Joseph Robinette ‘Beau’ Biden III


The eldest son of the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, died last week of brain cancer at the age of 46. He nominated his Dad at the Democratic Convention in 2008, was elected Delaware’s attorney general for two terms, and had declared a run for the Governor’s Office in 2016. His memorial service has no less than President Barack Obama giving the eulogy.

Beau was short of the U.S. life expectancy of 79 years—76 for males and 81 for females. The statistical figure is no comfort. But the Asian-American male in Hawaii, which has the highest life expectancy among the states in the U.S., is 82, up by one on the state average of 81 of all ethnic groups. Never mind that Asian-American itself is a nebulous identity but the figure is two years over the average in number 1 Japan that has an average longevity at 84, with the male lasting ’til 80 and the female ’til 87. Japan loves its veggies and I aim to last ’til I am 86.

Twenty years ago, I went for 70, higher than the life expectancy of pork-eating Pinoys, but now the longevity average is at 69, 65 for the male and 72 for the female. I tacked in a few more years on mine. China has 75 average with 74 for the male and 77 for the female.

Of Philippine DNA descent, a resident of China but with a Hawaii driver license, I cross immigration lines with a U.S. passbook, my 86-year-long lifetime projection is optimistic compared to those of the Philippines, China, and the United States.

The symptoms of Beau’s condition included headaches, numbness, and paralysis. Ten years ago, I was alarmed at the frequency of stomach cramping that was so awful that I drove myself to the ER at CHC one early morn to see if they could determine what was the matter with my physiology. I was told to go see a doctor. Duh! I thought that was what I was at the hospital for!

CHC reportedly do not hire Filipino MDs and are always short of Canada-originating medics, but it refers serious cases to Manila. Go figure!

Father resigned to take permanent residency at Oahu’s Mililani Memorial in 2005. From Saipan, I took to the shores of the alii aimuko who navigated waters with stars, winds and waves for guide. I was hit by cramps again so I was rushed to West Francis where a German MD put me under anesthesia and took out my gall bladder; at the same time Mama and my siblings interred Dad by their lonesome.

The abdominal pains went away. I found out later in Jiangsu west of Shanghai that I did not have to go under the scalpel. Certain juices dissolve the bile overflow. Now the cramps moved to the calves. Semi-sedentary lifestyle on Saipan now has charley horse frequency on the rise, occurring in the early morning hours. Muscle numbness rises beyond the irritating pains of rheumatoid arthritis.

So Beau’s sudden departure (“celebrating the completion of his journey” is my phrase) found echoes in my reflections of my body state. He was ill, and I still ail.

Refined sugar and liquid spirit is the blight of Pacific islanders. I watch broad butts and bloated feet among diabetes-prone colleagues. In Majuro of the early ’80s, I became aware of radiation effects as well. A man walking ahead of me collapsed. Rogue atoms worked like laser beams on his innards. Bikini became more than just the term for a two-piece swimsuit! With Eniwetok, they were sites of a decade-long experiment in exploding atomic materials. The Cactus Dome at Runit on the southern end of the Ralik Chain is dump for radioactive material.

If refined sugar and alcohol caused havoc on Pacific islanders’ health, cancer is its global equivalent. We take for granted plastic toxicity in our microwaves to warm up food. We do not intend to diminish with casualness the Biden family’s mourning over Beau’s demise. We point out that many of what ails us are run-of-the-mill results of attempts to make life easier with a quick fix.

Death at any time is not easy to handle. The stillness that accompanies its observance involves shedding of tears and sobs. With VP Joe Biden’s son, the incidence of death is a heartbreak that knows no political party coloration.

Autism accompanies the path of my family, and though death is not common, walking differently-abled are. The toxic infusion into our food chain, the heavy preservatives in medicines we take, and the propensity to grab a pill at the first instance of pain, hurries body metabolism beyond normal capacity.

Direct correlation is hard to ascribe but my two children, now 23 and 20 years old, who will never call me other than coldly as simply “father,” had mercury pumped into their system 20 times more than normal as toddlers. Warmth is not a quality of their ASD make-up.

The euphemism of “passing” socially employed in lieu of “death” indicates a reluctance to deal with the face of reality. The facticity attendant to Beau’s demise is refreshing. We are all headed in the same direction. Ability to manage its eventuality is a gift of human perspicacity

Beau occasions our thoughts on an unpopular state even on oblivion.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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