Christmas Message delivered by retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the Christmas Party of the Association of Retired Justices of the Supreme Court of the Philippines held at the Training Room of the Supreme Court on November 27, 2019.
My Esteemed Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I do not know why our president, Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., asks me to deliver a homily every year. He must be a glutton for punishment. Here’s his penance for this year, totaling 50 pages. But because of the Christmas season, I will read only 49 pages!
At the outset, let me greet, welcome and thank our newest members, newly-retired CJ Luke and Senior Justice Tony. I thank them – along with CJ Dado Peralta who is here with us today – for conceiving and implementing our many lifetime retirement benefits that are equal to the emoluments of the incumbents. When their compensation is increased, so will ours. Let’s give them a big hand.
Truly, we retirees can look forward to peace, joy and contentment without worrying about our financial needs, as well as the financial needs of our spouses in case we predecease them because they are guaranteed to continue receiving our retirement benefits during their lifetime. In fact, they may be better off without us because they can relish the full benefits without spending for our medicines and taking care of us, and more importantly without bearing with our constant nagging. Earlier, I was kidding the widows that aside from being durable beauties and brains, they also have financial add-ons that would attract suitors and future spouses. However, I was told by our charming Justice Minita Chico-Nazario that the survivorship clause applies only to the original spouse, not to future husbands or future wives or future lovers.
Anyway, as retirees who are now in our 70s, 80s and beyond, we love to reminisce about our happy days in the Court when we could disagree without being disagreeable, and differ without being difficult. People outside the Court cannot believe that after exchanging strongly-worded opposing opinions, we remain the best of colleagues. We remain friends because we know that we disagree only with our views and thoughts, and not with our persons or with our comradeships, fully cognizant that in the next round of deliberations, the dissenters may be our concurers. Yes, we might be great dissenters some of the time but I think it is greater to be the majority writers most of the time.
As retirees, we thank our Lord for gifting us long lives, given that the average longevity in our country today is only 70, 69 for men and 71 for women. Thus, all of us have been granted bonus days, months, years and even decades by our Good God. We wake up each morning with a prayer of thanksgiving, cherishing each additional bonus day granted by the Lord.
A week ago, a friend sent me via Viber a cartoon of Charlie Brown, remember him? The cartoon featured the young smart-alecky Charlie Brown gazing at the night stars, talking to his dog, Snoopy. He said, “We only live once.” To which the smarter Snoopy replied, “Wrong! We only die once. We live every day.” Yes, we live every day. Let us make each day count. Smile, laugh, sing, dance, travel and enjoy life till we reach 100 and beyond.
Again, as retirees, we love to reminisce our bygone years. And because the 2019 bar exams were just over, we remember our own bar tests in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when the rivalry was not only among UP, Ateneo and the University of San Carlos, but also among the venerable law schools in the old – now traffic-laden – University Belt like UST, San Beda, MLQ, UE and, of course, FEU.
Ah, them were the days when the bus fare on the Halili Transit and JD Transit was only 10 and later on, 15 centavos; when the taxi fare was only 10 centavos flag down and 5 centavos for every half-a-kilometer of traffic-free roads; when two, and later, four pesos could buy one US dollar, and one US dollar could buy 360 Japanese yens; when we dated our girlfriends who became our wives at the Moonlight Terrace or the Jai Alai Sky Room or the dreamy Winter Garden in the Manila Hotel; and when our favorite singers were Sylvia La Torre, Ruben Tagalog, Diomedes Maturan and Pilita Corrales. Question: Who is the newest singing sensation in our country today? Moira de la Torre.
Yes, those were the days also when we had to wait at least two years for a telephone, only to get one with a party-line which the teenaged children of our party line always keep busy. Now, we can get small, hand-carried phones instantly. Even our house helps can get them. We do not have to pay for long-distance calls to anywhere in the world because we can use Skype, Facetime, Viber, What’s App or Telegram. On our smart phones, we can even hear our favorite newscasts and see our favorite TV shows and movies. We can also snap pictures and video, and share them instantly with our friends.
In the near future, with the advent of the fifth generation or 5G technology, we can use our smart phones to buy anything from the department stores and the sidewalk talipapas, as they now do in China, and will be able to see instantly via monitored CCTV what is happening in our bedrooms, kitchens, salas and backyards, even from abroad while we travel.
Truly, as I told a younger audience two weeks ago, the Information Revolution has changed our lives, beginning with the founding of the Internet on October 29, 1969 at the University of California in Los Angeles, and the creation of new wealth that is sometimes invisible to the naked eye. Remember that the wealth created by millennial billionaires like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma can hardly be comprehended by our five senses, unlike the fortunes built by John Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, Walt Disney and Thomas Edison which could be seen, or felt, or heard by the human senses and could be touched, felt or heard physically.
But beyond the Internet and 5G will proliferate in the next five years the wonders of artificial intelligence, crypto currencies and the Internet of Things. And even beyond them, all of us will witness a revolution in health care that would easily make our grandchildren live much longer than us, as much as 150 years, because they will have the advantage of growing their replacement body parts through the marvel of stem cell technology and the conquest of cancer, heart attack, pneumonia, diabetes and physical disabilities. Indeed, they can grow, exchange or even trade-in spare hearts, spare limbs and spare brains.
In fact, some genetic engineers say that by the year 2045 (when most of us will still be alive), death from disease will be “optional” and ageing will be reversed. Humans would no longer die from natural causes. Advance medical knowledge will be able to eliminate dead cells from the body, repair damaged cells and regenerate new ones through stem cell replacements.
As you probably know, ageing is caused by the shortening of the “telomeres” of the chromosomes with the passage of time. Even today, laboratory experiments have shown that it is possible not only to arrest their shortening but also to lengthen these telomeres. Major tech companies like Google and Microsoft have started veering their sights to these amazing sciences which will occupy world attention sooner than later.
All these ruminations lead me to an old favorite joke of mine to end this talk. It is said that in the future, the brains of the dead would be sold to replace those of the living. Publicly to be auctioned by Sotheby in London would be the preserved brains of Albert Einstein and of Alberto Estan, a Filipino who failed the bar exams three times in a row. The auction would start at $1,000 dollars for Einstein’s brain and $100,000 for the bar flunker’s. The question is: Why would Einstein’s brain be auctioned much cheaper than Estan’s? Because “Einstein’s brain is already overused while the bar flunker’s brain is almost new and underused.”
As I close these impertinent remarks and corny jokes, let me wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Cheers!!!