Category Archives: Humor

True love through the years

by Henrylito D. Tacio

Two years ago, I attended a golden wedding anniversary. I was not really interested to witness the occasion but my friend, who is the grandson of the couple, cajoled me join him. He is a person who doesn’t invite people if it is not really that important.

Since I had nothing to do at that time, I decided to go with him. I sat down at the church and met some of my friend’s families, relatives, and friends. When the ceremony started, everyone was silent. Some family members were in tears.

In the middle of the ceremony, one grandson stood up, went to the podium, and sang the haunting Kenny Rogers song. “I can’t remember when you weren’t there, when I didn’t care for anyone but you. I swear, we’ve been through everything there is. Can’t imagine anything we’ve missed, can’t imagine anything the two of us can’t do.”

Then, he belted out: “Through the years, you’ve never let me down. You turned my life around, the sweetest days I’ve found, I’ve found with you. Through the years, I’ve never been afraid. I’ve loved the life we’ve made. And I’m so glad I’ve stayed, right here with you through the years.”

This particular scenario came flashing into my mind as I read the story forwarded to me by a friend. Read it and ponder:

During the renovation of a house in Japan, someone breaks open the walls. (For the information of the uninformed, Japanese houses normally have a hollow space between the wooden walls.)

Upon tearing down the walls, he found a lizard stuck there because a nail from outside was hammered into one of its feet! He sees this, feels pity, and at the same time curious, because it was nailed 10 years ago when the house was first built!

The lizard has survived in such position in a dark wall partition for 10 years without moving! Indeed, it is impossible and mind-boggling! He keeps wondering how this lizard survived for 10 years without moving a single step, since its foot was nailed!

He stopped his work momentarily and observed the lizard, what it has been doing, and what and how it has been eating! Later, out from nowhere appears another lizard, with food in its mouth, suddenly feeding the stuck lizard.

He was deeply touched and stunned at such a scene! Imagine? The other lizard has been doing that untiringly for 10 long years, without giving up hope! Pause for a moment and think: Will you do that to your partner?

If lizards can do it, why can’t human beings do? Being married to the person you love is the best thing that ever happen to you. You belong to that person and that person belongs to you.

Marriage should be forever. Find the right partner for you. Women should not marry a guy becaus e he is handsome, or rich, or because your parents tell you to marry him. The same is true with men. He should search for the right woman for him. Marry the person who you will love even when you wake up in the morning and find him or her not good looking enough. “Happy marriages,” said Tom Mullen, “begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry.”

Once you’re married to the person whom you thought is the right one for you, accept him or her, including the bad traits and habits. Josh McDowell reminds, “What you are as a single person, you will be as a married person, only to a greater degree. Any negative character trait will be intensified in a marriage relationship, because you will feel free to let your guard down – that person has committed himself (herself) to you and you no longer have to worry about scaring him (her) off.”

Marriage is not always a bed of roses. Two people from different backgrounds usually clash but that’s alright. Opposite attracts each other, right? “Men marry women with the hope they will never change,” commented Albert Einstein. “Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.”

Ogden Nash tells: “Marriage is the alliance of two people, one of whom never remembers birthdays and the other who never forgets.” However, he offers some advice: “To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the loving cup, whenever you’re wrong admit it; whenever you’re right shut up.”

Yes, there are marriages made in heaven — because from the beginning, God is in the midst of the union. Marriage, someone once said, is always a triangle: man, woman, and God.

With that, marriage is bound to be forever. And husband and wife will live happily ever after. The Kenny Rogers song said it well: “I can’t remember what I used to do. Who I trusted whom, I listened to before. I swear you’ve taught me everything I know. Can’t imagine needing someone so but through the years it seems to me I need you more and more.”

Do you want to stay married to your partner forever? Learn wisdom from the words of Bon Jovi’s spouse: “My wife tells me that if I ever decide to leave, she is coming with me.”

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

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Starting a new year all over again

By Henrylito D. Tacio

“The merry year is born like the bright berry from the naked thorn,” penned Hartley Coleridge.  Anne De Lencios contributes, “Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish it.”

