Monday, July 26, 2010

Beautiful Dreamer

By Adrian Cristobal (THE BREAKFAST TABLE)

All our life….. is a persistent dreaming awake.—Henry David Thoreau

THE OUTSTANDING irony of Raul Manglapus’ life was his expulsion from the Senate by virtue of Electoral Tribunal finding him guilty of election overspending. Some people hailed this decision as the triumph of electoral reform, but it was more realistically perceived by the many as the triumph of hypocrisy. But there were no public demonstrations against the injustice done to one of the eloquent voices in the pre-martial law Senate.

In this little world of ours, it’s the small offenders who get punished for their sins. The big ones go on happily to "greater achievements." They can say with Napoleon that they had done so much without committing any crime, since to kill one person is murder while to murder many is conquest. The clerk caught stealing P100 gets several life terms while the official who runs away with millions is just maligned or misunderstood, a victim of malicious critics.

Manglapus, since his Senate stint, got back to the Senate after a period of resistance in exile to the Marcos regime; he had barely warmed his well deserved seat when he was chosen to head he Department of Foreign Affairs, a position that he graced with his intelligence in three languages: English, Spanish and French. After that, he served quietly in a government corporation.

But it’s not often mentioned that the Christian Democratic party he founded, which is affiliated with socialist International, served as the ideological fuel and campaign umbrella of Lakas- NUCD – MDP. He had high hopes for the future of his democratic vision based on social equity (and restructuring ), but as with most visions, his gave way to the "realities" of politics.

The word "reality" fell uneasily on Manglapus lips. He was the "original" man from La Mancha; the image of the "impossible dreamer" aptly described him. He was the man who attacked windmills, he popularized for us the saying that a man in the gutter looked at the stars. His favorite anecdote was the mason who, when asked about his brick-laying, proudly answered, " I am building a cathedral".

The songs he wrote inspired a generation of Ateneans ("fly high…") and a generation or two of political activities ( Magsaysay Mambo"). After Edsa, he wrote the less successful " Lady of the Avenue." All these showed his love of music: his Executive Combo—with Tony Molina, Lenny Hontiveros, Rudy Topacio and others—delighted select audiences as it played with Bill Clinton on the sax and Amelita Ramos on the piano. Politics could play second fiddle to music, which is more pleasant, more dependable.

The last time I saw Raul was in the garden of banker O. V.Espiritu, and we agreed to see each other again – for some activity or other he could still do a mean dance, this man to whom a politics was a calling, a mission rather than with exemplary rewards. He would have been happy to instill Democratic Christian soialism in the minds and hearts of Filipinos more than each his name in their memory.

I cannot say what kind of statesman he would have made had he elected to stay in the Senate rather than render himself invisible in a government corporation. I guess he thought he had done as much as he could, sometimes with craftiness but not with dishonesty. The senators who finally threw out the US military bases from the country are all deserving of a nation’s praise. It would not be remiss to remember, however, that the moment Manglapus, as chief negotiator of the Philippine government, fired the first salvo against Richard Armitage, the military Bases Agreement’s future was sealed. Not all the last minute attempts to save it could erase the fact, underlined eloquently by Manglapus, that the Philippines was negotiating out of resentment over past injuries. He could be a fox, although for most of his public life, he had the heart of lion.

He was not, of course, everything that he wanted him to be, as no man can be everything that he wants himself to be. He barged into the political scene like the famous "tao" of his oration, shocking the establishment out of his complacency, invoking for it a better life for he people. But he was a man of words in his highest meaning and therefore, constrained by conscience, and only men of action, as Goethe said, can afford to be unhampered by conscience.

Still, his last moments, as he fought his last battle with throat cancer, he must have died, in the midst of all the pain , happy in the thought that he did all he could. I do hope that his widow, Pacita, could attest to that.

To him, as Honoratio to Hamlet, "Good night, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

No comments:

Post a Comment