Like the first two lines of his favorite poem, “If,” by Rudyard Kipling, Juan Valentin Furagganan-Ponce Enrile – JPE to all of us – has largely kept his composure amid the chaos our country had often found itself in.

At 100 years old, the man may well say he has seen plenty and lived to tell the tale – but he is not telling any tales, no. On his 100th birthday celebrated with close kin and friends on 17 February at his home, JPE preferred to share his wisdom instead.

Among the gifts he and his family gave to everyone they invited that evening to toast to his health were special centennial stamps and his words in a flash drive, part of which revealed a piece of his heart: “I’m glad and I think I’m happy and lucky that I have reached this age. And I will thank the Lord for that blessing. I would like, as probably one of the oldest, if not the oldest, Filipino today, to leave some thoughts to the people that I will probably leave soon. I want you all to be happy and united. I want you all to be safe, prosperous, and well and healthy. Fight for this country. Fight for liberty, for freedom. Fight for what is just and what is right. Always follow the teachings of our God. Love one another, love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

JPE, his equanimity an unlikely force of its own, was the man of the hour in a glittering night filled with warmth and laughter. The few hundred who came to celebrate a centenary of life enjoyed each other’s company while savoring the lavish spread prepared mainly by Cibo.

Cocktails infused with Filipino flavors were concocted by Manila Crafts, depicting chapters of JPE’s intoxicating life with names like Sampung Dekada (Lanzones Mocktail), Juanito Spritz (Pandan Aperol), Minister’s Old Fashioned (Caramelized Banana Bourbon), Manong Johnny (Tamarind Rum Sour), Morado (Lychee and Blue Pea aka Ursula), Harvardtini (Classic Dirty Martini), Gerilya Ti Amianan (Jalapeno Mexcalita), Valentin (Gin Pomelo), Tango Twist (Dalandan Mojito) and Rubiayat (Godfather Sour).

The place transported them to a bygone era – genteel and charming, every detail a story, a glimpse of a life full, imperfect but well and truly lived. His daughter, Katrina, pulled all the stops along with close family friend Edna Camcam to ensure that the celebration was perfection. Nothing could have paid tribute more to the father, husband, brother, friend and public servant who has lived to share his wisdom: “Shall I begin’? Today is my birthday. I’m 100 years old. I have seen a lot in life. Some nice, some bad, some sad, some happy. And that is life, because in my own humble way, I think life is like a river where one is thrown by his creator and he moves along that river not knowing where he or she will end.”