Yes, it’s the time of the year to welcome a new one.  As Charles Dickens puts it: “A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!”  Edith Lovejoy Pierce was right when she said, “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

Of course, everyone has fond memories of the past year; some of them were good, and others were bad.  But that is a fact: we learned from our mistakes and we savored our successes.  But past is past.  Let’s appreciate the birth of a new year.  Edward Payson Powell urges, “The Old Year has gone.  Let the dead past bury its own dead.  The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time.  All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!”

Henry Ward Beecher has also reminded, “Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past.”

The coming of the New Year means resolutions to some people.  When I was still in high school, every year, when we were back to school, our English and Pilipino teachers usually required something on our New Year’s resolutions.  “He who breaks a resolution is a weakling,” notes F.M. Knowles. “He who makes one is a fool.”

Helen Fielding, in her book, Bridget Jones’s Diary, quipped, “I do think New Year’s resolutions can’t technically be expected to begin on New Year’s Day, don’t you?  Since, because it’s an extension of New Year’s Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system.  Also dieting on New Year’s Day isn’t a good idea as you can’t eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover.  I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.”

Perhaps one of the best resolutions I have read was the one written by William Ellery Channing.  It goes this way: “I will seek elegance rather than luxury, refinement rather than fashion. I will seek to be worthy more than respectable, wealthy and not rich. I will study hard, think quietly, talk gently, and act frankly. I will listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with an open heart. I will bear all things cheerfully, do all things bravely await occasions and hurry never. In a word I will let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common.”

Here’s another one from Ann Landers: “Let this coming year be better than all the others. Vow to do some of the things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t find the time. Call up a forgotten friend. Drop an old grudge, and replace it with some pleasant memories. Vow not to make a promise you don’t think you can keep. Walk tall, and smile more. You’ll look ten years younger. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I love you.’  Say it again. They are the sweetest words in the world.”

Ellen Goodman once said, “We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives – not looking for flaws, but for potential.”

Goodman’s statement reminds me of this story.  A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, “Lord, I would like to know what heaven and hell are like.”

The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.  The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. The Lord said, “You have seen hell.”

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The Lord said, “This is heaven.”  The holy man was surprised, “I don’t understand.”  The Lord answered, “It is simple, it requires but one skill. You see, they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.”

An unknown author once wrote a recipe for a happy New Year.  If you want to know his recipe, here it is: “Take twelve fine, full-grown months; see that these are thoroughly free from old memories of bitterness, rancor and hate, cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past—have them fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time. Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot this way) but prepare one day at a time.

The unknown author continues: “Into each day put equal parts of faith, patience, courage, work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), hope, fidelity, liberality, kindness, rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad dressing— don’t do it), prayer, meditation, and one well-selected resolution. Put in about one teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play, and a heaping cupful of good humor.”

Happy New Year!!! — ###

Traveling around the world

by Henrylito D. Tacio

 

As a journalist, part of my job is to attend international conferences in other parts of the world. 

 

I have seen the Buddhist temples in Bangkok, Thailand.  I have scaled the Petronas Twin Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  I have walked through the fine white beaches in Bali, Indonesia.  I have toured the award-winning zoo in Melbourne, Australia.  I have experienced real safari while I was in Durban, South Africa.  I have learned to speak French (not fluently but just barely) while staying for almost a week in Montreal, Canada (more so, when we traveled to Quebec).

 

I have been to the United States several times.  I have ridden a snowmobile while I was in Hibbing, Minnesota.   I did surfing twice – once in North Carolina and the most recent one while I visited my aunt and uncle in Savannah, Georgia.  I marveled at the mysterious Wakulla Springs in Tallahassee, Florida.  In Iowa, I saw the Old Faithful, the world’s best known geyser, spew out hot water.  I have been at the top of the Washington Monument.  I have touched the Statue of Liberty in New York City.  I became a little kid again as I toured the Paramount’s King’s Island in Ohio.   I got tired after board walking in New Jersey’s Atlantic City.

