Monday, July 26, 2010


By James B. Reuter, S.J. At 3:00 PM

The Philippine Star August 7, 1999

When I first met Raul 61 years ago, he was a schoolboy, on the stage of the IRWIN THEATER, in the old Ateneo on Padre Faura, competing in an oratorical contest, which he won. The fact is, Raul seemed to win almost all of the enterprises in which he took part.

In this particular oratorical contest, he was young, idealistic, in love with life, with stars in his eyes, passionately consecrated to the freedom of his people. In his peroration he said:

"After four hundred years in the chains of Spain, when our fingers were closing on the torch of democracy, came the Americans - to tear it from our grasp."

For this he received a standing ovation. It was a popular thing in 1938, to slam Spain and to slam the Americans. His coach, for this contest, was old Joe Mulry – Father A. Mulry, S.J. one of the finest teachers that the Ateneo had ever had. Father Mulry was smiling, very happy with this declaration; because both Raul and he believed it, with all their hearts, to the marrow of their bones.

Then Raul was one of the stars in the Commonwealth Hour, a radio program broadcast on Sunday evenings – from seven to eight in English, eight to nine in Tagalog. It was produced by the Chesterton Evidence Guild, and had a rating of 47 – higher than almost any program earns today. It was the most popular radio program in any country, in the days where there was no television!

Raul was one of the first two actors to appear in "Kwentong KOCHERO." Horacio dela Costa, when he was only 23 years old, created Teban, the Kochero, and his intelligent horse, Tarzan, when a divorce bill was on the floor of the Senate. Raul was playing the young lawyer, hired by the government, to conduct the hearings on the divorce bill – to find out what the rank and file of the people thought about it. He was questioning Mang Teban, a kochero, who represented the people of Tondo. The Chesterton Evidence Guild could not find any actor suitable to play Teban, so Horacio dela Costa – who wrote the script – was prevailed upon to act the role himself.

Raul always sounded like an intellectual lawyer. He said: "Now, Mang Teban, what do the people of Tondo think about this divorce bill?" Teban said, at once: "Oh, the people of Tondo do not want it!" The people of Tondo are against it! The people of Tondo are good people! Everybody knows that a man should love his wife! Everybody knows, in Tondo, that a man should be faithful to his wife, for richer, for poorer; for better or for worse; in sickness and in health; until death! Everybody in Tondo knows that! Even my horse, Tarzan , know that!"

Raul, a little distressed, said: "Well, that’s what you think! And that’s what’s many people in Tondo think! But not all people are like that! Some would like to be separated from their wives. What about them?" Horacio bristled. You could feel him bristle, even over the airwaves. He said: "You mean all people are not like the good people of Tondo? Some are bad, and they want to abandon their wives and families? And you are making law for these bad people? Who are these bad people? And who is making this law so a man can abandon his wife?

Raul struggling a little said: "No, no, no! Not bad people! Even good people! Even the good people of Tondo Maybe they do not all thin k like you! For instance, your wife! Maybe your wife…"Horacio was suddenly low, and deadly. He said: "Wait! Wait! Wait!…You want to make a law so that somebody can steal my wife? You want to make a law so that somebody can take my wife away from me, and it will be alright? Who is making this? Where is he? I will break all his bones! Who is this man?"

The show was funny that Koko Trinidad, the father of Noel Trinidad, who was doing music for us, laughed so hard in the control room that he fell over the console, and were off the air for about 10 seconds. After the broadcast, President Quezon withdraw the divorce bill from the floor of Congress, saying "There is no popular support for this bill!"

Then he was a young teacher in the old Ateneo on Padre Faura. In 1941, I was teaching Sophomore A.B. and Raul was teaching Sophomore B.S. – Sophomore Commerce. He was still in Law School but teaching at the same time. We saw a great deal of each other, at that time.

When the war broke over us, on Dec. 8 of 1941, he was heroic! He went to Fort Santiago, because of his opposition to the occupying forces. Fort Santiago was terrible! Even the Japanese Army and Navy were afraid of the Fort Santiago. It was the Kempeitai. The Japanese military intelligence.

