“Youth is not entirely a time of life, it is a state of
mind. It is not merely a matter of ripe cheeks,
red lips and supple knees.
It is quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotion.”
–Samuel Ullman on Youth,
as edited by General Douglas MacArthur
“Courage is not the absence of fear. It is grace under pressure.”
MY HEAD is a vast storehouse of knowledge of events and theories. I review them from time to time since I have a collection of no less than fifteen thousand books stored in four places – my residence in Quezon City, my law office in Quezon City, my residence in Cagayan de Oro City and my residence in Catarman, Camiguin. Residences mean simple houses, fit for a commoner from the University of the Philippines.
They are the products of years of law practice and inheritance properties of my wife, Marge, who has the singular distinction of being the only woman in Misamis Oriental who is the daughter of a governor and a wife of a governor.
Authorities on youth
People, wherever I go in this land of ours, keep asking me how old I am since I have been witness to the events in this country, not just as a bystander but as strategic participant. Many, old and not so old, who have seen my face on television and in the front ages of newspapers way back when, are the ones who are persistent in asking me this question.
My usual reply has only been – I really don’t know. For the curious, I always get the subsequent question – why have you forgotten your age, you must have really grown old?
But one glance at my face, defies the realization that I have grown old. It seems, to many of them, that face they have seen delivering speeches throughout the country in the war against the Marcos regime has remained the same and unchanged.
As a matter of fact, the joke has always been on my son Happy who, I believe, is one of the best trial lawyers in this country of his generation, and usually bothered and badgered by some judges in court, as a ribbing banter with this question: “Atty. Adaza, are you the son or the father?” My son would just smile, enjoying the compliment which is making his day.
The reply about age is not original with me. It is culled from various sources who, I believe, define age in a better context than most of us. One of them is Deepak Chopra who wrote the bestseller sometime ago entitled Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. Chopra defines age in three categories – chronological, biological and psychological. Biological does not mean anything unless one wants to go to the memorial park at the earliest opportunity because counting the years is the beginning of the aging process. Biological age is important because it is how you move and how you look. But more important than biological age is the psychological age – how you think and how you feel – because it conditions the biological age.
Well, Chopra is not the only authority on the aging process. Vice-President Salvador “Doy” Laurel told me this story of his encounter with then Premier Deng Xiao Peng of the People’s Republic of China and Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. Days before Doy met Chairman Deng at his office in Beijing, Deng just swam across the Yangtze.
Impressed by Deng’s youth and vigor at eighty-nine years old, Doy related to me his conversation with Chairman in these words, more or less:
“VP Doy: Mr. Chairman, what is your secret of your youth and longevity?
“Chairman Deng: I believe in the four Nevers.
“VP Doy: What are these, Mr. Chairman?
“Chairman Deng: They are very simple. First, never worry; never do ugly things; never eat unless you are hungry; and, never do it when your stomach is full.”
Hearing the fourth never, Doy was greatly disturbed since he was a lover of beautiful women, went out with them in fine dining restaurants in the evenings and eating to his heart’s satisfaction. So Doy continued firing questions at Chairman Deng.
“VP Doy: Mr. Chairman, if I follow your fourth never, I will die young.
“Chairman Deng: Why?
“VP: Because almost every evening I dine with beautiful women and eat to my heart’s
content. If I observe your fourth never I will die young of frustration. So may I introduce a Laurel amendment?
“Chairman Deng: Go ahead.
“VP Laurel: If your stomach is full, never do it fast.”
Chairman Deng noting a taint of naughtiness in the Laurel amendment, nodded his head and smiled.
But the most poetic articulation on youth and the aging process is that of Samuel Ullman on Youth, as edited and popularized by General Douglas MacArthur which goes this way:
“Youth is not entirely a time of life it is a state of mind.
It is not merely a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips or supple knees,
It is a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotion.
Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years,
People grow old only by deserting their ideals.
You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt.
As young your self- confidence, as old as your fear.
In the central place of every heart is a recording chamber
So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope and courage,
So long are you young.
But when the wires are down and covered with the snows of pessimism
And the ice of cynicism, Then and only then are you grown old.”
This is my favorite on youth and recited from memory with the proper phrasing and emotional intonation.
These are my arguments for the great men like Charles de Gaulle, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Konrad Adenauer and Winston Churchill who served their countries with greatness and distinction in historic and critical times, not counting the chronological age but relying on their psychological age which in the modern setting is dubbed as the body age, not defining the passage of the years but delineating the ability to perform.
These can also be my closing arguments, if this were a case.
The need for courage
In critical times, it is not enough to pack a lot of oral verbiage; it is necessary, as I repeat over and over again in my writings, to have balls in your brains and brains in our balls, as Speaker Pepito Laurel said in his colorful Tagalog, utak sa bayag at bayag sa utag.
These are the needs of the times, not a diarrhea of the mouth about being an expert murderous killer and bragging about bravery but followed by a retinue of bodyguards. To me, that’s not courage, it’s something else. And you know what that means!
I was one of two opposition governors elected during martial law, out of seventy-three governors in the country. I went to the remotest hinterland barangays of my province with only my driver and my press photographer to document my projects. My province was heavily infested with CPP-NPA guerrillas. My twenty mayors did not go to these remote barangays. I never proclaimed I was a courageous man. Res ipsa loquitor. The thing speaks for itself.
Mindanao Alliance (MA) was the first regional opposition party organized in the country because the brave men of the opposition in Manila refused to respond to the challenge of President Marcos in the first parliamentary elections under martial law. I single-handedly organized MA and it was only after my party was organized that the Manila national opposition party was organized, with the primary reason to frustrate a Mindanao leader from becoming the national opposition leader. We campaigned throughout Northern Mindanao amidst exploding grenades and the firing of Armalites. But we went on; we did not brag we were brave men.
I was the last man standing in Parliament disputing the certificates of canvass that favored President Marcos. But I did not brag that I was a brave man.
Courage is not oral declaration. It is demonstrated by action. It is shown by men and women in the fields of battle. It was shown by Salipada Pendatun, later senator, in the successful guerrilla operations in the Cotabatos against the Japanese. The same demonstration by Ali Dimaparo, later member of Parliament and congressman, in the Lanaos. Also the same spunk demonstrated by Tomas Confessor and Macario Peralta in Iloilo, and a host of others, in other parts of the country. They never bragged, they only performed.
That is courage. We need men of courage in these crucial times where the future of the country and the lives of millions of Filipinos are on the line. These men of courage – balls in their brains and brains in their balls – must respond to this challenge. Now, is the name of the game; tomorrow is too late.
It needs only a few men to topple an empire because the system is a house of cards.