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Embracing wisdom and lessons at 70

By MARGIE MORAN FLOIRENDO, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 03, 2023 5:00 am Updated Sep 03, 2023 12:30 pm

A decade ago, I reached 60 and marked the occasion with a grand celebration. It was a significant milestone in my life.

Some would argue that the 60s are the new 50s. But what can be said about the 70s? They may emit less energy than the 60s. Still, they exude a different vibe, a more reflective intimacy with the past, a warmer reconciliation with oneself, and a more effortless surrender to the waning energies of life that we now know for sure is the greatest gift of a wise and benevolent Creator.

It's no longer a joke

The late Maurice Arcache once joked that being in your 70s means “somewhere between 69 and death.” It used to make us laugh, but now that I am approaching that age, it feels a bit more somber.

They say age is just a number, and I take that platitude as a moment to reflect on my life's journey and the significant events that have shaped me into the person I am today.

The 70s encourage self-reflection and assessing one's earthly life to date. Maybe my friend Maurice was right. But I am still here. And I am here to share some realizations.

The self-reflection certainly comes with the reality that your body has been telling you things lately:

Slow down, watch your step, stop eating sweets, take daily walks, commune with the slice of nature around you—and even ask yourself, "Why don't you get a hearing aid?"

A life well lived is not ours to judge

In my life, I am aware of having accomplished some impressive feats.

I have scaled two mountains: Mt. Apo and a mountain in Maragusan, Davao de Oro, where—unjustly or not—we discovered a new species of the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia, credit for which was denied us.

I have rappelled down waterfalls and bridges, co-produced a multi-awarded film, Bagong Buwan, hosted a long-running TV show, Margie on Mindanao, and even published three books. (My latest book is a collection of travel essays I am proud of.)

I have been to dangerous places in Mindanao during the war and made friends with the MILF, and traversed the Agusan Marsh on a banca long before the capture of crocodile Lolong.

Additionally, I have been fortunate enough to travel to over half of the world's countries, experiencing the breathtaking beauty of the Northern Lights and enduring both the coldest winter and hottest summer temperatures. And to top it all off, I had the incredible honor of winning the Miss Universe pageant in 1973, 50 years ago. As I often verbalize when I think about it, I may have taken the scope of my beauty title more than literally, as my past varied serious involvements indicate! With such extensive travel, I could sign up for the next experiment to travel beyond our solar system!

But more than what I am best known for, this piece focuses on my personal growth, contribution to society, and nurturing relationships.

Personal growth

Throughout my life, I have continuously sought opportunities for self-improvement, embracing challenges, and learning from failures.

As I approach 70, I appreciate the value of the bonds I have formed with family, friends, and loved ones. I have experienced profound joy, support, and a sense of belonging by investing time and effort into building and maintaining these connections.

I earned a Master of Science degree in Rural Development, which was a challenging but rewarding experience. I initially pursued this course, intending to enter politics, having been a congressional spouse for three terms. However, it was not God's plan for me, and my aspirations changed. I also earned a certificate for a Hotel and Restaurant Management course when I participated in opening Pearl Farm Beach Resort on Samal Island, Davao Province, a five-star resort.

I managed the resort when Mindanao was experiencing its worst peace and order crisis.

Community involvement

Reflecting on my life, I recognize the importance of making meaningful contributions to society. Throughout my career, I have strived to make a positive impact in my professional field as a volunteer.

I served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Habitat for Humanity for about 20 years, an experience initially bolstered by my first seminar on Housing Finance, where I learned how interlocking load-bearing building blocks are made (something that I didn't need a beauty title to master). My legacy was heading the Peace Build project in several conflict areas in Central Mindanao. Habitat for Humanity, with funding from the European Union, built 1,000 homes for both Muslims and Christians. Making decent, durable and affordable housing was an entry point for development opportunities and creating a framework for conflict mitigation.

Winning the Miss Universe title was a milestone, but being honored by my alma mater and the community was something I valued even more. I was an Amazing Alumnae awardee and the winner of the Peace Award for my efforts as chairperson of the Mindanao Commission on Women(MCW). At the height of the conflict, when the government declared war, our MCW president, Irene Santiago, organized the Mothers for Peace nationwide campaign for both sides to agree to a ceasefire. It was a campaign that felt like an election, and we worked to convince women to influence the thinking of their men in the family that war was not the solution. The solution was to inform people of the war's history, causes, and women's involvement in peace efforts. It was a tri-media event, and we saw our efforts come to fruition. A ceasefire was declared.

After experiencing the aftermath of war, I decided to pursue a more tranquil lifestyle and pursue a career in the arts. As an artist, I understand that dedication, perseverance and a willingness to take risks are necessary to succeed in this field. Arts companies, including the Cultural Center of the Philippines, where I have worked for the past 14 years, always require funding to support their programs.

Despite the challenges, we can approach this career creatively and reach out to as many Filipino patrons as possible to appreciate all art forms. Building solid relationships with colleagues inspires creativity and fosters trust over time. It is essential to acknowledge and appreciate the support and loyalty of those who have been there during our journey to success, as they will continue to be there when we face challenges.

As I approach 70, I appreciate the value of the bonds I have formed with family, friends, and loved ones. I have experienced profound joy, support, and a sense of belonging by investing time and effort into building and maintaining these connections.

As I enter this milestone, I am grateful for the journey I have taken and the significant accomplishments I have achieved. I embrace the wisdom and lessons learned throughout my life, and I am excited to semi-retire, choose less stressful projects, and focus on being a grandmother. I look forward to my 70s with purpose and gratitude.