Having served almost four decades as a soldier, former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Alexander “Onay” B. Yano admitted missing his military life, including his former colleagues and mistahs (or classmates).
“I miss the uniform and the unique military practices and culture, camaraderie and friendship among soldiers especially the bond in the field of combat, opportunity to travel and experience other places, including foreign training and visits, and the rare chance to help fellow Filipinos in far-flung and underserved areas, where only the presence of soldiers is the semblance of government,” says General Yano.
General Yano used to visit camps to catch up with former co-workers who are still active in the service. But with the pandemic, these interactions have been limited to online platforms.
“I used to be a lecturer or speaker in AFP training institutions. Of course, the pandemic has disrupted this routine,” he says. (Read: 4 Valuable Things I Learned in Military Training)
A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1976, General Yano is the 38th AFP Chief of Staff who retired from the active military service in May 2009. Thereafter, he was appointed as the Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam until June 30, 2010.
“I consider it as a collective accomplishment during my service, especially when I was at the helm of the AFP the following: professionalizing the Corps, focusing on its core mandate of serving the people and securing the state, meritocracy and striving for excellence in all facets of military activities, discouraging military adventurism (coups and extra-constitutional means) among soldiers; and keeping the AFP away from partisan political involvement,” he reveals.
Upon retirement, General Yano has published two books about his life story. He also set up a personal museum called, “Onay Museum” containing memorabilia and items collected during his military and diplomatic careers. (Read: Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art Holds Virtual Exhibit for Female Artists)
“These books and museum aim to inspire the young generations, especially from my province, who are less-privileged, that they, too, can succeed through determination and hard work,” says General Yano.
Life as a retiree and private citizen
It’s been 11 years since General Yano retired from the military service. Obviously, his routine and lifestyle changed a lot: No wear or attire restrictions so he’s free to choose his fashion depending on the occasion.
“My schedule of activities is freewheeling in time and nature or type. They’re not as regimented as before. The types of activities I engage in are not restricted. I can engage in my physical activities like exercises at varied and longer times. I can travel and read more, interact with friends, classmates, and loved ones. Longer family bonding time. More time to go mountain biking, trekking, tree planting, etc.,” he says. (Read: 3 Tips to Starting Your Own Herb Garden)
Like most people whose lives were affected by the pandemic, General Yano’s routine has been altered drastically, too. He used to be active in mountain biking but when the pandemic set in, it became limited. He also does some farming chores like planting trees and exercises with weights in a limited way.
“I’ve limited my movements and social interactions in keeping with the health protocols. I relocated away from the urban NCR to a mountain farm outside of the city. I focused more on planting assorted fruit trees and occasional trekking. I’ve practically isolated myself from physical contacts outside of the family circle. I maintain social media contact and online advocacy meetings with groups, mostly retirees,” he shares. (Read: ‘Plant Lola’ Shares How Gardening Brought Her Joy Upon Retirement)
But General Yano makes sure to share his blessings through charity works and gives ayuda to poor households in his mountain neighborhood, which he does regularly even pre-pandemic.
Advice to military retirees
For fellow military retirees, General Yano advised them to stay active and involved, physically, socially, intellectually, spiritually within their group and the society at large even after retirement.
“Health is wealth is a truism. You’re no longer the super-efficient body machine that you used to be. Calibrate your activities and food intake in accordance with the demands of that vintage machine. No need to work so hard for the welfare of your children or apos. Stay happy, take less stress, and enjoy. You won’t live for the next 50 or 100 years. Leave whatever valuable lessons to the next generation but don’t expect them to heed everything,” he concludes.