Rolling Stones and tumble weeds

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Today’s title definitely dates me or reveals the generation I come from. Yes, it was rock & roll, cowboy heroes and TV shows like John Wayne and Bonanza. Who among you can still name the family members of the Cartwrights?

We grew up with Daniel Boone, the original Lone Ranger, we watched the Three Stooges with glee, Gabi ng Lagim competed with Count Dracula, Flash Gordon was as far into the future as we imagined. We lived on TV schedules and Sunday masses. We knew what time and day the Monkees and Combat were on.

We started out as children raised with church and virtues, teenagers full of adventures, bicycles and sling shots, and from there confusion set in due to western influences, drugs and the dark politics under martial law.

But just like in the folk songs and country music, we managed to survive philosophically like tumble weeds and Rolling Stones, not allowing the moss of bitterness to utterly destroy us. And today, in our latter years, especially thanks to combined curses of global pandemic and the biblical thousands dying around us, along with financial downturns, we have reconnected with God and rediscovered the virtue of gratitude. 

Life continues to be confusing and wrought with episodic fear of apps, gadgets and potential harm from spam and online scams and so we the “seniors” and elderly fight back. Some with much leftover wisdom and the desire to learn have embraced studying the art of TikTok, content creation, iPhone video editing, yoga and meditation. 

Others have “simplified” and reduced the complications. One of my rich friends opted for a call and text Nokia phone. No cameras, no data, no nothing. Talks about mergers, acquisitions and toys have been replaced by medical status and the latest cures. Diets are more about how to control LDL, glucose and palpitations. Vegetarian diets are now on the plate and not joke books. 

Others live “cash only.” No cards, no online transactions. Many have dropped the branded/name tag lifestyle and embraced the New Gray culture of fashionable “t-shirts, slacks and loafers”. There are still some señoras and señoritos with household help, gardeners and drivers, but a majority have learned to live without.

As a result, we have become more aware of the laundry we generate, the water and detergents we consume, and I’ve recently discovered many of us are OK if the house isn’t entirely dust free, or the floors and windows shiny or sparkling. We, after all, are running our own race and living at our own pace.

Come to think of it, we now walk more than drive around in our car or we take Grab because we have become more cost conscious and value keeping our blood pressure normal than screaming at the other drivers.

Last week, a number of friends within the 50- to the 60-plus years old category celebrated their birthdays. But unlike past years it was also a week marked and marred by untimely or unexpected deaths of friends, many of whom were 53 to 58 years old.

Yesterday, as I celebrated my birthday, I was in fact in mourning for those deaths, most especially for my Bible study leader and pastor Bishop Ferdie Cabiling. He was known as “The Running Pastor” for his feat of running 50 kilometers a day for 50 days on his 50th birthday to raise funds for deserving scholars of the Real Life Foundation.

Little did we know that after years of running, Pastor Ferdie’s heart had been compromised or enlarged but he took it in stride. Back in mid March I talked to him about exercise, and he invited me to start walking five kilometers a day. Two weeks after that, on April Fools Day, Ferdie suffered a heart attack. He was 58.

As shocking as it was, what came as a complete surprise to many was the thousands of thousands of reactions, messages and testimonies that sincerely and mournfully poured in. Even the people of the sleepy town of Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija were so surprised that their small-town boy called “Bong” was so well loved all the way in South Africa, America, UK, Asia, etc.

His death and my 68th birthday bring me to the veritable cross-road of life. I have often prayed for GOD to teach me to number my days and not to be fooled into thinking that tomorrow is a sure thing.

My father Louie Beltran died at 58, Ferdie also, along with many younger folks. I’d like to be optimistic but the realist and statistically aware side of me asks: If I only had 10 to 15 years to live, wouldn’t it be best to live it serving GOD’s will?

There have been suggestions to pick-up where Pastor Ferdie left off. To carry on or start up new Bible study groups that we call small groups. A couple of Pastor Ferdie’s fellow pastors have suggested I go back or finish my still-born degree in evangelization.

 A travel buddy even offered to give me a small library of books to get me started as his investment in my future “career.” That I said was unwelcome pressure and we all laughed at his failed and veiled attempt. Yes, we laughed but privately it was no laughing matter because we are all servants of the Lord. Schooled or unschooled, official or unofficial. 

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” – Isaiah 49:6

 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few; pray therefore the Lord to send more workers.” – Matthew 9:37-38

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