Monday, July 26, 2010


Under the Sun Raul L. Contreras

Metro Today – July 28, 1999

Another warrior is dead. Raul S. Manglapus died before dawn broke, after having lived long enough under the sun to enjoy the freedom he fought for and help regain for us after 14 years.

My encounters with my tocayo (that’s how he called me) over 43 years were sporadic. We first met at a merienda cena for visiting foreign students in 1956 in the lovely residence of the incorruptible and the indefatigable Rodrigo Perez Jr., Fr. Bobby’s and Spanky’s late father Raul Manglapus then was the boyish-looking Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, while Papa Rod was chairman of the Commission on Elections (and later secretary of finance in the Macapagal government) Ramon Magsaysay had drawn the best, the brightest and the cleanest to his governance.

Approaching the buffet table filled with every delectable Filipino merienda dish prepared by Mama Etang Perez, I was right behind the undersecretary. We chatted about my experience as Philippine delegate to the NewYork Herald Tribune Forum the year before as he insisted on filing my plate in addition to his.

My closest friends then – Spanky Perez, Buddy Gomez, Joey Ortiz and Esty Juco, among others – worked their tails off when Manglapus ran for senator in the ticket of Manuel Manahan and Vicente Araneta, presidential and vice-presidential candidates, respectively, in 1957. I was too young to vote but still ended up cheering for Claro M. Recto. The first vote I ever cast for a president in 1961 went to Raul S. Manglapus. He was also first in my ballot during the election for the Constitutional Convention in 1970. Of course, he was my top choice each time he ran for the Senate.

As soon as I arrived in the United States for a self-imposed exile in February 1973, the late Robert Hinchman Jr. of Texaco, and I called Raul, who was then living in Ithaca, New York. He was by then teaching in Cornell University. We agreed to meet as soon as he could make it to Manhattan or I could make it to Ithaca. We were eager to discuss what could be mounted in the United States to end the Marcos dictatorship. Raul was happy to learn that I was already in touch for the same pupose with Skeezix, the late Jesuit genius Horacio dela Costa’s nom de guerre. Fr. Dela Costa then was based in Rome.

We never met in New Yo0rk because of time and distance limitations but stayed in touch by telephone. My family and I were based in Arlington, Virginia, where we lived with my in-laws while I looked for a job in either Washington, D.C. or New York. I had told Raul that if I had my way, I would not take a job in the business sector again and preferred to go with a non-government agency or a private think tank.

Although his career had become unsettled and his family had not escaped from the Philippines, he promised to help me. Soon he visited Washington, D.C. and began talking to his influential American friends to help find me a job. At a gathering of predominantly US officials who had been posted in the Philippines before martial rule, he introduced me formally. He said: "I want you to meet the latest freedom fighter to arrive in the United States. I also want you to know he needs a job."

Joey Ortiz served as Raul’s official greeter, driver and baggage boy. He lived in neighboring Anandale, next door to Arlington. One late evening as I was being driven home, Raul asked about my private life, to whom I was married, etc. Upon hearing my father-in-law’s name, Raul told me that Dr. Jose Guetierrez spoonfed him as the liberators of Manila spirited him out of prison in 1945. He was that weak and emaciated.

I attended a few more meetings with the Manglapus group even when I moved to Manhattan. Then I lost touch with them as I worked instead with Fr. Dela Costa by mail and with a key member of the Council of Churches based also in Manhattan. But I always had news about the activities of Raul’s group, the hardships they encountered, the frustrations they underwent and , worse, the taunts they got from Philipines, particularly from those in the media who were in the left and right pockets of the dictator.

Raul and company were not the "steak commandos" that Teodoro Valencia derisively called them. I knew that Raul in particular was dead broke, but he was fortunate enough to have his family, especially his wife Pacing and his friends, who believed in the nobility of his cause. We were to meet again in the lobby of the Cojuangco Building on February 27, 1986. He came directly from the airport. He couldn’t wait to rejoin the people who made our homecoming possible.

There can be no better eulogy for Raul Manglapus than the story of his entire life, which for the greater part he devoted to his country and people. He was the last "Man of La Mancha". I wonder how many more of Raul’s dreams for our country remain unfulfilled and how many more battles he would have fought in defense of democracy and freedom had he lived longer in good health.

Have a joyous reunion with Skeezix, Ninoy, Ka Pepe, Chino, Soc and Celing, tocayo.

No comments:

Post a Comment