10 tips for the next generation

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
10 tips for the next generation
Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Adolfo S. Azcuna
Photo by Francisco Gutierrez

I had the great honor of working with retired Supreme Court Justice Adolfo Azcuna during the term of President Corazon Aquino. He served as Mrs. Aquino’s legal counsel, then press secretary and spokesman. He was always very proper, a true gentleman and softspoken despite all his accomplishments. Recently, I bumped into him and his lovely wife Mariasun and daughter Bea and he looked the same, still sharp and strong as he was then at the Palace.

He recently launched his book, Silver is My Gold: An Alchemy of My Life by the Principle of Magis at Rockwell in Makati.

Azcuna served under three branches of government. He is one of only 12 persons who holds the distinction of serving in both the 1971 Constitutional Convention and the 1986 Constitutional Commission. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He became Chancellor of the Philippine Judicial Academy from 2009-2021. He is at present the first and only Filipino elected to the International Commission of Jurists.

(Seated, from left) Agoo Azcuna Bengzon, Mariflor Aunario, Adolf Azcuna, Mariasun Azcuna, Rina Azcuna Siongco, Bea Azcuna Standing: Sam Santos, Miguel Azcuna, Andy Bengzon, Lucy Siongco, Alvi Siongco, Ari Siongco, Angelo Bengzon, Andres Bengzon, Deeda Bonz

We asked what his most memorable experience working in government was, and he gave us three answers: 1) Drafting two of our Constitutions in 1971 and 1986, 2) Serving as counsel and spokesperson of President Corazon C. Aquino and 3) Working in the Supreme Court of the Philippines and the Philippine Judicial Academy.

He tells us, “All these episodes in my life are detailed in my book, Silver is My Gold, so I will not spoil the account for you. Suffice it to say that I count myself singularly blessed in serving God and our people in all endeavors of governance — from the drafting of the law (the fundamental law), its execution, and its interpretation, as now set forth in Articles VI, VII and VIII of our Constitution.”

Before we ended this interview, I asked him how he wants to be remembered and he replied: “As an advocate of human rights and the rule of law. As the Philippine member of the International Commission of Jurists, I am engaged in advocacy work in the Asia-Pacific region, speaking to judges, lawyers and concerned groups on fundamental rights, including the emerging rights of nature.  I wish that the learning shared will be remembered, never mind the advocate.”

Photo by Philip Sison

1. Do not be afraid to fail. I believe it is not for me to advise my grandchildren but for their parents to do so. I pray for them and spoil them a bit. Now, if the parents ask me to give my advice to their children, I will tell them not to be afraid to fail and that what counts is not being perfect or not falling but getting up when one falls and to keep trying to achieve more (Magis).

2. Take this ancient oath for Knights:

• Be without fear in the face of the enemy.

• Be kind and generous that God may love thee.

• Defend the helpless and do no wrong.

• Speak the truth always even if it leads to your death.

3. Take care of your health and choose your friends well.

4. Develop a personal relationship with God.

5. Call to abolish poverty and save the planet.

6. Find inspirations in life. Mine were my parents, teachers, and steadfast friends. Among my role models were excellent teachers in St. Vincent’s College, Dipolog City, who opened to me the world of science, literature, and unending learning. This was followed by my years in the Ateneo under a good mix of Filipino and American Jesuits, where I learned to put God in the center of my life and to get out of selfishness.

7. Do well with the talents the Lord has given you.

8. Find an advocacy and work for its success.

9. Approach retired life with as much zeal and enthusiasm as a new job or new hobbies to learn. I am often asked how I find retired life. I love it as I have time to pursue the activities of my choice, like learning how to swim at age 84 and planning an open-water swim next year. It’s never too late to learn a new hobby, even if outside your comfort zone.

10. Read more books. I love buying books to read John F. Kennedy-style — putting them out 20 at a time and going through them by osmosis, flipping the pages and pausing in the interesting parts, even taking a photo shot when a really magical portion turns up.



We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.

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