Charo Santos-Concio appeared to have cracked the code on how to live a happy retirement life.

It’s been six years since she stepped down as president and CEO of ABS-CBN, but as a wise man once said, you retire from your job but never retire your mind. Same goes for Charo, the learning never stops.

“I’m so much into the study of Carl Jung now, psychology, because it makes me understand the human psyche better. It deepens my insights about humanity and how people behave and why people behave a certain way and all that stuff. When I read stories, mas lumalim pa yung insights ko tungkol sa katauhan,” the former television boss disclosed in a recent presscon launching her new show Shine On, Overseas Pinoy on TFC.

Premiering yesterday, May 14, on TFC in Asia, Europe and Middle East, the talk show about financial education aims to help overseas Filipino workers achieve their dream of a comfortable retirement when they come home.

Each episode features Charo with a guest OFW and an expert financial advisor discussing real-life financial concerns and possible solutions. Topics range from alternative sources of income, health protection for OFWs and their families, life insurance, retirement planning to building a business. The program is co-produced by ABS-CBN with leading financial services company Sun Life Philippines, of which Charo is a long-time celebrity ambassador.

Apart from remaining visible in showbiz through hosting shows (the other being her long-running program MMK) and film acting on the side, she continues to be available to aspiring stars seeking expert guidance.

“I love coaching young talents. Medyo nakakatuwa because nakakapagturo ako. You know, it is always good to make a first good impression, and good manners and right conduct are a must for everyone na humaharap sa publiko (who face the public) and different social situations,” Charo said.

“I’m just giving them the tools but at the end of the day, I always tell them… this is just icing on the cake. The most important thing is there is an authentic character in each one of you. ‘Yan ang dala mo, lahat ng panlabas ay icing on the cake. What’s important is that what we see is the authentic person.”

Incidentally, The STAR previously had a one-on-one with Charo in relation to SunLife’s Partner In Health campaign this year, which includes the webinar series Safe Space in collaboration with the Philippine Mental Health Association, Inc. (New topic, titled Imperfect Balance: How Mental Wellness Bridges Work and Life, is now available on SunLife’s Facebook and YouTube Channel, while another is coming up, You are Worth It: Illuminating a Path towards Holistic Health, on June 18).

One of the questions this paper asked Charo was if she were to reissue her memoir, My Journey: The Story of An Unexpected Leader that was first released in 2017, what would she add.

“My retirement years,” she was quick to respond before elaborating: “A lot of executives talk about their years of success, their discovery about leadership. But I think very few people write about the years when they start to fade, you know (laughs). And what one goes through, what the soul goes through and there’s a real evolution there that happens, you become a different person. It’s a very deep, internal journey of getting to know oneself and to really, truly become comfortable with who you are — warts and all.”

Asked if she ever struggled settling into the so-called “second half of life,” Charo said, “No naman. I was ready for it. I prepared myself for it and I prepared the organization. But there are certain changes that happen around you. And sometimes these changes startle you, bago eh, something new is happening to you and you experience another set of feelings na hindi mo pa nararamdaman because you haven’t been there.

“But in the end, you really learn to befriend yourself and in your aloneness and in your stillness, you love yourself, you accept yourself, who you are, without all the perks, the trimmings and all the strings that come with being a successful executive.”

One of the major things she did immediately after retirement was to declutter and part with material belongings.

“Napakadami! Mga gamit mo through the years, a lot of the old scripts. You’re letting go of a lot of the work that you used to do. Old letters also. You know, I went through reading letters from my high school days, sabi ko, ay, there’s this very sentimental side to me pala. I kept letters from my high school friends and one day, I just started re-reading them again and decided to, ‘Sige, it’s time to let go.’ Ceremonial din siya ha. Parang naging ritual din siya sa akin, letting go and sending all love to the people who loved you, who have been there for you,” she said.

The whole process benefited her mental wellbeing.

“Ultimately, you transcend that, which is physical — things that define your ego. You get to know your higher self, your deeper self, there is a being outside of this body, a soul inside of this body and that’s the most important thing, (it’s) what makes the essence of who we are. And that should be enough,” Charo reflected.

Things didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow step-by-step process for Charo. “So, letting go is really a process, (it’s not like) na in one instance, magagawa mo. You have to continue to evolve as a person. So yung first year, ay ‘wag muna yan. Tapos kokonti lang yung i-let go. Second year, ay ba’t ko ba tinago ito, pwede na yan pakawalan. On the third year, ang dami pala nito, let go ka na naman. So every year, you’re learning to detach. And the pandemic now makes you realize na ang konti lang pala talaga ang kailangan natin para maging maligaya at maging kontento.”

While on the subject of the pandemic, Charo also opened up that like many others, she also underwent a rollercoaster of emotions amid the COVID lockdowns and all. “Of course, at first it was hard, especially as my husband has some health issues. So, there was so much anxiety, worry and fear not only for him, but also for my own safety,” she recalled.

“But ano ang ginawa ko? Hinarap ko ang takot ko sa COVID. I look at COVID straight in the eye, I will not allow you to paralyze me, life has to go on, and so, naging laman ako ng hospital. I was there, I saw things up close, and there’s so much appreciation for the health workers, frontliners. Nadagdagan ba yung empathy mo at compassion mo for other people because nararamdaman mo yung pinagdadaanan nila.”

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