Did you know that February 14 is also Juan Ponce Enrile’s birthday? It would be very apt and necessary, then, to celebrate on that day not only the tragic death of St. Valentine, the patron saint of love, but also the miraculous life of Enrile, the living manifestation of forever. Indeed, the only thing that’s stopping the sainthood of Enrile is the fact that he’s still alive.
It is said that St. Valentine was executed on February 14, circa 270 A.D., for having clandestinely officiated weddings for young lovers in Rome. At that time, under the rule of Emperor Claudius II, marriages were illegal because Claudius believed romantic attachments hindered Roman men from joining their military force. St. Valentine, a priest, defied such order, and hence he was sentenced to death. We know of this historical account because Enrile witnessed it all and lived to tell the tale.
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In fact, Enrile was even complicit in the illegal weddings. He also tenaciously believed that lovers should be married. Claudius ordered his beheading, too, but he was simply invincible. When they cut Enrile’s head off, it just grew back instantly, like the Hydra’s.
Enrile was simply invincible. When they cut his head off, it just grew back instantly, like the Hydra’s.
It would be a glaring omission, however, to focus only on such events and leave out Enrile’s earlier life.
“Here,” Enrile says, handing me a photograph. “It is my favorite.”
I take a look at the old photograph. In it is the young Enrile riding a brontosaurus.
“Look at that. Dinosaurs are not that terrifying, I tell you,” Enrile says, laughing. For someone who has lived for eons, his laughter still has this youthful joviality to it. He pauses and seems to reminisce his life during the Jurassic period.
“So,” I ask, “what can you say about people who always make fun of your age?”
He laughs again. “I stopped minding the jokes a very long time ago, around the time of the construction of the Tower of Babel. I received old jokes in all languages imaginable. Such jokes have been around since time immemorial, you see. Nevertheless, I must admit that they never get old.”
When the storm finally subsided, when the sun finally rose, Enrile was the first living thing Noah’s raven found.
He then recounts his experiences during the Flood. He was not in good terms with Noah, he says, so he wasn’t allowed to enter the ark. For forty days, he kept floating, just letting the global deluge wash him away anywhere it wanted. When the storm finally subsided, when the sun finally rose, he was the first living thing Noah’s raven found.
Then, as if confessing, but in a playful voice, Enrile says, “I just love the Fall. To this day, I still cannot believe Adam and Eve fell so easily for my silly prank.”
“In the beginning was the word... and the word was ‘Gusto ko happy ka.’”
We go on talking about the creation of the universe. Maybe because he saw the event firsthand, he finds no difficulty reconciling the Big Bang with the Bible. “In the beginning was the word,” Enrile says reflectively, “and the word was ‘Gusto ko happy ka.’”
It is getting late in the afternoon. I turn off my voice recorder and thank Enrile for his time. “I’m sorry if the interview took too long,” I say.
He smiles. “No time is too long,” he says with an air of mystery. “Everything I told you this afternoon, my son, happened in the blink of an eye.”