When I’m 64

Some days I wake up asking myself, ‘How did I get to this day?’

On my Harley—no epiphanies, just a few broken ribs

If I were to be compelled to describe myself today, I would say that even at the age of 64, I continue to be a student, a student of life, and I always will be.

Not always attentive or the brightest, but a student nevertheless. There is a fair amount that I have learned through the years, often the hard way, and some of it I have forgotten. There is so much more to learn about the world and the people in it, and how things work. And most of all, what it means to be human.

Learning life’s lessons is not a linear process because it comes in fits and starts, often disjointed and in random sequence. Sometimes illumination arrives when least expected.

There was a sign on the wall at the Oarhouse, when it used to be on Mabini near the Malate Church, and sitting at the bar, time and again, I would reflect on the insight it offered:

Good judgment comes from experience
Experience comes from bad judgment

That, I submit, is a fair summation of how good sense and wisdom are acquired.


I remember a conversation with Jim Turner at the Hobbit House one night, maybe 30 years ago, where we agreed that it would be outstanding if we could make it to age 50. Jim passed away at age 77 and I am my age, so that part of life hasn’t turned out so badly, I think.

Some days I wake up asking myself, “How did I get to this day?” Grateful, of course to be counted among the living still. And I get up to start working. I plan to die with my boots on.

Speaking of dying, I have almost gotten there a few times on my Harley. There are no epiphanies, no time for your whole life to unreel, just the moment taking place, disconnected thoughts and sensations, a few broken ribs the last time. Nevertheless, I would not have it any other way. I do not have a motorcycle at this time, but I hope to get back to riding. There is nothing purer than an early morning run on the highway, just you, your bike, the concrete, and your Mad Dog Brothers, wind and sun on your face, so alive your heart could explode with joy.


When it’s time to go, I hope to be granted the grace of equanimity. No regrets. My widowed, younger sister passed on a few years ago. She had cancer, a loathsome affliction from hell. One of my brothers has it now.  I pray my own crossing of the bar will be mercifully quick. But the choice is not ours to make.

I never cease to be awed and fascinated by the beauty and the power of words to convey thought and emotion, to stir the soul, to provoke action, to bring new worlds to your doorstep. When I was younger, Ernest Hemingway was a good friend, even if we had never met. William Shakespeare was more than a passing acquaintance. And there was Pablo Neruda. John Steinbeck. Come to think of it, there was a whole assemblage of them. They kept me company when I needed it badly.


At the age of 16 I was an exchange student in the US on American Field Service. What a year of new experiences and horizons it was!

I will always be grateful to my host parents, David and Pearl Hachen, and my host siblings, David, Debra, and Daniel—a remarkable family—for welcoming me into their hearts and home. Dad was a Reform rabbi and Debra followed in his footsteps.

There I was, a Filipino Catholic boy a few years out of the seminary in the bosom of an American Jewish family. Definitely a cross-cultural situation. I would go to both Shabbat service and Sunday Mass, so I was well-covered on the religion front.

I loved my host family and I love them still. Their first exchange student was Cathy Vendat from France, who is also my sister; I was their second. We meet on Zoom every weekend. Dad passed away 10 years ago and Mom passed on earlier this year. By the way, I can still say the prayer before meals in Hebrew.

One of my best friends from that year, Patrick Chipane, was the first Black student ever allowed out of South Africa on the exchange program.  It has been embedded in my consciousness that people are all the same no matter where in the world they come from. They laugh, they cry—feelings are universal. And as for cultures, my host mother used to say that each one is different and none is better than others. If I am to judge a person, I will do so, as Martin Luther King put it, by the content of his character. And each one of us is born naked and will die alone, therefore, we are all equal, deserving of respect, to be accorded dignity.


Someone lent me John Eldredge’s book “The Journey of Desire” because, he said, it might do me good. But after reading the first few pages about the sea lion trapped in the desert, I stopped because it made me so sad.

Maybe someday I’ll look for the book and pick up where I left off because I’m told that it ends better than it started.

In my sleep I have dreamed about that sea lion. In these dreams, I gradually recognize that the sea lion is none other than myself. I am stranded, alone, in a forbidding and arid place where the nothingness reaches out into infinity.

In my mind are memories of the things that nourish the spirit—faith, ideals, the company of friends, the fulfillment of love, the excitement of discovery—all dead and gone. There are no more feelings, only their muted echoes. It dawns on me that I will never leave this place. I try to face my fate with resolution.

Then I awaken from sleep. At times it’s hard to find the line between dreams and reality.

About author


Sometimes a young soul, sometimes an old soul. Beyond midpoint on the journey of life. 

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