A zest for life at 98
The Philippines has had many heroes who have been icons of democracy and freedom. We are a small country with many notable figures and there are two outstanding persons that should be acknowledged for their numerous contributions in our past and at present.
I have known Helena Z. Benitez for as long as I can remember. She was not only my mother’s best friend as their parents had been best friends at the end of the 19th century. She was my baptismal godmother and role model for what a Filipina can and should be. An accomplished and elegant lady who is best known as an educator, senator (1968-73), assemblywoman (1978-86), United Nations delegate, Bayanihan founder, civic leader, environmentalist, patriot, she’s still energetic and sharp of mind at 98 years old.
Helena Benitez gives meaning to being useful in one’s golden years with her continued zest for life, humorous insights and plain common sense, deriving great pleasure interacting with friends, family, colleagues and alumni. She goes to great lengths to be with people who in turn return the love she emits.
When asked how she felt about turning 98 years old and her attitude in life, she replied: “When I marked my 93rd birthday, I had thought that my life would henceforth move at a slower pace. But it was not to be. And frankly I am happy and grateful to the Lord that He still enables me to be active and hopefully useful. The years only get better and better for me. There has been a reduction in the number, though not the meaningfulness of the activities I have had to participate in. I can no longer be as active as I used to be. People now are kinder, gentler and more considerate of my time and attention. The poet Robert Browning invited: ‘Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.’ I am now 97 and as I continue to mark the days to my 98th and the remaining years, hopefully to my 100th, Browning’s poetry resonates more and more in my life. “
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Our national hero Jose Rizal was alive and well on his 151st birthday, or at least his spirit was. That was the message conveyed by MyRizal, the movement started by Saturnina Rizal’s descendant Lisa Tinio Bayot and Maximo Viola’s niece Maite P. Gallego in a birthday party held at the Rizal shrine in Fort Santiago. With the support of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the Intramuros Administration, MyRizal entertained descendants, artists, writers, curators and museum directors, intellectuals, members of the academe and those who contributed to making Rizal’s sesquicentennial meaningful and significant.
PreMYo Rizal 2012 was launched with a nationwide essay writing contest in partnership with the DepEd based on Rock Ed’s Kaninong Anino MTV directed and animated by the extremely talented Arnold Arre with music by Francis de Veyra of the Radioactive Sago Project. Gang Badoy Capati spoke about the creation and meaning of the song, distinguished writer and Rizal expert Isagani Cruz toasted Jose Rizal in 22 languages, top performing artist Stephanie Reese sang Bayan Ko and last year’s PreMYo Rizal winning essays for Grade School and high school were interpreted through a dance movement by Stephen Viñas and Al Garcia with a performance by poet and author of Rizalpabeto, Vim Nadera. Bryan Viray directed the program. The Rizal shrine was made even more beautiful by Jojie Lloren’s fashion with an art installation by Leo Abaya and a photograph exhibit by Paco Guerrero.
Rizal’s birthday party and PreMYo Rizal 2012 are MyRizal’s way of reaching out to the Filipino youth and encouraging everyone to “celebrate the Rizal in each of us.” For more information, log on to www.myrizal150.com
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