Learning to live into old age well and gracefully
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - December 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Marion Morris, a bacteriologist/immunologist, who was in her 80s said, “Strength and energy fail as time moves on but the spirit continues to produce great things.” The spirit – psyche – the soul – the self – the inner life – by whatever name, this is the area of life and growth and work for our old age.

The late Flerida Romero, former Supreme Court Justice, stated in one of the Theosophy lectures she gave: “Now that I am retired, many still ask me to give speeches regarding law and justice. I have to turn them down for I prefer to speak about spiritual concerns instead.”

The difficulties of old age give way to the challenge of finding out who we are, requiring constant spiritual introspection. Dealing with these difficulties, we can even become wise. We can learn to live into old age well and move on gracefully.

Keeping a journal of thoughtful writings

What inner tools do we need for this inner work? First, we need to begin keeping a journal – not a diary – but a thoughtful writing down of happenings, thoughts, dreams, nightmares, things we read or hear that seem important. We need to write down thoughtfully, our responses to whatever claims our attention for whatever reasons; as well as what of all our lifetime store of soul furniture we want to keep or discard. A journal is an instrument of awareness, through which we can watch what we do so we can find out who we are.

The sages of our life

The sage is an elderly person venerated and respected by members of the tribe for his wisdom, experiences and judgment. Men and women come to the sage to consult him about community and family matters. He gives instructions and advises. Among the modern sages I have encountered are Cora Jacob and my sister-in-law, Mary Soliven David. They both passed away in 2016.

How Cora Jacob drew the attention of the world to the Philippines

Cora Jacob was venerated for raising the quality of bag handicraft to world class. She empowered the village women to make use of their homegrown fibers. By the ‘80s she received the first Golden Shell Award for outstanding exports and the Lion’s International Award for “Outstanding Woman in National Service.” By 1984, she expanded the market to the US selling at high-end store of Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale, Lord and Taylor, etc. The following year she captured the discriminating taste of the French market and sold at Gallerie Lafayette and Printemps, Christian Dior and Lacroix. Yves St. Laurent ordered her exclusive design to carry their signature brand. Her factory workers in Meycauayan, her birthplace, rose to 3,000 to be able to produce to huge orders of 40,000 bags at one time.

Cora gave time to training the poor provincial folk of Leyte and Samar including the prison inmates of Vigan in basic handbag making to provide them sustainable livelihood. The knowhow she left enabled them to develop their own small enterprises. When the World Heritage site of Ifugao Rice Terraces had to be included in the UNESCO Endangered List, she helped remove it by training 10 Ifugao weavers of Hungduan in her factory for a whole month to design, cut patterns for handbags and office table tops that were sold out readily in trade fairs.

They in turn were to echo the training to 10 other weavers of the five Heritage sites of Hungduan, Kiangan, Mayuyao, Banawe, and Lamut. Like the sages of old, Cora reached out to different directions of the world, becoming close to royalties of Malaysia, Thailand and India. When she passed away, her project with the Malaysian princess of making prayer mats with the Muslim village of Palawan was pending.

The poetry sage who worked with children for 28 years

Mercy David, my sister-in-law, will be forever remembered yearly by 5,000 preschool, grade school and high school students of Operation Brotherhood Montessori schools who by now are outstanding leaders and company managers all over the world, due to her illustrious efforts. She would travel from New Jersey to Manila, from October to April to coach our students to compete in our yearly Poetry Festival.

As the school English speech consultant, she would spend the whole day individually training the students from as young as five years old to 17-year-old high school students in the Fairview, Las Piñas, Sta. Ana, Greenhills and Angeles, Pampanga campuses. She recounts, “I kept my promise to Max, that I would let the O.B. Montessori students, and none other, to excel in poetry and speech.” Their parents and teachers had to collaborate to make sure their diction and inflections are flawless for Mercy was a perfectionist. For this Mercy has collected four albums of most loved poems for each level and a special selection of choral recitations for Christmas, declamation and elocution. They are carefully kept in the school archives.

A Fr. Reuter’s girl from her college days, Mercy used to assist the Jesuit priest before she got married to engineer Mariano David of Cebu. After a short stint in the gold mines of Benguet, Mercy brought up her family of nine children in Maluso, Basilan for 15 years, braving the danger of attacking bandits and rebels. They were her “Cornelia’s jewels” as she closely home-schooled them to reinforce their education in the local Muslim school. Together with her husband, Mariano, who died in May 1989, they planted rubber trees to 80 hectares of the David Family Farms and tended to the existing 20 hectares of coconut trees. However, due to the growing rebel activities that escalated at the outbreak of martial rule, they had to evacuate to Manila. The government later effected land reform on the 100-hectare property just when the trees had already matured.

The last quarter of a hundred years of long life

All throughout our lives, we are engaged in a natural process, which, if we let it, will bring us out in this good place. The first half of life insists that we develop a good, energetic, driving ego that will enable us to do what we need to do in the world – learn, work, establish a household, be a citizen. But, somewhere along in the second half, a different voice begins to speak inside us.

We fear less, because the long tomorrow presents itself as a respite and a relief from the grief of today. The love we can still give is unconditional. The love receive is doubly precious.

(For feedback email to precious.soliven@yahoo.com)

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