must keep active, young, and alive.

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So, I write this column every week to challenge my brain, to keep it active and alert. I remain active in the business community for the same reason. Brain cells, like muscles, wither and die when you don’t use them. Boredom kills.

I accept that death is coming, and I’ve no fear of that. My one wish is that it be quick and pain-free. And as Stephen Hawking said, not yet, later is better. There’s still much to do in life.

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I moved to the Philippines in 1975 to build a factory in Sucat. I fell in love, with the country, then with a wonderful lass from Baguio. I call her a Baganese, but that doesn’t go down too well. We have a couple of well-educated, successful kids, one here, one in Australia, and a house on a lake (Caliraya) away from the horrors of a frenetic city with its world (in)famous Edsa. Life has been kind to us.

I’ve little time for the past. I don’t sit and reminisce on what’s been before. Or, worse, huddle around the coffee table with equally old mates chattering about how much greater it all was then. I’ve no time for that.

Although I do miss what I think was a gentler, more civilized world, where you posted a letter and waited days or weeks for a reply. Not mired in instantaneous social media, telling the world how well you brushed your teeth this morning. It’s a medium I don’t wish to participate in — and haven’t.

I put up with texting because it is convenient. But Facebook is like McDonald’s, I’ve never been in either. My columns are written with a fountain pen on paper. Rose types them (when I was growing up, boys didn’t type; it was “sissy,” only girls typed. So, I’m a one-fingered pecker on that screen) and sends them to this newspaper.

When I look back on life, I think I should have been a bit more focused on making money. But frankly, it never interested me. I was always far more interested in ideas and creating things, in coming up with ideas to make this a better world. Or, at least, this Philippine corner of it. The challenge of developing ideas, then convincing people of them, has been something I thoroughly enjoyed. Somehow, enough money came in while doing it, so we could live comfortably.

I’ve been an Asia-Pacific regional manager for an industrial multinational, traveling the region extensively and learning about other cultures and business practices. I’ve been country CEO for two others, employing thousands of Filipinos. I’ve started and run my own business for the past 39 years. I’ve sailed oceans and raced motor cars. As a family, we’ve traveled and learned much about the world. A world we’d like to see more of if COVID will let us. As an engineer, my passion has always been to build things, fix things, create things. I have a very well-equipped workshop to do that. And I like to think logically. To face a problem and think through how to best resolve it in the simplest way. It’s been an active life, now slowly winding down.

Before I die, I’d like to see a true revolution in the Philippines. Recognition that the way we’ve done things just doesn’t work in this modern, aggressive world. Read “Bottom” (09/16/2021) from my previous column, that says it all. It saddens me greatly that we are behind in almost everything, it’s time to honestly ask, why? Then, change so we can move to the top, at least in Asia. That change I believe must center around these: Philippine culture and style of governance, because what else can it be. In everything else, we’re similarly endowed to others. Land, soil, location, even history. The thing that distinguishes us from others is those two. I’d throw in corruption; quite simply corrupt countries don’t develop.

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We need a culture that insists on excellence. Where “bahala na” just won’t do. We need leadership that cares for the well-being of the people, not the well-being of themselves and friends. And we need a society that is honest.

This is the challenge for Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to create this. If I were him, I’d put together a group of intellectuals to attack these three societal problems, and how best to fix them. A group that will be forthright and uncompromising in its analysis. An analysis he will then follow.

I’d like to die in a country destined for greatness.

Email: [email protected]

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