Closing chapter-A A +A
Thursday, September 13, 2012
SOME days the security guard would call and break the news that Manny Pacquiao, a pregnant woman, an army general or some armed plagiarist is waiting downstairs. The stories vary from epic to cute. Some dork with special talent would goad the guard to say those things on the phone to send me rushing downstairs. The prank is a gesture of real friendship, and what indeed can you do if you’re blessed with crazy friends.
So one fine Sunday, I got this call from the guard on duty. He said a congressman was waiting downstairs. I thought he had the instruction from another bored bloke who wanted a Sunday beer buddy. I took my time down the stairs, but just when I made a turn to the front office, lo and behold, I saw that the guard wasn’t joking. It was former congressman Antonio Cuenco, in flesh.
Each time I see the man, I am hurled back to childhood days when I’d sing along Panaghiusa’s campaign song that’d conclude with something like, “Panghiusa will never die...” And then, of course, a whole slew of memories of the Cuenco-Fernan period in Cebu politics come rolling. The good old Inday Nita included among the procession of images.
The man would’ve become my boss years ago had I taken his offer to join his staff to help craft his congressional speeches, but God had other plans for me, one of those was the uncertain chance to be Pacman’s undercard.
Indeed, the man downstairs at the front office waiting for me was no less than the grand uncle of Cebu politics. What could have brought him to the office, looking for me, I was thrilled to know.
It turned out he was bringing photocopies of really old documents, and he said he felt he should show Sun.Star Cebu’s readers Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.’s letter to him shortly before the Aug. 21, 1983 assassination. For one moment there, I had goose bumps. I thought I was looking at a man whose soul is partly stuck somewhere in his life. At 77, there’s a whole valley of tales behind you to look back to.
I suspect that having seen the muddled world of politics during most times of his career, he must have felt a bit of longing for that age of innocence when multitudes gravitated to the pure idealism of Ninoy in fighting a mad regime. I could be wrong, I know, but who can say he wasn’t there in the eye of the storm, when dogs howl at night and masked men cart you away to oblivion.
On one hand, I have always wondered how some of our leaders, whose political careers were conceived during the difficult times of the repression, would later turn into bugs and goblins. In one interview with Nenita “Inday Nita” Daluz, I asked her how she saw old friends, and she said, “Gilamon sa politika” (Gobbled by politics).
She said the thoroughly pragmatic and evil nature of politics have turned her friends into a bunch of wheeler-dealers without conscience. Daluz, used to politics driven by true causes, spent the rest of her life in the anti-drug campaign.
The occasion of Cuenco’s Sunday visit pointed directly to Ninoy’s death anniversary, which meant I had a few hours to interview him and catch the deadline. But we did have a brief conversation, and he was thinking of telling the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, of which he is secretary-general, about his plans to run again in next year’s elections. So that was the last time I heard of him, until news broke that he was bowing out from the race next year for reasons of health and family.
Here we see a waning chapter in the history of Cebu politics. I look around and often wonder if a few more will follow suit, for reasons of health and family.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 14, 2012.