MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — Juan Ponce Enrile turns 100 on Feb. 14, making him an easy subject of talks on immortality.
And this longest-serving and oldest public servant says: “It’s God’s handiwork. He can make life short or long for you.”
Though he did work on his longevity himself, eating mostly his favorite dinengdeng, saluyot, patola, bataw.
“I exercise every day but not too much, and I walk under the sun,” says Enrile during this interview in his Makati residence with a sprawling garden and a mini chapel, with daughter Katrina and granddaughter Kara beside him.
He is eloquent and uses a hearing aid. He has a fairly good crop of hair, good mestizo skin, and walks carefully but straight, making one believe in the stem cell treatment which he reportedly had many years ago.
Enrile survived COVID-19 twice, and pneumonia three times during the pandemic. The only health issue he has now is the macular
degeneration of his eyes. Still this has not prevented him from doing a lot of reading , both of books and stuff he favors on his trusty computer.
“I learned myself how to use the computer, I am self-taught,” he says with pride.
Does he Google? “Why Google when I have been 100 years on this planet.” He also does social media. Does he know the meaning of LOL?
“Yes,” and he laughs out loud.
How will he celebrate his birthday which is also Valentine’s Day? “I will be 100 years old, my dear, so let others enjoy it.”
Love? He says “I cannot define it..” So Katrina offers: “For us, his language of love is protection and provision.”
But Enrile clearly has tender emotions in his heart. He said he cried when his wife Cristina who is 87, underwent an operation last year. “I thought she was going to go, but God was kind enough not to allow it,” he sighs.
“Cristina is the prettiest woman I have ever encountered,” Enrile declares. Just two days ago, she came back from the hospital because of pneumonia.
“She had a 39-degree fever. I could not go with
her because my doctor advised me not to go to hospitals.”
A four-time senator who served as justice secretary and defense minister who was asked by then President Ferdinand Marcos to lay the
plan for martial law, it was Enrile with Fidel Ramos who led the Reform the Armed Forces Movement which led to the people’s power
revolution in February 1986, causing the ouster of Marcos and his family’s exile in Hawaii.
Still, current President Bongbong Marcos embraced him into Malacañang as his chief presidential legal counsel.
Having seen him since boyhood, did Enrile foresee that Bongbong would one day be president like his father? “Why not? He is
well-educated, has a well-developed mind, a balanced emotional make-up.
“I think his goodness may be one of his weaknesses. But I believe he may turn out to be one of the best presidents this country will have. “
And before I could segue to a political question, he says: “No politics please. No history. Let’s just talk about the current and the future.”
But he gave one-sentence liners on personalities:
Cory Aquino — “It was a mistake for her to be president.”
Danding Cojuangco— “He’s dead, I will not say anything.”
Fidel Ramos— “Same thing.”
Joseph Estrada—“He was betrayed by his people.”
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—“She was bright.”
Rodrigo Duterte—“He was a realist, but I am not sure if he understood the implication of what he did in the case of China versus America.”
Donald Trump—“He is a vociferous person, I must say I admire his guts.”
Vladimir Putin—“Well, he’s very rich and he controls all his enemies, he’s tenacious, very intelligent… But Russia has one of the oldest populations on the planet, it has very few young people, that’s why it had to hire mercenaries.”
Kim Jong Un of North Korea— “He is unpredictable. He starves his people to have toys like missiles and nuclear power.”
Taylor Swift—“Just like other superstars that came in my life of 100 years, she will just pass through.”
His current obsession is reading books by American lawyer and investment banker James Rickards such as “Currency Wars: The Making of
the Next Global Crisis,” “The Road to Ruin,” “The Death of Money” and “Great Depression: Winners and Losers in a Post-Pandemic World.”
His idols are leaders in history: Roosevelt, Churchill, Otto Von Bismarck and Lee Kuan Yew (“ a friend of mine.”)
His advice to young people: “Keep studying, don’t waste time on silly things and read books for there is much to learn.”
To leaders: “Don’t assume that everybody is your friend. Some pretend to be your friend, only to enslave you in the end. One thing I must say: this country must be united.”
Does Enrile pray? Katrina’s Immortal Beloved says this prayer every morning when he wakes up: “Thank you, God, for making me reach this day. I hope I can still be the same— breathing now till tomorrow.”