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On being sixty

  • Written by Atty. Jay De Castro
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 362

Magkaisa para sa bayan

YESTERDAY, November 19, I turned 60 years old. And so I am now a senior citizen and I’m glad about it. Not so much for the benefits that a senior citizen gets, like, twenty (20) percent discount in restaurants, medicines, express lane privileges, etc., but because I reached this age.

I have many classmates, friends and fraternity brothers who did not live up to 60, some left early and a few even  earlier.

As I write this piece, I realize that being sixty is not about being old. Rather, it is about being responsible -- to yourself, your family, community and country.

It’s at this age that one asks himself, “Have I lived a full or complete life?”

For me, having a full or complete life should not be equated with the years we live, whether 60 or beyond, or 40, in relation to the saying, “life begins at forty” or much younger, say 30s, the age of heroism in many great men in history.
Neither should it be measured according to our worth, as understood in our materialistic society, the number of countries we traveled, or how much we could bequeath to our family. 
For having a full life or complete life has nothing to do with longevity nor with being wealthy.
It is said that, “a man has lived a complete life if he has a family, planted trees and has written a book.”
This thought came from Jose Martí, a Cuban revolutionary and poet, who stated that, “Every man should plant a tree, have a child, and write a book. For these all live on after us, insuring a measure of immortality.”
In this regard, the author Nelson Henderson said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
If this would be the measure of the fullness or completeness of life, then I should be happy, for I have accomplished the three.
I’ve planted thousands of trees, starting in 1979, when, as Secretary General of the Tau Gamma Phi fraternity, we planted thousands of seedlings in Montalban, Rizal, through a reforestation project called “Punlaan sa Montalban.”
Thereafter, and through the years, the various organizations that I headed conducted several tree-planting projects in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
Anent offspring, I have children who are all humble, give respect to their elders and are kind to the poor and needy.
And I’ve written two books, “Magkaisa Para sa Bayan” and “At Tumestigo ang Asintado.”
The first is about the need to unite for country, which could only be done if we, the citizens, reform our ourselves, for our family, fellow men and country and the second about the impeachment of former President Joseph Estrada.
Here are excerpts from my book, MPB:
On planting a tree: “Ang taong hindi nakapagtanim ng puno kahit minsan, ay walang lilim na iiwan sa kabataan at bayan.”
On having a child: “Hindi tamang parusa­han ng mga magulang ang kanilang mga anak. Ang mga problema sa pamilya ay dapat pag-usapan, maging mga katanungan tungkol sa kasarian ng mga miyembro nito. Ang mag-anak na nag-uusap ay nagka­kaunawaan at nagka­katulungan sa mga suliranin ng isa’t isa.”
On writing a book: “Kanya-kanya ng kaalaman ang tao. Ang talino at kakayahan ng tao ay hindi sa lahat ng bagay. Samakatuwid, pakialaman lang natin ’yung mga bagay na mayroon tayong kaalaman. Huwag nating panghimasukan ang hindi natin nalalaman. Lalong gugulo ang ating bayan, kung lahat ay magsasabing sila ang makalulutas sa mga partikular na problema ng bayan.”
But more than planting a tree, having a child and writing a book, what I consider significant is the fact that, with all humility, I was able to unite, during my college years, the warring fraternities in UST into an organization called FROUST (Fraternal Organization of the University of Santo Tomas), which established peace and camaraderie among them and became the model of fraternity solidarity  and emulated by other fraternities in Metro Manila.
Another thing is my establishment of the organization Magkaisa Para sa Bayan, which now has thousands of members all over the country and the formation of NAKABAKA (Nagkakaisang Kapatiran para sa Bayan at Kabataan), the first union of national fraternities in the country, which has been conducting various projects for the poor residents of  Metro Manila. 
At 60, having done all the above, have I achieved a full and complete life? No. So, I need more years to live.
Please pray that, through the grace of God, I could reform our people and unite them, for the good of our children, youth,  humanity  and country.