Health & life lessons from my 99-year-old father
SAVOIR FAIRE - Mayenne Carmona (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2018 - 12:00am

At 99, my father has no maintenance pills. His blood pressure is 110/70. In his mind, he is still an active golfer but the sad reality is, he is no longer able to play.

It is his 99th Christmas! My father, Manuel Yulo Carmona, just turned 99 years “young” on Dec. 14 and we celebrated it with 99 friends of all ages who have known him all these years. His golf buddies with a few exceptions were present, his business associates would not miss it for the world, his office staff ( yes, he is still chairman of his company) were present in full force and a lot of our friends who knew Dad since their childhood and early adulthood attended, too.

The celebration started with a Mass officiated by Fr. Fernando Suarez who gave a humor-filled homily which kickstarted the joyous tone of the evening’s celebration. “People ask me why I am such a happy person. The answer is because I don’t have a mother-in-law,” Fr. Suarez said.

My father is the idol of many of his friends. At 99, he still joins them at Wack Wack Golf Club for an occasional round of golf. He is chairman emeritus of the Senior Citizens Golf Association and they travel yearly to different countries to play in tournaments with their senior counterparts. He usually comes home with a trophy of being “the oldest player” in the group.

In his mind, he is still an active golfer but the sad reality is, he is no longer able to play. Three years ago, at age 96, he was practicing to play in the Golden Tee Tournament at Manila Golf Club with his lady partner Vicky Schmid. A day before the tournament, he slipped in his bathroom and broke a rib. He did not pay attention to it, thinking it was just a minor sprain. After a few hours, he started to feel pain. Reluctantly, he agreed to consult an orthopedic doctor. The X-rays showed he had one broken rib on his left side. He told the doctor, “Doc, you better fix me up well because tomorrow I have a golf tournament and I have to play!” The doctor was stunned in disbelief! He could not believe a 96-year-old man wanting to still play golf in spite of the pain. All he could muster to say was “well you can play at your own pain comfort or discomfort.”

That incident shows you the fighting spirit of this man. At 99, he has no maintenance pills. His blood pressure is 110/70. He gets alarmed when it goes up to 120/80, which is the normal BP at this age. He takes the necessary vitamins to keep healthy. Occasionally, he has pain on his left knee and for this he takes Genacol. He takes pride in being acknowledged by the San Antonio parish in Forbes as the “extra-ordinary minister” of Holy Communion. All these years, he, together with other ministers, give communion to the faithful during Mass. Until last year, he was the lector during Mass in Urdaneta Village Parish Center.

Dad loves to talk about his adventures as a seaman when he was in his twenties. Once he described to us his trip to the Panama Canal which he claims is magnificent and truly one of the wonders of the world. He held us in awe when he was describing every small detail of his trip. His wealth of knowledge is almost encyclopedic. He remembers a lot of his past adventures. I must admit though that his memory of the present is not as sharp as five years ago. He has a secretary to remind him of his appointments and hand him his vitamins so he does not overdose. He forgets sometimes that he has taken them. He has no caregiver and does not walk with a cane. He has a male companion to hold onto when he feels he is losing his balance. He still exercises and does stretching in a bar by hanging on it till his arms give up on him.

The secret to my father’s health

Of humble beginnings, Dad grew up in Iloilo where he studied at Colegio de San Agustin from grade school to high school. To save money, he walked miles to school and back. His family lived near the sea and the family helper bought fresh fish daily for the family. Fresh fish, vegetables and fruits were his daily staple. He drank only water as he could not afford soda, neither junk food. He grew to be 5’ll — considered tall during those days so he became a basketball player in school. That started his athleticism and he took to other sports like tennis and badminton when he got started in his career. He took up golf when he felt financially comfortable and stuck to it to this day.

He never smoked in his life and learned to drink wine socially. He maintained his simple diet through the years with a few extras.

His diet at age 97 to 99

When we were growing up, we drank tea only for breakfast. My parents did not drink coffee, so we did not know there was such a drink as coffee. For juice, we drank calamansi as oranges were expensive. So you can imagine the dietary discipline my parents instilled on us. We learned to eat veggies and lots of fruits. We had no soda in the house so my siblings and I drank soda on the sly — in school or with friends.

Going back to Dad’s diet from age 97 to 99: his breakfast consists of two soft boiled eggs, two kinds of fresh juices — a green juice consisting of malunggay, celery, cucumber etc. and/or an orange drink which has carrot, apple, orange or plain guayabano juice.

His lunch is soup made from veggies: potato with mushroom, squash with carrot and camote, and green soup with all kinds of vegetables. After the soup he eats five small plates of different fruits in season: mango, papaya, Sunkist orange, pongkam orange, dragon fruit, pear, Chico, lychee. Whatever is available in the market.

His dinner, if at home is Graham crackers with cheese, and more fruits. He drinks turmeric tea after dinner.

He ate balut on a daily basis from his 50s to age 97. Then all of a sudden he decided he’s had enough of it and has not touched it since.

Of Christmases past

I asked him how he spent his Christmas during his childhood in Iloilo.  He replied: “it was one time of the year that my family looked forward to celebrating because we had queso de bola, ham, chocolate, ensaymada or bibingka. It was the only time of the year that my siblings and I enjoyed playing with firecrackers.We also attended Misa de gallo and partook of the goodies served after the Mass.”

Those years of simple living and hardship formed his steely character that made the man that he is today.

Dad’s 99th celebration was held in his residence, the house he takes so much pride in because it is the house he gave his family to enjoy — built from his own sweat. But his 100th will be in Urdaneta Friendship Hall to accommodate more guests. We already booked the venue to make sure it is available on Dec. 14, 2019. So to our beloved Dad, Manolo to all his friends, cheers to your 100th year. May you further grow in grace, health and strength!

99TH BIRTHDAY MANUEL YULO CARMONA
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