 

As I write this, the song popularized by Nancy Sinatra came to my mid.  Well, while in the US, I have never been to Texas, but I have been to Utah.  I have never been to Alabama, Nebraska, or Alaska, but have visited Indiana, Montana, Kentucky and Tennessee. 

 

Now, can you name the title of the song?  The chorus said, “I know you’re tired of following my elusive dreams and schemes; for they’re only fleeting things, my elusive dreams.”  (If you hear me singing this song in videoke bars, now you know the reason.)

 

 

Indeed, there are many songs that add in famous cities and places.  Frank Sinatra’s “Around the World” tells the story of a man who travels around the globe searching for the right girl for him.  “I traveled on when hope was gone to keep a rendezvous,” song goes.  “I knew somewhere, sometime, somehow you’d look at me and I would see the smile you’re smiling now.”  At the end of the song, the man in love expresses his final thought: “No more will I go all around the world for I have found my world in you.”

 

But for those who are madly in love and who love to travel at the same time, “the world is not enough,” to quote the title of a James Bond movie.   The film’s theme song has these words: “The world is not enough but it is such a perfect place to start, my love; and if you’re strong enough, together we can take the world apart, my love.”

 

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,” commented Saint Augustine.  “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go,” novelist Robert Louis Stevenson once said.  “I travel for travel’s sake.  The great affair is to move.”

 

When you travel to another uncommon place, you don’t have to worry what other people will say about you.  As William Least wrote in Blue Highways, “When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then.  People don’t have your past to hold against you.  No yesterdays on the road.”

 

When going to a foreign land, ask not those who have never been there but those who are always on the go.  Here’s a piece of advice from Susan Heller, “When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”  Got that?

 

One of the most important documents to bring when traveling is a passport.  It is very important but Lemony Snicket can’t help making fun of it.  “A passport, as I’m sure you know, is a document that one shows to government officials whenever one reaches a border between countries, so the officials can learn who you are, where you were born, and how you look when photographed unflatteringly.”  

 

Traveling gives you all kinds of emotions: sadness, happiness, fear, excitement, disgust, politeness, inconsiderate, hunger, pain, thrill, loss of energy – name it and you have it.  Award-winning film director Orson Welles (of Citizen Kane distinction) observed, “There are only two emotions in a plane:  boredom and terror.” For those who experienced the latter, Mignon McLaughlin has these words: “Whenever we safely land in a plane, we promise God a little something.”

 

Flying is indeed not for the faint-hearted.  But even if you travel by bus or boat, you still encounter a lot of hazards like accidents and typhoons.  But these are just few reasons why some people don’t travel.  “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home,” advises James Michener.

 

Funny incidents every now and then are bound to happen while traveling.  A family living in Montreal, Canada travels by land to Orlando, Florida last November.  A day before their departure, the mother told her two kids: a 6-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.  “Let us make this clear.  No one should ask if we are almost there,” the mother said.  The two children agreed.

 

Almost two days later, they were still in the road.   The mother was driving while the father took his turn to sleep.  The two kids were already feeling bored.  They wanted to ask their mother if they are almost there but they backed off such thought remembering their agreement before.  The little girl could not hold any longer, so she inquired, “Mom, will I still be four years old when we get there?”

 

Robert Frost penned this famous line: “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.”  Wherever you are, enjoy the most of it.  “To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world,” said Freya Stark.  And try to get the most of it.  Listen to the words of wisdom from Moslih Eddin Saadi, “A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.”

 

I have been to different parts of the world.  But there is no place like home.  Most of the time, I always look forward coming home.  After the excitement has died down and fatigue has engulfed your being, all you want to do is to go back to familiar surrounding.  (That is why I don’t get enough when I am in Davao.)  How true were the words of Lin Yutang: “No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” — ###

When enough is not enough

By Henrylito D. Tacio

On May 18, 1986, American financier Ivan F. Boesky delivered a commencement address at the School of Business Administration of the University of California in Berkeley, and said these words: “Greed is all right, by the way. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

This statement was later picked up in Oliver Stone’s award-winning film, Wall Street (1987), spoken by Gordon Gecko. “The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” said Michael Douglas, who portrayed the role and received an Oscar trophy for his performance. “Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.”

