How does one get to a ripe “young” age of 100 without maintenance pills of any sort and with a clean bill of health from his doctors?
I am referring to my father, Manuel Y. Carmona, who turned 100 last Dec. 14.
It is surreal to have a healthy centenarian in our midst who does not take any medication to speak of other than the usual vitamins that most of us take — C, B Complex, E, D, calcium, magnesium and other supplements. He has the blood pressure of a young man and the numbers in his blood test are those of a man in his prime.
My dad grew up in Iloilo with his parents and siblings. Of humble beginnings, the family lived in a modest house near the sea. An aunt who lived with them would meet the fishermen every morning and buy a few kilos of fish from their catch of the day. Fresh fish was part of the family’s daily fare. It would be cooked in different ways and served with fresh vegetables. There were no sodas nor junk food in their household. The family drank tap water, calamansi juice and tea from mint leaves.
Occasionally, Dad would have chicken, meat and pork but more often than not, it was fresh fish from the fishermen’s catch — cheaper, cleaner and loaded with healthy Omega 3-6-9.
Dad’s palate got so used to fish freshly caught from the sea that he can detect when the fish is more than a day old. I have heard him recount this story many times over: During a business trip to San Francisco and his first time in that city, a friend brought him to a seafood restaurant at Fisherman’s Wharf. He asked for a fish dish but did not find the fish fresh enough so he complained to the waiter. The waiter bragged that the restaurant served only the catch of the day. True enough, after questioning the chef, the fish was more than a day old and came from the freezer.
Going back to his schooldays, Dad saved his meager allowance by walking 50 minutes each way, to and from his school, Colegio de San Agustin. He claims that the hundreds of miles he walked through the years strengthened his legs and made him a good athlete. Because he was tall (6 ft.) and athletic, he was a star player in his school’s basketball team.
After he graduated from college at De La Salle University, where he majored in Business, Dad decided he wanted to see the world and the only way he could do this was to work as a seaman. To this day, I still get fascinated by the many stories of his travels as a seaman. Because of his magnificent description of the Panama Canal, he got me very curious and to this day, the Panama Canal is on top of my bucket list as “ a must-see” site to visit. After all, the American Society of Civil Engineers has ranked the Panama Canal as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
As a seaman, Dad said it was so tempting to indulge in the rich food and alcoholic drinks that the ship’s kitchen offered the guests, which the crew enjoyed after. But he stuck to the healthy diet that he got used to eating as a young man in Iloilo.
During his time as a seaman, he developed his body by doing manual labor in the ship. They had to carry heavy cartons of food supplies, carry tables and chairs for guests and other activities that required physical strength.
After he reached some success in life, Dad got to appreciate more sophisticated food like French cheeses, foie gras, smoked salmon, caviar, French oysters, Angus steak and wine. But always the disciplined man that he is, he’s not prone to excesses. He indulged in those foods only during special occasions or when he was traveling and going to top-rated restaurants. He never smoked in his lifetime.
Dad was always into sports. I saw him play a lot of tennis in his younger years and he must have excelled in it, judging from the comments of the friends he played with. He brought us to swim every weekend in country clubs where he was a member and taught us how to swim the right way. He always encouraged us to do sports. He enrolled all of us in riding school in D’Rossa & Polo Club and told us he would support any sport we wanted to take up.
After years of playing tennis, Dad shifted to golf, a sport he loved and played till he was 98 years old. Three years ago at age 97, he slipped in his bathroom but luckily, a small, round stool blocked his fall and prevented him from hitting his head on the tiled bathroom floor. He hit his rib on the round stool and was in a bit of pain so decided to consult an orthopedic. He told the shocked doctor: “Doc, fix me up well as I have a golf tournament tomorrow!”
The doctor could not believe his ears. In all his years of practice, he never encountered a 97-year-old man who fractured a rib telling him that he had to play golf the next day. Dad was still driving till he was 98 years old. One day, he decided he didn’t want to drive in this traffic anymore.
About 20 years ago, Dad got to like eating balut. He ate two baluts daily, usually during dinner. Because of the nature of his business, Dad always had foreign guests, mostly from Europe. Instead of inviting them to restaurants, he invited them to his house for delicious, home-cooked dinner. To the dismay of his foreign guests, Dad would offer them balut and would show them the unborn bird inside. We enjoyed a good chuckle watching the funny expressions on their faces when they saw the hairy unborn embryo inside the egg.
A few years ago, we noticed there was no more balut on the buffet table. Just like that, he stopped eating it! For what it’s worth, I was informed that balut is a healthy food. The serum or juice contains some kind of stem cell and the egg is a good source of calcium and protein. The calcium of the balut must have strengthened Dad’s bones. It’s probably the reason why he still has strong knees and joints at this precarious age of a hundred.
Nowadays, Dad’s diet has drastically changed. I guess after 100 years, one gets tired of eating. He loves soup, soft boiled eggs, lots of fruits and fresh fruit juices — green, orange and white in color. The green juice has celery, malunggay, green apples, cucumber and other green vegetables. The orange-colored juice has carrot and oranges. The white juice is fresh guayabano. He does not eat meat, chicken, pork, duck nor prawns. When we eat in a Japanese restaurant, he asks for miso soup and unagi over rice. He likes soft cheeses like the goat cheese from Malagos farm, Davao spread over Graham crackers. He also likes foie gras with crackers.
We communicate with him through text messages or direct phone calls. He loves his cell phone and listens to classical singers like Pavarotti, Mario Lanza, Placidos Domingo’s, etc. on YouTube. He does emails and although he has given the reins of his office to his youngest son Charlie, he still goes to office twice a week. He looks forward to Sunday Mass, as he is still the Ecumenical Minister for Holy Communion.
Recently, I asked him how he would describe his life and how he reached 100 in his healthy state. He thought hard and said, “In as much as I didn’t miss out on anything in life because I always pursued my dreams and passions, I lived a life of moderation, hard work, service to God, and most importantly, I had my loving wife and now my children by my side. I believe in having some close friends and healthy business relationships.”
He continued: “That is the secret of my youth at 100 years of age.”