80-Year-Old Top Filipino Brain Doctor Reveals His Secret to Happiness and Long Life
Out of Office explores the lives of businessmen, CEOs, and industry movers when they are not at work. We ask their hobbies, interests, and things they secretly indulge in. For this edition, we talk to Dr. Joven Cuanang, one of the country’s leading neurologists and chief patron of the arts.
“I am 80 years old, but you know, I feel like I’m 20,” says Dr. Cuanang, one of the leading neurologists in the Philippines. At his age, he’s still very active in the medical profession and his week is usually filled with appointments. The doctor works from Mondays to Saturdays, but likes to relax and escape the city on Sundays, when he spends the day in Pinto Art Museum, a massive complex dedicated to contemporary art.
The doctor hinted on the science of how beauty and art heal people, which is also probably why he spends a lot of time at his art museum on the weekends.
“People are so immersed with the fact that healing should be associated with surgery or use pharmaceuticals. My philosophy is that you can do these, but it should be complemented or supplemented with endeavors related to an environment that heals. That’s why that hospital has many works of art,” he says.
Dr. Cuanang also spends a lot of time reading. “On a typical day outside the office, you will catch me reading. My reading materials could be the New York Times, classic books, or a medical book. I like getting updated with new research related to neuroscience, especially brain functions. I also love to read about artificial intelligence,” he says.
He then goes on about the levels of AI development, how these are replacing humans in certain capacities, and how he thinks the human mind is so complex that it is impossible now for any AI to come anywhere close to replicating it. “I think that AI can approximate to a certain degree the human brain but I think it will never be that complete,” he adds.
When asked about the first car he ever owned, he smiles and says: “a Volkswagen!” For him, a car is simply a machine that will carry people from one place to another, faster than running. “I have never been into fancy cars to the point that I will spend a lot of money on one,” he says. “It’s a machine. A lot of people would invest a lot of money into these things, but I’m not into it.”
“I have only one car, a Toyota. I never understood why some people need to have so many. That’s part of the problem related to traffic,” says Dr. Cuanang. “I cannot entirely blame them, because there are large families who need to have separate cars."
"Beauty heals. There's a science to it."
We asked Dr. Cuanang why he is so enthused about the arts. “My philosophy about development is about education, and art is part of the educational process, especially now when there’s so much technology involved. Humanities should be emphasized, especially with doctors because we deal with human beings,” he says.
“If you want to be truly educated, you must be able to have very well developed knowledge related to both science and the humanities, and that’s the reason why I built the Pinto Academy for Arts and Sciences for Healing and Wholeness.”
He might have just given away the secret to longevity: “Beauty heals. There’s a science to it already, it’s called neuroaesthetics.”
The 80-year-old then walks downhill and uphill for 30 minutes to give us a tour of his sprawling art museum in Antipolo. At the end of the tour, he isn’t even panting. “It’s good exercise,” he says, before he leaves for his afternoon siesta.