During the tough economic times for both rich and poor nations, this kind of thinking will definitely destroy the world, according to the traditional papal Christmas Day message “Urbi et Orbi” – Latin for “to the City and to the World.”

Speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on the day Christians commemorate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good … may the light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity.” He warned, “If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.”

The rich people become more richer, while the poor individuals become more poorer. “What is mine is mine, what is yours is mine, too.” That seems to be the mantra of most of the people. But that should not be the purpose of life. Jay Leno reminds, “If you think of life as like a big pie, you can try to hold the whole pie and kill yourself trying to keep it, or you can slice it up and give some to the people around you, and you still have plenty left for yourself.”

A teacher and the school principal were standing near the playground where the children were frolicking to their heart’s content.  The teacher asked the latter, “Why is it that everyone wants to be happy, but so few ever are?”

The principal looked at the playground and replied, “Those children seem to be really happy.” The teacher answered back, “Why shouldn’t they be?  All they do is play.  But what keeps the adults from being happy like that?”

“The same thing that can keep children from being happy,” the principal said.  Then, without saying any word, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a handful of coins, and threw them among the playing children.

Suddenly, all laughter stopped.  The children tumbled over one another, fought and argued.  The principal told the teacher, “Well, what do you think ended their happiness?”

“The fighting,” the teacher answered.  “And what started their fighting?” the principal inquired.  “Greed,” the teacher replied.

God created this world for everyone to enjoy. “In this world there’s room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone,” said Charlie Chaplin in the movie, The Great Dictator. “The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goosestepped us into misery and bloodshed.”

Mahatma Gandhi echoes the same concern: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” As Seneca pointed out, “To greed, all nature is insufficient.”

Why is this so? “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction,” American psychologist Erich Fromm explained.

Janwillem van de Wetering commented, “Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough.” This reminds me of the story of Jonathan, the only son of an affluent family. When his father died, he inherited all what his parents had and became the heir of the land.  But he wasn’t contented; he wanted more land. 

Once, a stranger came by, apparently a man of means and power, and offered to give him all the land he could walk around in one day, on condition that he would be back at the spot from which he started by sundown.

Early the next morning, the boy set out, without eating any breakfast or greeting anyone.  His first plan was to cover six square kilometers.  When he finished the first six, he decided to make it nine, then twelve, then fifteen. That meant he would have to walk 60 kilometers before sundown.  By noon, he had covered 30 kilometers.  He did not stop for food or drink.  His legs grew heavier and heavier.

About 200 yards from the finish line, Jonathan saw the sun dropping toward the horizon.  Only a few minutes left.  He gathered all his energies for that one last effort.  He staggered across the line, just in time.  Then, he reached for his heart and fell down in a heap – dead.  All the land he got was a piece six feet by two.

“From top to bottom of the ladder, greed is aroused without knowing where to find ultimate foothold. Nothing can calm it, since its goal is far beyond all it can attain. Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered imaginations; reality is therefore abandoned,” French sociologist Emile Durkheim reminded.

“The point,” to quote the words of American businessman Donald Trump, “is that you can’t be too greedy.”

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

Dreaming of a white Christmas?

by Henrylito D. Tacio

“IF WE had no winter,” English poet Anne Bradstreet once said, “the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” In other words, “If there were no tribulations, there would be no rest; if there were no winter, there would be no summer.” So said Saint John Chrysostom.

I visited the United States for the first time in December 2000. It was winter in New York City and I never knew how cold the season was until I came out ogthe hotel where I was staying the morning after I arrived to take a walk at nearby Central Park.

When I stepped out of the hotel, I immediately experienced the fangs of winter that penetrated the depth of my skin. (Until now, I run out of words to describe the coldness that I “suffered” that time.) I was wearing the usual clothing we wore in the Philippines and a jacket — nothing more.

I walked only a few steps. I couldn’t endure the freezing cold so I had to return to the hotel — pronto!

The bellboy, who saw me coming out, was not surprised to see me going back. He knew that I couldn’t “survive” that long outside with only a thin jacket I used to wear during cold weather in the country. (Now, I know better!)

