Sula: The Laus Box


LIKE a generous relative who dropped by in a hurry, Levy P. Laus left early but left behind a lot.

There is a lingering, fervent wish: had he stayed longer, he could have done more. Too, there is widely embraced gratitude: what he had bequeathed is more than enough to build on the future for more than a generation.

In a word, a box of legacy.

In his introduction to his novel East of Eden, Nobel Prize author John Steinbeck wrote this touching prose, portions of it hereby cherry-picked:

Dear Pat,

Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it. And It is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad... good thoughts -- the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.

And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.

And still the box is not full.

LPL might as well left a similar love note on his box -- first to his family, second to his kabalen. More than 40 days after he departed his earthly dwelling for a better abode, his box continues to have more.

Last Thursday, the Senate honored Mr. Laus with a resolution that, in essence, was referring to the "box" that he left behind. The resolution reflected on his legacy -- the vision, the success, the philanthropy, the extraordinary achievements of a lifetime, the building of a future.

Outgoing Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a long-family friend, presented a similar resolution in a personal way to Mrs. Tess and their children at the Lubao church, symbolic of the values and vision they shared.

Both resolutions were substantive and but not exhaustive.

Yes, Mr. Laus was an extraordinary businessman. True, he was a model citizen. No doubt, he cared for more than just succeeding. Definitely, he loved his province and people.

Yet there is more that is left unsaid: his core character that separated the man from the boys, his odds-defying leadership. He gallantly showed this like no one did when he led a motley group called Save San Fernando Movement that eventually stopped the rampaging Pinatubo lahar at the doorstep of the then capital town over two decades ago.

That was the mother of all game changers.

Everything else afterwards flowed almost logically from it. Without that, everything else is a myth. With that, everything is reality. You can trace Pampanga's history during this period of adversity and the period of recovery, and his fingerprint will emerge like a rosharch inkblot.

Understandably, Mr. Laus's legacy was overwhelming by any measure -- from business to politics, media power to countryside development, from globalism to national priorities.

The box he left behind has nearly everything in it, and those who had worked with him up close and personal know that by heart. And yet it is not full, even if what he had left his wife and children will keep them busy for a long time into the distant future. It is not full even if his legacy abounds in gains, insights and goodwill that will serve Pampanga in the years ahead. It will not be full even if all the resolutions in the world are poured into the box.

Ultimately, the box is not full because he is not around anymore. The man is the gift, the box was merely the vessel for his legacy. We appreciate the box but we feel we'd all be better off with the man in our midst, come strong winds or high waters, in good times or in bad.


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