(STAR) TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS By Babe Romualdez - One of my friends called to tell me that he knows of so many people who are dying of illnesses like cancer and heart attacks and most of them are relatively young, in their late 50s and early 60s. It’s bad enough that pollution is being blamed for the rise in chronic illnesses like tuberculosis and cancer, but what’s even worse is the fact that stress is causing all kinds of health problems from chronic headaches to poor blood circulation and even heart attacks, which contribute to the premature death of millions all over the world.

In Japan, some 10,000 Japanese reportedly suffered from heart attacks due to stress with many literally working themselves to death, a phenomenon which the Japanese term as “karoshi.” What’s even more distressing is that many are committing suicide because of the financial crisis which forced a lot of companies to close and cut down jobs. Reports say there are about 30,000 suicides in Japan every year, but the numbers could go higher as the effects of the economic recession are felt in the coming months. As a matter of fact, Japanese suicide hotlines reported a spike in calls – and volunteers are having a difficult time coping with the situation.

In the US, calls to suicide hotlines have also increased to 36 percent in 2008, or a total of 545,000, with many callers worried about job losses and getting evicted from their homes. Experts say the suicide rate for the unemployed is two times higher than that of employed people. Sadly, even kids have not been spared from the effects of the global financial meltdown. In China, the parents of a two-year-old boy committed suicide by drinking pesticide, leaving him an orphan. Reports claim that every two minutes, someone in China commits suicide, with the total number reportedly reaching as high as 300,000 per year or about 25 to 30 percent of all suicides in the whole world.

But an even tragic story is that of a jobless and bankrupt couple in Quebec, Canada whose New Year’s resolution was to end their financial problems by killing their three children and committing suicide afterwards. The mother survived the attempt and is now facing charges of triple infanticide and assisting her husband to commit suicide.

But then again, it’s not only the poor and unemployed who are taking the easy (some say coward’s) way out by killing themselves. Several days ago, the financial world was rocked by the suicide of German billionaire Adolf Merckle who stepped in front of a train near his home in southwest Germany. Merckle, a self-made billionaire who was ranked as the 94th richest man in the world and the fifth wealthiest in Germany, made a few bad business decisions last year which resulted in losses amounting to €530 million. Negotiations with creditor banks were already underway, but sources say part of the deal was for Merckle (described by some as a “penny-pinching billionaire”) to relinquish control of his empire – a humiliating prospect which many say could have led to Merckle’s decision to take his own life.

According to the World Health Organization, about one million people commit suicide per year or every 40 seconds – and this could increase to one suicide every 20 seconds by 2020. At the onset of the financial crisis, the WHO director-general had already warned about the possibility of an increase in mental health problems, saying a rise in suicides can be linked to the global financial turmoil. “It should not come as a surprise that we continue to see more stresses, suicides and mental disorders,” the WHO chief said during a meeting of mental health experts in Geneva.

There’s nothing wrong in working hard to achieve wealth, but it’s never worth it if you will lose your physical and mental health. The primary thing about accumulating wealth is not so much to pass it on to someone else but to save enough to be able to enjoy the fruits of all your hard work in the last quarter of your life. After all, there is always an opportunity to recover any lost wealth, but no amount of money can make one get back his health once it is lost. One must always remember that at the end of the day, “health is wealth.”

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Shortly after I wrote a column about the incident at the Valley Golf and Country Club (VGCC) involving the Pangandaman and the De la Paz families, I received a call from my friend and Subic Yacht Club general Manager Mari Vargas who told me the other side of the story. Unfortunately, I was unable to do a follow up story on the incident, but I’m glad the VGCC has come out with its report regarding the incident – which I tend to believe.

I asked around to check deeper on the incident from people who frequent Valley Golf, and apparently, Delfin de la Paz is known to have a very short temper and even the caddies attest to this. Perhaps this is the reason why De la Paz lost his cool so easily. Wrong perception is really one of the worst things in life, especially if one manages to get his story out ahead of the other side. All of us are guilty one way or the other of jumping to conclusions right away. In any case, this matter is better resolved in the courts if both parties wish to continue with the “fight.”

Golf can really be an intense game, and people can easily lose their perspective and temper especially if one is having a bad day. But the bottom line is, golf is a gentleman’s game, and no one – but no one – should behave in any manner to the contrary. My congratulations to the Valley Golf management for coming out with what seems to be an accurate account of the incident and imposing just sanctions for those involved.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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