But I experienced the real kind of winter when I went to my sister Elena, who lived in Hibbing, Minnesota at that time. One early morning, I saw a lot of snow outside while I sat near the windowpane. I went outside and literally slept in the snow. It was very, very cold, of course and after just one minute, I returned inside. My nephew, who saw what I just did, was totally surprised and exclaimed, “You must be crazy, Uncle Henry.”

For the next three weeks, I stayed with the Chase family (my sister is married to Daniel Chase, an electrical engineer just like her). It was then that I experienced riding a snowmobile for the first time in my life with my nephew. Every morning, I had to clean the garage pathway as snow trickled at night.

Twice, I almost slipped when those nasty snows turned into clear ice sheets.

I could have done ice fishing (ever heard of it?) too had I accepted the invitation of Dan’s friend. Remember the Hollywood movie Two Grumpy Old Men? It was shot in Minnesota and both did their ice fishing near the place where my sister lived.

On Christmas Day, the Chase family and myself went to visit Dan’s mother. On our way, I could see the snowflakes falling from heaven. Literally and figuratively, I had my first white Christmas. The most famous and popular of all the Christmas songs written by Irving Berlin came into my mind: “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten, and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”

Another Christmas carol has these classic lines: “In the lane, snow is glistening. A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight. Walking in a winter wonderland.”

Perhaps the most popular song among Filipino children is James Lord Pierpont’s Jingle Bells. Now, please sing with me the most remembered lines: “Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh. O’er the fields we go laughing all the way. Bells on bob tail ring, making spirits bright. What fun it is ride and sings a sleighing song tonight.”

Although there is no winter in the Philippines, the season is very popular here. The reason is obvious; Filipinos usually dream and want anything related to the United States. In addition, there are many films in which a winter setting plays an important role. The award-winning Fargo is an example. The film Requiem for a Dream concludes with “Act III: Winter,” in which the movie reaches its hellish and chilling climax.

Winter is one of the four seasons of temperate zones. It is the season with the shortest days and the lowest average temperature. It has colder weather and, especially in the higher latitudes or altitudes, snow and ice. The coldest season of the year, winter occurs between autumn and spring and popularly considered to be constituted by December, January, and February.

A lot of my friends asked me why I wouldn’t stay in the United States for good. My answer is that I could not tolerate too much cold. Winter is good — if only it lasts for just one week; after that, winter is already a pain. Poet Christina Giorgina Rossetti wrote: “Night is long and cold is strong in bleak December.”

Winter is good to look — in postcards. Most Filipinos dream of it! Actually, they don’t how bad the weather is during winter. William Bradford pointed this out: “And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent, and subject to cruel and fierce storms.”

Here’s how Georgics author Publius Vergilius Maro describes the final metaphor in a poem celebrating death: “Winter is farmer’s lazy time. In cold weather, the farmers enjoy their gain for the most part and they happily prepare feasts for each other. Friendly winter is inviting and lightens their cares, as when loaded boats at last reach port and the happy sailors place crowns upon the sterns.”
But to those who live in a place where winter is part of their lives, they should welcome the season with gladness. Pietro Aretino suggests, “Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.” John Boswell adds, “Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.”

“There is privacy about it which no other season gives you,” said Ruth Stout.

“In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.”

Patricia Hampl agrees: “The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty. It fell and fell, lacing day and night together in a milky haze, making everything quieter as it fell, so that winter seemed to partake of religion in a way no other season did, hushed, solemn.”

Winter is the time when most of the people are inside their home.ÿ Traveling is not much fun; one kilometer becomes two kilometer.ÿ Winter, to some, is a respite. Edith Sitwell said it well: “Winter is the time for comfort — it is the time for home.”

Winter time is no time for gardening. Barbara Winkler argues, “Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle: a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”

“May your days be merry and bright,” so goes the song again, “and may all your Christmases be white.” — ###

Defy old age

THE Bible recorded the oldest living man through these words: ‘When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 872 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died” (Genesis5:25-27).

