On writing 30 and turning 72

By Herbert Vego

ON reading the news that national artist for literature F. Sionil Jose had written 30 at the unusual old age of 97, I could only mutter, “He has lived a good life.”

Incidentally in journalism lingo, to write 30 is to end a story with “30,” as I did in the early years of my news-writing career.  That is no longer the practice today.  But the idiom persists to mark the end of a writer’s life.

Jose was still writing thought-provoking regular columns for the Philippine Star when he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had written 35 books consisting of novels, collections of short stories and essays.

As I write, I am looking forward to hitting age 72 on Monday. If I must follow the life span of Jose, however, I would have to live for 25 more writing years. Not bad. Puede ayhan?

At age 72, I have spent 52 years practicing my writing profession. Having gone freelance, I have the option of quitting. But why should I quit when I have not gone senile and have no intention to slide down to that level?

The long years of back-breaking hours before the typewriter and now the computer has left me a treasure chest of cherished memories.

I was 20 in 1970 when I started as a ghostwriter for a columnist of the defunct Philippine Sun and Evening News in Manila. I also had the good fortune of working as “sidekick” of the late writer-TV host Joe Quirino. Is 52 years not good enough to rest on one’s laurels?

Oh well, I am more conscious of the saying “Use it or lose it” which does not refer only to sex.

By keeping my brain busy through writing for a living, one not only prevents hunger but also dementia (chronic memory loss) and Alzheimer’s Disease. To counter memory lapses, I am forced to read and update myself with what’s going on here and there, and to consult the dictionary or thesaurus for forgotten words and meanings.

Alzheimer’s Disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

But of course, it is a “given” that as man rises in age, his vitality falls. As the Bible says, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

That Bible verse may have troubled people who fear having stepped on “pre-departure area.” But why not be thankful for enjoying the bonus years which could mean 10, 20, or 30 more?

In fact, there could be no adventure without traversing the path from womb to tomb. No wonder the young ones beg of us young once to enthrall them with adventures we have lived through.

To quote what I wrote when I turned senior, “Old people need not be discarded. Old but healthy men reflect deathless character and pricelessness – just like the old masters’ paintings, diamonds, old silverware, old furniture, old coins, old books, aged wine and vintage cars. Greece, Rome and Egypt thrive because of tourists who flock to see the ruins of past civilizations.”

We don’t always lament the loss of a new thing; we cry over the breakage of an antique plate or jug.

The word “old” as “googled” sprang from an Indo-European verb that means “to nourish.” No wonder, when we ask a “young” child for his age, we ask, “How old are you?”

Unfortunately, when compared to “new,” “fresh” and “young,” the adjective “old” narrows its meaning to “stale,” “worn” and “dying.”

Reading a book on Benjamin Franklin – whose picture appears on all US $100 bills – made me pleasantly aware that he was already 81 in 1787 when elected to the Constitutional Convention that would frame the Constitution of the newly-created United States of America. That means I still have nine years to catch up with Franklin.

Since expertise in a vocation or profession requires time, it would be a waste of time to abandon what has taken many years to sharpen.

“In the end,” to quote the 16th United States’ President Abraham Lincoln, “it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.”



THE new Iloilo City Modular Hospital is almost ready for occupancy. All that remains is for MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) to wind up installation of electricity thereat.

Mayor Jerry Treñas, awed by the fast job being done by the distribution utility’s linemen, commended them for working 24 hours a day to facilitate the “empowerment”.

“Thanks to MORE Power and its president, Roel Castro,” he told the media.

The modular hospital, aimed at detection and confinement of Covid-19 cases, has 77 beds in its location at Barangay So-oc, Arevalo. It was constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Its turnover to the city is expected to take place within the week.