Enjoy the sunset
Retirement means different things to different people. To some, it means enjoying the free time on their hands to do the things they could not do when they were tied to a regular job, and to others, it means boredom because they have too much time and lesser work to keep them occupied.
I recently met a longtime friend who excitedly told me that he would soon be joining my group as he was to retire in a few weeks. He asked me how best to spend the free time that would soon be at his disposal. I was retired under Civil Service rules from the House of Representatives 16 years ago, and my friend asked how I had managed to be almost as active as before, keeping up with the work in the House’s Committee Affairs Department.
I told my friend that he should first of all thank God for his long life. Not everyone is given by God the gift of a long tenure on earth, so thanking Him is most appropriate.
Then I advised my friend to keep the brain at work. It is important not to change one’s daily routine abruptly; doing so will result in a hiatus or even a vacuum in one’s lifestyle. The “status quo” of the daily routine cannot be interrupted by sudden stops and immediate changes in the daily activity. One can sleep longer than before and get out of bed later than usual since one does not have to race with the bundy clock anymore. But not getting up early should not become too much of a habit that even physical movement is diminished.
I was lucky that one week after I was retired, I was rehired as a staff member of the House committee on health coterminous with the chair, so my daily routine did not change abruptly. As a staff employee, I did not punch the work clock anymore. What was important was I kept working my brain, thus preventing mental stagnation and maintaining mental alertness. After all, scientific studies have shown that if the brain is not actively used, physical deterioration sets in.
One way of keeping the brain working is recalling the highlights of one’s life and writing about it.
As a former public relations executive in the private sector, I wrote articles on the PR projects assigned to me and had these published, to the delight of our clients and the satisfaction of my bosses in the companies I worked with. Some of my articles were published in Woman’s Home Companion, Mr&Ms magazine, and Panorama.
When I reviewed my work experiences as a lawyer working in Congress, I found that I had accumulated a lot of knowledge of legislative procedures and techniques on how bills are enacted into law. As a former secretary of the House committee on health, I assisted in the enactment of landmark health legislation like the PhilHealth Law, Organ Donation and Transplant Law, Food Fortification Law, and Cornea Transplant Law.
Taking full advantage of this knowledge, I wrote a book titled “How bills become Philippine laws,” which was put out by Anvil Publishing Inc. in 2012. The book is a “how-to” guide for those interested in pushing the enactment of their advocacy. A PR outfit that sponsored a seminar on “How to be Effective as Legislative Advocates” once invited me as speaker.
Another topic for writing is family history. Your children may know your story by heart, but your grandchildren will surely want to know the ups and downs that their grandparents went through to raise the family. This can be an invaluable legacy to members of your family. It is a record to which they can refer in the future and will inspire appreciation for the elders.
Yet another piece of advice I gave my friend is to be active not only mentally but also physically. It is essential to be on the move by performing light aerobic exercises and walking and stretching; otherwise, the joints stiffen, possibly leading to atrophy. You can jog both mentally and physically to keep mentally alert and physically able.
I am now 81 but I feel “forever 21” (pardon the commercial), and I am still active in the consulting business. Also, a doctor who had read my book on legislation referred me to another doctor who needed an adviser both for legal matters concerning his association and for legislative advocacy.
The first question the second doctor shot at me concerned my age. I replied snappily: “I will be 81 by Bataan Day.” (That’s Araw ng Kagitingan, on April 9.) And he retorted: “I can’t believe it.” He introduced me to the association’s board of directors, who hired me after concluding that I am still physically able.
The last piece of advice I gave my friend was to pray every day, to thank the Lord for being alive and for His blessings and guidance on how to slide into the Eternal Sunset.
Meanwhile, I told him, enjoy the sunset.
Mafeo R. Vibal graduated from San Beda College of Law in 1957. He passed the bar exams in the same year, and worked as a public relations executive before moving to the United States. When he returned to the Philippines, he went to work at the House of Representatives. He is a member of Couples for Christ and is active as a legislative consultant. He has eight children, 17 grandchildren, and a great grandchild.
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