Through the yeas, people are trying to figure out how to live longer, just like Methuselah. In fact, many people in different parts of the globe at different times in history made it their life’s obsession.

Ponce de Leon’s quest for the mysterious fountain of youth led him to discover Florida. With its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and palm trees, Florida in itself is a kind of fountain of youth. Many Americans today who retire to Florida do seem to recover their youthful energy and vigor.

No one lives forever, for sure. But this fact doesn’t stop doctors and scientists to search for ways how to live longer. “Aging is the progressive accumulation of changes with time associated with or responsible for the ever-increasing likelihood of disease and death which accompanies advancing age.” That statement comes from Denham Harmon, one of the leading experts in the field of anti-aging research.

In recent years, people are living longer — thanks to science. But, on second thought, merely living longer isn’t good enough. What people want these days is not just living longer, but also living healthier lives. Who wants to live longer if it means just existing, unable to enjoy life?

Dr. Steven G. Aldana, of Brigham Young University, recently revealed that a person may be able to add 20 years or more to his or her life by making several health changes. “People don’t have to completely turn their lives around to get significant benefits,” Dr. Aldana said. Example: Someone who exercises for 30 minutes six times a week can gain 2.4 years of life, even if that person doesn’t adequately control his blood pressure.

But not smoking is probably the most important change. “Men who smoke a pack a day lose an average of 13 years of life, while women lose 14 years,” he commented. Every year, there are about 20,000 smoking-related deaths in the Philippines, where about 60 percent of men smoke.

Excess weight greatly increases the risk of cancer, diabetes and hypertension. A person who is 20 pounds over his/her ideal weight is 50 percent more likely to develop heart disease — and the risk increases as weight increases.

In simpler terms, shed those extra pounds by doing regular exercise. People who engage in moderate exercise at least three to five times a week can reduce their blood pressure by an average of 10 points and dramatically lower their risk of diabetes. A study at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas showed that men who ran, walked briskly, swam, jogged, or played tennis lowered their risks of dying early by 64 percent.

For lowering blood pressure, walking — and not running! — may be the better form of exercise. American president Harry S Truman took to walking briskly until the ripe old age of 88. ÿ Astronaut John Glenn credited his celebrated return to orbit at age 77 to his two-mile daily power walk.

But exercise is not enough. There are other things you must do: Eat most meals at home (restaurant food tends to be higher in calories). Drink water instead of soda (the sugar in soft drinks is a main contributor to weight gain — and artificial sweeteners have not been proven safe). Don’t eat in front of the television (studies show that people who engage in “mindless” eating take in far more calories).

Watch what you put into your mouth. Studies show that eating one-quarter cup of nuts five times a week can add 2.5 years to your life. Fruits and vegetables lengthen your life by 2-4 years. People who increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables from two to five servings a day can reduce by half their risk of many cancers — including pancreatic, colorectal and endometrial cancers.

For every 10 grams of fiber you consume per day, your risk of heart attack goes down by 14 percent and risk of death from heart disease drops by 27 percent. People who eat as little as two servings of fiber-rich whole grains daily can reduce their risk of stroke by 36 percent. Fiber-rich foods, which can also reduce colon cancer risk, lengthen life by 2-4 years.

Sleep well. William Shakespeare wrote a long, long time ago: “Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath; balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourishes in life’s feast.”

As you grow older, don’t worry about it. The more you worry, the more you will likely to meet your Creator. In fact, be thankful that you are able to reach the age, which most people have not attained. Perhaps, you can sing Paul Anka’s song: “My friends, I’ll say it clear; I’ll state my case of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full. I’ve traveled each and evr’y highway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com

Life is a box of chocolates

By Henrylito D. Tacio

 

If life could be compared to something sweet, then chocolate would be more like it.  As Forrest Gump (played by award-winning Tom Hanks) said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.”

 

Chocolates are very popular around the world.  Every time I am in the airport waiting for my plane, you can find me eating a chocolate.  They come in different forms and sizes and the boxes are always beautiful.

 

There’s more to chocolate than just for eating.  “If you are not feeling well, if you have not slept, chocolate will revive you. But you have no chocolate! I think of that again and again! My dear, how will you ever manage?” French writer Marquise de Sévigné wondered.

