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90, the new 60

By Jullie Y. Daza

AT age 92, the newly elected prime minister of Malaysia, Mohamad Mahathir, is showing the world that 90 is the new 70 (might 60 be a more fitting analogy?). In the Philippines, former President Fidel V. Ramos, who turned 90 last March, is still doing contortionist acts by boarding his vehicle through the window, not the door. Tony Pastor continues to sing and play the piano like a professional performer any chance he gets – he sings in church, too – as if in preparation for his 90th birthday coming up in November.

The oldest of them all, Juan Ponce Enrile, is 94 and looking 30 years younger. His secret? Jetskiing in the waters of Gonzaga, 160 miles from Tuguegarao and 15 hours by car from Manila. What President Duterte was not allowed to do two days ago – the waves cresting and curling around Philippine Rise were too rough – JPE has been doing all along as part of his self-imposed vacation time on weekends.

Retired from politics but with a mind still as sharp as a razor and his memory as clear as the words in an encyclopedia, the former Senate president, Martial Law architect, and trial lawyer prefers a diet of seafood freshly caught, abalone and stonefish being his favorites. He loves sashimi, he eats stonefish with relish even if it can be poisonous when incorrectly gutted. At a Japanese hotel in Metro Manila, the price of stonefish on one platter is said to be R15,000, “but where I go, it’s free, we just catch it straight from the water.” (Stonefish is the name of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s youngest child.)

Speaking of the Dutertes, JPE credited the President for having “elevated the stature of the country,” and he wasn’t merely referring to Time’s choice of Digong as one of the world’s four strongmen or Forbes’ placing him at 69th “most powerful.”

For JPE, retiring from a public life that spans several decades is a balm to his soul. These days, “I just read the most important books and reflect in solitude” on what’s going on in the world. It’s a chaotic picture he sees, one with too many tense and hot, hot spots. But “America won’t go to war over missiles and America won’t go to war over us.”