Tito Pipo’s little secret to a long, blessed life | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

From the bedroom I could hear Vergel answer the landline outside, chatting for a while with whomever it was before handing me the phone.

“Sounds like Tito Pipo,” he said.

It could have been any of them, really; they all sound alike. I was guessing it was Marquitos, one of two uncles living around Manila; the other two, one of them Pipo, live abroad. Marquitos could be resetting his 90th birthday lunch from last March 23—it was overtaken by the lockdown.

If it was Pipo, from Los Angeles, it would be unlikely, I thought—I just greeted him on his 98th on March 19, St. Joseph’s feast day. He couldn’t take the saint’s name, Jose, since the brother before him, Peping, who would be 100 this year, on Sept. 29, had already taken it. Pipo was christened Francisco, instead. Such a mismatch was bound to happen with their mom, my Lola Enchay: she had nine sons, coming two years apart.

Peping and Pipo, my two oldest living paternal uncles, have outlived Dad by nearly a decade now. Dad left at the ripe-enough age of 91, though not in as good a shape as his brothers, who remain lucid and conversant, if a little deaf. Peping, however, after a fall early last year, has become bedridden, but his mind and sense of humor are amazingly intact.


Pipo’s call, being unoccasioned, was totally unexpected. He called at Christmastime and on my birthday. I wondered what could be so urgent. He asked if Vergel and I were okay, and after ascertaining that, he assured me he, too, was well. He had another point, but before he went to it he had me promise to do as he would ask; we both know I would and always did, but I promised all the same.

He asked me to take a deep breath and count one-two-three-four, holding it. I did. At four he told me to say “Jesus.”

I had to remind myself this was my Tito Pipo, though his voice sounded like his younger brother, Marquitos, from whom such exhortations would come naturally. Anyway, I did as told a few times as he listened on the phone.

“Do that and you will remember Jesus many times while at home this Holy Week, and you will be okay,” he said. “That’s why I’m okay myself, hija.”

He didn’t seem as eager to converse some more as before, as though he was on God’s errand and needed other calls to make.

Spiritual advice

Tito Pipo, at his age, lives alone and prefers it that way, much to the dismay of his children, who are all in the United States. Only one son and a daughter are in Los Angeles.; the other children are in San Francisco and Houston.

He stopped driving only recently—his eyes aren’t as good as before. He still drops by the nearby hospital for some excuse or other, especially when there’s a pretty new nurse at reception. He also gets a kick chatting with Spanish-speaking homeless people and occasionally has a few laughs with them. I imagine that at this time he’s locked down, too, if not by government decree, by order of his children and grandchildren. I don’t think he’s bored, not when he’s saying, not only thinking, Jesus between breaths and calling people, even those across the ocean, to spread the word.

That’s what he called me for? He was the last person I would have expected spiritual advice from, not my fun-loving, easygoing Tito Pipo. Though, as I recall, he had always been somewhat philosophical in his younger days. He made sense of everything in his own way and never seemed to worry about anything at all. I don’t think he’s changed in that aspect. How fortunate I was to have been among his chosen ones with whom to share the little secret to a long, blessed life. And how timely, too—on the first day of Holy Week. No pontifications, just saying Jesus’ name with every conscious breath. Like a mantra, I thought, it’s bound to change my attitude and inner feelings, and alter the vibrations around me.

Good start

This Holy Week, I’m home where and when I have never prayed so much so often. In this setting I will have the chance to contemplate the passion and death of Jesus without mundane distractions. On Palm Sunday, the Gospel spoke of Jesus’s pain of betrayal by all, including his disciples and at one point, on the cross, even by his own Father whom he atypically refers to at that moment as His God.

By His passion and death, Jesus Himself accompanies people who are themselves on the brink of despair, a place easy to find oneself in these days of the pandemic.

Like Jesus, many poor people are beginning to feel betrayed and abandoned by their local and national government, their fellowmen, and, indeed, by God Himself.

Like Jesus, many health workers risking their lives at the front lines and at the end of the day are treated with contempt by the very people they sacrifice for—one getting driven away with stones, an ambulance driver taking a bullet in his hand, and not a few facing eviction by their landlords and neighbors. Betrayals are indeed the unkindest cut of all.

Tito Pipo’s call got me off to a good start. If the message had been delivered by anybody else, it might not have made the same impact. It suddenly dawned on me. How wise and loving is the Lord to go to such trouble for my personal conversion and salvation! The more I think about it, the clearer it becomes who really called me today.

One-two-three-four, Jesus!

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