From the Fort Santiago he was moved to Old Bilibid Prison, and from there to Muntinlupa. We had a picture on our bulletin board in Xavier house of Raul when he was in prison – dark, crew cut, very thin, and with the unmistakable "prisoner’s look." This is the real thing. With him was Monsignor Santos, and with a strong will to survive this prison, a strong will, somehow, to get out!

He broke out of Muntinlupa. Together with a young Jesuit Scholastic named Jaime Neri. It is so small thing to break out of a Japanese military person. It is harder to do than to break out of a Marcos prison during the Martial Law.

In the ecstatic days after liberation, he was in love with social democracy. This came to him, ultimately, from Father Joseph A. Mulry, who was also the inspiration of President Quezon in his battle cry: "Young man, go to Mindanao!"

Raul ran for President of the Philippines. The elections were rigged, hopelessly. He had no poll watchers. His opponents divided his votes between them. He did not pull the difference between the winner and the loser. But he made a tremendous impact on the country!

Under Martial Law he was in exile, in the United States. Pacita LaO, hi wife followed him with great courage, going to the United States by way of Malaysia, escaping from the Philippines on a Muslim pump boat.

In the States, Raul was the heart of the Filipino campaign for freedom. He was based for the most part of Washington D.C. though he attended Boston College and earned a graduate degree. His thesis was a stage play: Yankee Pankee, which was presented much later in the Little Theater of the CCP, by Repertory Philippines. Raul never surrendered, to anything! No matter what odds, he was always in there, trying!

He returned to the Philippines during the Cory administration became Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and was very happy with that job. He had magnificent sense of humor, all the days of his life. He put together an orchestra, called: "The Executives." Every performance hat they gave was delightful! Because of the quite, subtle, good-natured humor of Raul. He was always talking himself clown, and talking to all the players in the band clown, with touching humility. This, despite the fact that they we re playing with Emperors and KIngs!" The King f Thailand played with them. And Bill Clinton played the saxophone with them! Not very well, but he played it!

Raul had four sons and daughter. Al through his life he was faithful to his wife, Pacita whom he loved. Have you ever noticed that all the criteria, which God gives us for the last judgement are stocked for the father and mother?

"Come, ye blessed of my father, and posses the kingdom prepared for you from all eternity. For I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink, I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me. I was a stranger, and you took me in!"

Who was the stranger who came to Raul and Pacita, and they never saw the face, but they love the stranger, sight unseen, and took the stranger into their home, into their lives and took care of the stranger, all their days? … It was their baby! Whom did Pacita feed with her blood, for nine months, in her womb? … Who came to them naked? Whom did Pacita nurse at her breast? … For Whom did Raul labor, al days of his life?…It was for his children! And that is what God will say to Raul at the judgement: "So long as you did it to the least of these, my little ones, you did it to me!"

God came to Raul and to Pacita five times thinly disguised as four boys and a girl.

Maring Feria called Bishop Escaler on the phone, when he was Bishop of Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur and said: "I have a check for you. But the donor wants to be anonymous." When Bishop Escaler looked at the check, he says: " looped! It was P800,000!" Later, Maring send another check, from the same anonymous donor, It was far P400,000 – for the poor of Ipil. After Raul died, Maring called Bishop Escaler and said: "Not that he is dead, I can tell you. The donor was Raul."

He really practiced the gospel. He did not let his left hand know what the right hand was doing.

An ordinary housewife said to me: "When I was student in college, he was my idol! They don’t make men like him, anymore!"

In a way, that is true. He was a good man. We will not see his life again.

But who can tell? Maybe, somewhere, in a tiny mountain school, a little boy will take inspiration from Raul, and come to Manila, and change the face of the earth.

Goodness is never wasted. A nation grows, with men like Raul.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Benjamin,
    Just came across your blog. My grandfather was a USN Lt (I was named after him) in the WWII. He was captured in Corregidor and died in the hellship experience on the Oryoku Maru. He was interned at Cabanatuan and Old Bilibid (which I visited on one of my three trips). Anyway, was curious about the title as I used to work for L'Oreal in the salon division!!