Monday, October 28, 2013

RODNEY GARCIA: A Renaissance Man

The term Renaissance man suggests “an individual talented in many spheres of human endeavor, including but not limited to art, science, sports, war, philosophy and music.”

Historically, Filipinos like Jose Rizal and Raul Manglapus have been described as Renaissance men because they possessed talents as writer, author, playwright, sportsman, poet, musician, philosopher, linguist, revolutionary/war hero, and socio-political reformer. This is aside from being a doctor in the case of Rizal and lawyer in the case of Manglapus.  Both are recognized as patriots and heroes.

In these modern times, in the advent of the Digital Age, we could probably see the emergence of more Renaissance men and women.  This is due to online and digital apps that allow greater access and faster acquisition of global and local knowledge in addition to their God-given talents.

But in our midst and in our community, we are proud to have met and witnessed a man who could be described as being a Renaissance man.  His name is Rodney Garcia.  Like Rizal and Raul, Rodney was also a writer, author, playwright, poet, musician, philosopher, and a socio-political reformer.   Although not a known linguist like the two, his English as the international language was perfect and his Tagalog flawless as he communicated his views and feelings through songs, poems, essays, and plays.

A few days ago, Rodney joined the two Renaissance men in a re-birth or renewal of life at God’s Kingdom.  Our prayers go with him in this journey.

During my tenure as President of the Philippine American Bar Association (PABA), Rodney was the association’s General Counsel.  As such, I called him the “lawyer’s lawyer.”  In fact, I gave full support in his campaign to succeed me as President of the organization.

When I heard about Rodney’s demise I got reminded of the story that I told the audience that included engineers during our induction.  I said,

“When Engineers die, they usually go to Heaven.  One day an Engineer died but was mistakenly brought to Hell.  Satan was very happy because the Engineer built the electrical wiring and put up air conditioning in Hell.  Later on, St. Peter realized his mistake and called Satan to return the Engineer.  Satan refused saying that there is nothing that St. Peter could do.  St. Peter told Satan, ‘I will sue’.  Satan’s immediate response was: ‘where will you get your lawyer?  They are all here.’

Well, that was years ago.  I am sure that St. Peter is happy to receive Rodney in God’s Kingdom.  Rodney would be as glad to be the General Counsel there too and pursue cases against Satan. He would be as efficient and effective as he was with PABA, the Philippine Nurses Association, Philippine American Foundation for Charities , Inc. and other non-profit organizations that benefited his services.

Rodney was a great gift by God to humanity.  His God-given talents were used for the service of God’s children on earth – be they hungry children, men and women; be they domestic workers; be they victims of injustice.

He is immortalized not just for his charitable services, but also for the foundations that he helped build; the books, plays, and songs that he wrote; but most importantly, for the children that he helped bring up.

Rodney has three children with wife Ella Puno.  First daughter Karla is a very talented dancer.  She has appeared in Broadway plays and was, in fact, a finalist in the “So You Think You Can Dance” TV Show.  She has currently a modeling job for a dance magazine and is seen in SMASH as part of the ensemble dancers.

Second daughter Jitter works with the Wall Street Journal in New York.  She is also an event planner.  She used to write blogs for Living Social.

Son Rocky is an aspiring musician.  A good Saxophone player who was a scholar at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., he has been accepted by Berkelee School of Music in Boston.  It is the school that he has been yearning to attend. I have seen and heard Rocky play.  Once at a concert, and at another time in the Filipino American Multicultural Center.  So talented, he reminds me of Bill Clinton playing the Sax. In the Washington Post’s young musician tournament where 6,000 contestants participated, Rocky won third place.  The ten finalists played at the Kennedy Center.  American Idol Champ Jordan Sparks was one of the Judges.  I understand that “she even wanted to toss her shoes on stage because Rocky’s playing was so compelling.”

Indeed, Rodney will forever be remembered through Rocky, Karla, and Jitter!

Tina and I visited Rodney when he was at the Mt. Vernon INOVA Rehab Hospital.  It was the same place where I had my rehab after I had a stroke that paralyzed half of my body.  Like Rodney, God saved my mental capacities and sharpness for a reason.  Like me, Rodney was as determined to use his brains to plan his recovery.  We left him happy and hopeful.

When he moved to Mother’s Touch assisted living, he sent me the following personal message:  “Ben, please come and meet me at Mother’s Touch.  I want to discuss something important with you... I plan to do something drastic.”

Tina drove me to Mother’s Touch one weekend.  He was obviously doing better because he even discussed with me a couple of the court cases that he was handling at the time.  Sometimes these cases can stress you!  

He told me about his decision to move to the Philippines – either to Cebu or to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental.  He had a nurse friend in Cebu and professor/author friend in Siliman University.  I offered my views, expressing no objections but since the move would not happen until July 2014, I thought it could still change.  But having a fixed plan that included recovery was a good sign.

Before we left, he said that he would temporarily move to a friend’s house. It was in that place where he spent his last days.

In his years in Metro Washington, Rodney was always “giving back” to the Filipino community.  In his sickness, it was time for the community to “give back” to him.  Never have we seen the group so united and so helpful to him during his hours of need.  He died knowing that he was very rich with friends!

For what Rodney has become and for what he has done, he joined the Lord as great a gift to Him!

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