Knowing when to exit


Legacy involves not only a vast array of properties and other material possessions but also the good name and reputation we had built during our lifetime. – 123rf.com

THE pandemic, which ushered a season of death, has raised awareness especially among senior citizens in the Philippines on the matter of legacy. In recent months, our law firm has been receiving more inquiries relating to estate planning, the preparation of wills, and settlement of estate.

For some, legacy involves a vast array of properties which can include real estate holdings, jewelry, bank deposits, shares of stocks, and other material possessions, the partition and distribution of which can sometimes result in the most bitter cases we’ve ever handled, especially among siblings. But for many, the legacy they’d leave behind when they die are the good name and reputation they had built during their lifetime. This kind of legacy becomes more important when the individuals involved are public figures.

Most accomplished men and women have been able to reach a certain level of recognition and have created for themselves a respectable image usually achieved during their prime, something their relatives and the public will remember them by when they pass on. Many however choose to rest on their laurels and fade away from the public eye.

Some people live long enough to eventually commit blunders and acts of indiscretion during their latter years that ultimately bury or erase their earlier days of glory.

There’s Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo – a revolutionary leader and first president of the Philippine republic – who lived long enough to go from hero to zero. He is now better remembered as a villain in history after he refused to exit the political stage, even when he had lost popularity among the people for surrendering to the Americans in 1901 and assassinating his opponents.

Juan Ponce Enrile could simply have settled on being remembered as a hero in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, but his recent public pronouncements on current political issues including the West Philippine Sea and martial law have dimmed his star.

While Education Secretary Leonor Briones was held in high esteem both by the business community and the academe for her exemplary performance as national treasurer, professor, and chair of the board of a university, her recent lapses, specifically on deleting Philippine history in the curriculum, and slow response to the pressing demands of a pandemic-affected educational system, have eroded the pedestal she’s standing on.

Jim Paredes spent a lifetime creating beautiful and unforgettable original Pilipino music and even had his name etched on the Edsa People Power Monument, but is now tarred by that awkward sex video which he described as “a mistake” for which he was “truly sorry.”

National Artist for Literature F. Sionil José, who was well-loved both by academicians and the literati, seemed to have lost much of his shine because of what many perceive as his biased opinions on current political and social issues, including press freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize of Rappler news site founder Maria Ressa. Recent social media posts referring to him as F. “Senile Jose” seem to have stuck in people’s minds more than his Rosales saga. Though Jose made an incredible mark in Philippine literature, he became known in his latter years as “a punch line to a bad aphorism.”

Making a graceful exit from the public eye should be done when we still have full control of our faculties to objectively and dispassionately discern when to do so. With poor eyesight, a weakening heart, an unreliable memory as well as skewed perceptions and opinions on many things hardened by time and past experiences, old people can go wrong. As our body and mind surrender to the infirmities of age, it might be best to keep our opinions, biases, and even weird desires to ourselves, together with our heartaches and body pains.

The advancing years should not be regarded as a license for impunity, a seal of infallibility, or an earned allowance for arrogance.

Life is a stage and each of us has a role to play. We should be able to take the cue on when to appear and when to exit so as not to confuse the other actors and disrupt the play of life. No matter what the assigned roles are and however small, some actors play their characters so well that they leave a mark of distinction in the audience’s memory. In real life, that is what we call legacy, something people will remember when we’re gone.

While first impression lasts, last impressions last longer. – Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

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