Sunday, April 8, 2012

Holy Week to Remember

This past week was unforgettable for me both as a Christian and a Benedictine-educated lawyer.

As a Christian, I was again reminded of the pains, suffering and death that Jesus had to go through for humanity’s Salvation.

As a Bedan, I saw two classmates whose lives touched mine in some significant way as we pursued different paths in our respective careers, reminding me of my own mortality. It pained me to know that both of them died in the same week.

Former PCGG (Philippine Commission for Good Government) Commissioner Ric Abcede was originally an outstanding Thomasian (UST) prior to joining our Law Class ’72 in San Beda College.

He was Chairman of the UST’s Student Council when I was President of San Beda’s.  In the College of Law, he was an active writer/editor of the law journal. He joined me in my Crusading Lions’ Party to support the successful presidential campaign of one of my best friends, Toy Cedo in San Beda’s Law Council.

While both were spending time inside the campus, (Abcede for the Law Journal) and Cedo for the Law Council), I was busy in the streets of Manila focusing on socio-economic reforms as an active participant of the then Student Revolution.

We all took the Bar and became lawyers immediately thereafter in the year Martial Law was declared.

After a stint at the International Labor Organization (ILO), Ric Abcede went back to the Philippines in 1976 looking for a job. I was then climbing the corporate ladder and was lucky to be hired as Executive Vice President and COO of Magna Services Corporation and Director of Personnel of the entire GUEVENT Group of companies. Magna Services was a sister company of DMG (Volkswagen), Toshiba, AVIS and 14 other companies under the umbrella of GUEVENT (Guevara Enterprises). The group was a model family corporation founded by the late endearing, compassionate and inspiring entrepreneur Domingo M. Guevara.

I hired Ric as my assistant in the Personnel Office, and assigned him to help run the Corporate Newsletter.  I thought that his background in Labor laws would also help me run the Personnel Department.

When I was about to escape from the Philippines, I had to tell him that I was attending an international JAYCEES conference and confidentially told him that I was not coming back. I told him to help run the office temporarily and also promised that when the time came, I would recommend him to be my replacement.

We were forced to live in Sabah, Malaysia for several months until paroled into the United States as political refugees. Unfortunately, I must have written my resignation and my recommendation for my replacement too late because he never got appointed.

He was already a PCGG Commissioner the last time I saw him in his office. I remember discussing with him the use of technologies and soliciting the help of Cyber security experts in recovering ill-gotten wealth.

Ric, Former Senator Rene Saguisag and I have a few things in common. One, we are proud Bedan alums. Two, we all love to dance.

Rene prefers to dance and is good at it with his regular D.I. (Dance Instructor). I always show that I enjoy and also love dancing with my partner. Ric also did especially when dancing with somebody like Imelda Marcos. When you are seeking a compromise, I guess you have to learn how to “dance with the music”.

Toy Cedo was one of my closest friends in San Beda. As undergrads, we had a group called, “ADEBNAS”, (not so creative SANBEDA in reverse). We used to get invited to many parties because of our practice of making sure that no girl would ever be a “wall flower”. The “driving force” behind this group was Bob Ledesma, now also a lawyer and only son of San Beda’s late Dean Feliciano Jover Ledesma of the College of Law. He was the owner and “driver” of the car that carried us in our escapades for years.

We had tremendous memories getting drunk together, traveling to places like Concepcion, Tarlac where another late friend/member Mauro Lacsamana was from, to my town Rosales, and Dagupan City, Pangasinan where another friend/member Tony Mendoza lived and of course, Baguio City.

Toy was a great student debater. He was the Captain of the champion debating team that beat Ateneo, UP, de la Salle and Siliman University. He was adjudged the Best Debater in all of them.

He was also a great practicing lawyer.  He must be that good if somebody like Former National Security Adviser Almonte hired him to handle some delicate cases.  Ask Former PDIC Chairman and DBP Chairman Lanny Nañagas who also asked Toy to represent him.

During the first Persian Gulf War, many Filipino workers were displaced and were forced to be sent home. A cause of action was in order to go after some frozen Iraqi Funds to compensate the workers. A topnotch American lawyer friend in Washington, D.C. asked me for a partner in the Philippines to help pursue the cases.

Without hesitation, I recommended Toy Cedo and then proceeded to arrange for them to meet in Manila. That’s how I looked at him as a lawyer. 

When I formed a couple of companies including one that brought Frank Sinatra to Manila, he was readily the Corporate Counsel and Corporate Secretary.

In our class was someone who was No.3 in the Bar Examinations. When he needed help in a litigation involving some relatives and town mates, guess whom he chose to hire?

ATTORNEY TOY CEDO, the lawyers’ lawyer!

We had other experiences together in many other ways even as professionals. In the early years of Martial Law, Gabby Lopez (Eugenio Lopez III), now Chairman of ABS-CBN, and I organized a group to learn KARATE skills. Invited to join us were Toy Cedo, Bob Ledesma, Lanny Nañagas and Daniel Olea.  It was held at the Lopez residence in Forbes Park, Makati. We got a couple of instructors who were involved with Bob, Toy and me earlier in the Bushido Kai Club at the Knights of Columbus.

This was before my escape via kumpit (pump boat) traveling through the Southern route successfully evading the chasing pirates and ending in Sabah, Malaysia.

After the People Power Revolution I used to go home to the Philippines on a regular basis. In one of my visits, I was invited to attend a spiritual retreat run by Fr. Resty and a group called SPK (Sandiwanihang Pilipino at Kristiano) led by the late Congressman Vic Sumulong and my friend and town mate Bernie Estrella Arellano, daughter of the late Agrarian Reform Secretary Conrado Estrella.

Attending the retreat with me were Toy Cedo, Bob Ledesma, the beautiful actress-singer Pinky de Leon, and a few others. I remember that during the mass and at the “peace be with you“ part, instead of shaking hands as you utter the words, you have the option to kiss the person (of opposite sex) beside you.

In subsequent masses during the entire retreat, Toy, Bob and I were secretly competing to be beside beautiful Pinky to say, “Kiss be with you.” J

I know Toy had a religious life. His was a lingering illness so he had all the chances to be even closer to God. I am absolutely sure that he is there now in heaven helping the gatekeepers fending off the challenges of Satan and the like.

I will surely miss Toy and in many ways Ric too.

My condolences and prayers go to Toy’s wife, Bee, their only son and the family of Ric!

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