 

Any sane person loves chocolate,” declared Bob Greene.  In fact, “nine out of ten people like chocolate.  And the tenth person lies,” said John Q. Tullius.  Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts, believed that what people really need is love.  “But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt,” he added.

 

Oftentimes, chocolates have been equated with love and romance.  John Milton wrote, “Love is just like eating large amounts of chocolate.” Miranda Ingram argued, “It’s not that chocolates are a substitute for love. Love is a substitute for chocolate. Chocolate is, let’s face it, far more reliable than a man.”

 

Chemically speaking, “chocolate really is the world’s perfect food,” to quote the words of Michael Levine, the author of The Emperors of Chocolate.  As Geronimo Piperni puts it: “Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.” 

 

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said chocolates are “helpful to people who must do a great deal of mental work.”  Baron Justus von Liebig considered this beneficent restorer of exhausted power as “the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”

 

Some years back, I was touring a group of American kids at the farm in Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur.  While walking, an eight-year-old boy inquired, “What is that?” as he pointed the cacao tree.  “That’s where chocolates come from,” I replied.  Almost immediately, every stopped.  “How do you get chocolates from that tree?” they chorused.

 

Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Central America and Mexico.   Although Christopher Columbus came to know the beans, it was Hernando Cortes who brought it to Spain.  “The divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food,” he wrote.

 

In the Philippines, it has been cultivated since the 17th century when Spanish mariner Pedro Bravo de Lagunas planted the crop in San Jose, Batangas.  Since then, cacao growing flourished in the different parts of the country.

 

The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground and liquefied, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form: chocolate liquor.  The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

 

Pure, unsweetened chocolate contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining chocolate with sugar.  Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk.

 

If you care to know, the word “chocolate” comes from the Mexico’s Aztecs and is derived from the Nahuatl word xocolatl, which is a combination of the words, xocolli, meaning “bitter,” and atl, which is “water.”

 

While chocolate is regularly eaten for pleasure, there are potential beneficial health effects of eating chocolate. Cocoa or dark chocolate reportedly benefits the circulatory system. Other beneficial effects suggested include anticancer, brain stimulator, cough preventor, and antidiarrheal effects.  As an aphrodisiac, its effect is yet unproven.

 

Recent studies have suggested that cocoa or dark chocolate may possess certain beneficial effects on human health. Cocoa possesses a significant antioxidant action.  Some studies have also observed a modest reduction in blood pressure and flow-mediated dilation after consuming dark chocolate daily.

 

There has even been a fad diet, named “Chocolate diet,” that emphasizes eating chocolate and cocoa powder in capsules. However, consuming milk chocolate or white chocolate, or drinking fat-containing milk with dark chocolate, appears largely to negate the health benefit.

 

A study reported by the British Broadcasting Corporation indicated that melting chocolate in one’s mouth produced an increase in brain activity and heart rate that was more intense than that associated with passionate kissing, and also lasted four times as long after the activity had ended.

 

People having headache are advised not to eat chocolates.  The reason: chocolates contain tyramine, a chief suspect in causing headaches.  However, many young people outgrow this chemical reaction.  “The body appears to build up a tolerance,” says Dr. Seymour Diamond, who has co-written several books on headaches.

 

If you have heartburn, you should avoid eating chocolates, too.  The sweet confection deals heartburn sufferers a double whammy.  It is nearly all fat and it contains caffeine (which may irritate an already inflamed esophagus).

 

Other things are just food. But chocolate’s chocolate,” said Patrick Skene Catling.  That’s why Brillat-Savarin advises, “If any man has drunk a little too deeply from the cup of physical pleasure; if he has spent too much time at his desk that should have been spent asleep; if his fine spirits have become temporarily dulled; if he finds the air too damp, the minutes too slow, and the atmosphere too heavy to withstand; if he is obsessed by a fixed idea which bars him from any freedom of thought: if he is any of these poor creatures, we say, let him be given a good pint of chocolate – and marvels will be performed.”

 

For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com