Tell it to SunStar: A tribute to Ka Rene Saguisag

Tell it to SunStar
Tell it to SunStarSunStar file photo

By Sen. Risa Hontiveros

I will always regret not taking Benedict Saguisag up on his invitation last February to swing by SM by the Bay, MOA on a weekday morning when he and his Papa, former senator Rene Saguisag, would sun.

I had planned to surprise Ka Rene in the second week of March, but a Commission on Appointments hearing came up, and so on and so forth week after week until, irreversibly, he was gone.

It has been said that there is nothing sadder in life than vain regrets. Perhaps that is why Ka Rene had such joie de vivre, because he had none of those. He seemed to do what needed to be done in the moment.

So he did as one of our opposition leaders during martial law and the anti-dictatorship struggle. So he did as one of the Magnificent 12 who voted the RP-US bases treaty down. So he still seemed to do in the brilliant sunset of his life.

We texted each other for several years.

He esteemed his colleagues and was so funny. Referring to former senator Bobby Tañada while discussing in June 2017 his being one of the ex-senator petitioners in a mandamus case in the Supreme Court, he deprecated in his telegraphic way, “Tuta ako n Bobby. Hs wsh, my cmmand.”

Photos that I love were taken of us the following month walking into the joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives where we opposed in vain Duterte’s extension of martial law in Mindanao.

He radiated the brilliance of Aslan the Lion in The Chronicles of Narnia on that dark morning in our nation’s recent history, guiding a juvenile lion in the den of authoritarian governance.

I sent him the photos. Like an old-fashioned and again self-deprecating gentleman, he thanked me, “TY for d px, Beauty. Who’s d Beast?”

He was concerned about people beyond our shared work. After my bunso was confined in the hospital in September 2018, even though he himself was already always in Makati Medical Center then, he asked, “K na anak mo?”

When I praised him for his article on Ka Tanny Tañada and Ka Pepe Diokno on ANC X in April 2019, Ka Rene replied, “How sweet nmn. TY vry many, haha. U hv made very gd moves urself. Keep d torch burnng. Non sibi sed patriae. Nt self bt country.” Apparently his life’s motto, and he practiced what he preached.

When I apologized for being late for our meeting at the Senate four months later, he reassured, “Nt 2 bother. Lnch on d road. Dn meets n Pncake n Luk Yuen. Hold d letsong baka! Sa dismissal na,” referring to the case in which he was my lawyer and in which, ever the hopeful one, full of humor and joy, he delivered on the hope.

And when I thanked him for delivering a dismissal in February 2020, he mock bewailed, “U mean I cn no lnger visit u n jail? Nor cn I tease Calida any longer?” Even after a legal victory, Ka Rene could deliver a linguistic and humorous coup de grace with his rapier-sharp wit.

Non sibi sed patriae. Not self but country. Not many have loved Inangbayan with a greater self-denial.

Perhaps even fewer have done so without losing their personal, loving touch. I will miss you, Ka Rene, not just saying goodbye to you, but saying “Hello” and “Tuloy ang laban!” in the many battles that still lie ahead. Please watch over us like St. Michael the Archangel, like a lion spirit casting timidity out of our hearts.

I wish I had something more to say, but there is only more to be done.

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