A FEW days ago an unusual picture popped up on my social media feed: it featured a salt and pepper bearded man being welcomed as an ordained deacon of the Georgian Orthodox Church. His name? Mercurios Hanson – which might not ring a bell immediately but your memory might start tingling slightly when you remember that there was once a band of precocious brothers called Hanson that took the world by storm in 1997 with their infectious hit “MMMBop.”
Yes, Mercurios – also known as Zac – was part of that group and was in fact the youngest and smallest of them all at the time of their first hit – he was the one almost dwarfed behind the drum kit, hitting those beats. The father of five discovered the Georgian Orthodox faith over a decade ago and has now fully embraced the life choice assigned to be deacon at the Sacred Monastery of St. Iakovos in Piedmont, Oklahoma.
Having recently just hit the landmark age of fifty, I’m lucky to be at the vantage point of reasonably expecting that I have many productive years ahead while having a wealth of experience behind me. A recent episode on TED’s Radio Hour focused on Late Bloomers and quite a few stories stood out. There is Susan Macgregor who at the age of fifty four became an Antarctic scientist living in the South Pole. There is Rick Clingman who at the age of sixty began a career as a songwriter. And then there’s Cecilia Zoltanski who in her sixties lost her marriage and career but discovered the world of sailing.
Second careers, new directions, reinventing one’s self – stories like this aren’t new. In fact, a quick look around two of the biggest arenas of public interest in the Philippines – politics and show business – and you will see quite a number of second careers with quite a bit of crossover between the two arenas even. Let’s start with the Senate – four of the twelve who won in the elections of 2022 had robust careers in media before getting their big break in politics. Jinggoy Estrada and Robin Padilla were action stars in the movies. Raffy Tulfo was a radio, television and internet consumer and citizen’s advocate while Loren Legarda was a news reader before becoming a senator.
While their legislative achievements are a mixed bag, on the local level, Baguio has been served well by our own second career politicians. Benjamin Magalong was a decorated police officer with an illustrious career behind him before becoming mayor while Mark Go achieved much success in the academe, private sector and the public sector before serving Baguio in the House of Representatives. Indeed, one could argue that it is precisely the wealth of experience and wisdom that both gentlemen gained in their previous lives that has served them well in their current positions.
Moving away from politics but still staying within Baguio, National Artist for Film Kidlat Tahimik is another second career person. He was educated in UP, founded AIESEC in the Philippines, got an MBA from Wharton and worked as an expat in Paris – facts that wouldn’t be surprising if you were talking about a career banker or technocrat – but hardly the things you would associate with the bahag-wearing and ever-smiling icon of Baguio. Within my own Baguio circles, I count Candy Alipio – a social entrepreneur with Knitting Expedition and a production designer for local and international film productions, and myself a theater actor and teacher and one time benign intestinal bacteria pitch man – as people with second careers now too as the co-founders of Vivita Philippines, our incubator for creative Baguio youth.
My father had a favorite quote that he had printed on his work desk from Gail Goodwin:
“There are two kinds of people. One kind, you can just tell by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas, the other kind keeps moving, changing… They are fluid. They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive. You must be constantly on your guard against congealing.”
I raise my father’s favorite quote by giving him one from the band of brothers called Hanson from their song MMMbop:
“Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose
You can plant any one of those
Keep planting to find out which one grows”