“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”
— Indian writer, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941).
AFTER Cebu City Reps. Antonio Cuenco and Raul del Mar, former senator John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña and his brother former governor Emilio “Lito” Osmeña, Cebu lost another great exemplary politician in the person of former congressman and governor Pablo “Pabling” Garcia. Noy Pabling, as he was fondly called by his peers and supporters, passed away last Wednesday night, Aug. 18, 2021. He was 95 years old.
Noy Pabling was born in Bitoon, Dumanjug on Sept. 25, 1925. He came from a poor family. He and his siblings struggled against poverty until he achieved what he has now. If I recall it right, there was a book written in the vernacular by the late Godofredo “Godo” Roperos about Noy Pabling’s life entitled, “Tinakandal sa hinuwamang sapatos ni Pabling,” that featured his struggling life in his younger days.
My tears almost fell as I listened to the life story of Noy Pabling relayed to me over the phone by his younger brother Tomas “Tom” Garcia, the only survivor among the eight siblings. Tom is now 93 years old.
According to Tom, their mother was the only one supporting their needs through selling native products as their father had died early. Aside from Noy Pabling, two of their older brothers Loreto and Jesus were the first to become lawyers. Their lives improved a little when Jesus, father of SunStar Publisher Jesus “Sonny” Garcia Jr., become a lawyer and was able to work in Manila. Jesus sent a regular monthly allowance to their mother here. “Ang among utok ra gyud ang among puhunan nganong milampos mi (We counted on our intelligence to succeed),” Tom told this columnist. With the financial help of Jesus, Noy Pabling graduated from the University of San Carlos and placed third in the 1951 Bar examination with the rating of 91.5 percent.
Noy Pabling started his political career as a councilor in his hometown in Dumanjug in the ‘50s before becoming a Provincial Board member in 1967. He served as vice governor from 1969 to 1971. He served as governor of Cebu from 1995 to 2004. He was elected for three terms as a member of the House of Representatives representing the province’s third district from 1987 to 1995. He was again elected to Congress representing the second district in 2007. He was appointed Deputy House Speaker in the 14th and 15th Congress during the term of House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr.
During his first term in Congress in the late ‘80s, Noy Pabling was one of the legislators who pushed the bill for the restoration of the death penalty for heinous crimes. After a heated debate, the pro-death penalty legislators succeeded in passing the bill. However, the law was eventually repealed during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term.
Before joining politics, he was a trial lawyer and a law professor. Some lawyers considered him a “walking law encyclopedia.” He was a constitutionalist. His peers described him as an “exemplary politician, a humble and dedicated public servant.”
I used to interview him in my radio program and we talked for hours covering various topics from politics to economy and law. He would not run out of topics and all his topics were interesting. He explained it well so ordinary people could easily understand.
Here are some anecdotes of Noy Pabling that I have personal knowledge of. During a breakfast media forum where Noy Pabling was the guest, a lady disc jockey who was accompanied by a radio commentator asked him about the Republican and Democrat political parties because it was US elections. Everybody was surprised why the lady disc jockey asked about US politics when Noy Pabling was talking about local politics. “Pataka man lang na siya’g pangutana, uy,” everybody in the function room murmured. But Noy Pabling took his time to explain and answer the lady disc jockey’s “foreign question.”
When Noy Pabling was still the governor, I attended a dialogue with town and city mayors at the Capitol Social Hall. Noy Pabling called the attention of the mayor of one of the towns in the Camotes group of islands. The Municipal Council had passed a resolution naming a school in the town “Pablo P. Garcia Memorial High School.” Noy Pabling politely told the mayor, “Palihug ingna imong mga konsihal nga i-delete ang litra nga ‘memorial’ kay buhi pa tawon ko (Please tell your councilors to delete the word ‘memorial’ because I am still alive).” Everybody broke into laughter.
Karon, puwede na tong “memorial” kay mitaliwan naman si Noy Pabling. By the way, any significant landmark within the province to be named in honor of the contribution of Noy Pabling? Requiescat in pace (Rest in Peace), Noy Pabling.
After some irresponsible people posted on social media that Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella had “died due to prostate cancer,” the mayor is now back at City Hall, although he will be running the affairs of City Hall from home as he did before when his health deteriorated. The mayor was discharged from the hospital last week and is now in good shape.
When the “death” of Labella persisted in text messages and on social media, the mayor was forced to show “proof of life” that he was still alive. He released a photo holding an updated issue of a local newspaper inside his hospital room. But some quarters still questioned it, claiming the picture was Photoshopped, meaning it had been edited. But now, he is alive and kicking. It’s good that the mayor is not vindictive against those people who declared him “dead.” Iya lang gipasaylo. (He just forgave them.) But let that be a lesson to social media users. Don’t post information unless it has been verified and confirmed.