What does the President of the United States have to do with us?
A few weeks after Donald Trump was elected 45th President of the United States in 2016, my dear friend, political strategist par excellence Gilbert Baaco (may he rest in peace), quipped that it was the group, “Palaweños of the U.S.”, that made Trump POTUS. Besides the common acronym, we had a good laugh at the allusion to a familiar tendency for people (ourselves included) to overrate their own contribution to the election of a candidate for public office.
But, yes, aside from the cosmic interconnectedness of things, U.S. presidential elections are always of global interest, not least because the White House occupant leads the most powerful country in the world. As the saying goes, when he sneezes, the rest of the world goes down with trangkaso. But more than that, the POTUS is probably the most written-about and media-covered public figure in the world, as news, in any given year since the beginning of the 20th century; and perhaps, also among the most studied, as history. And since it is no mean feat to get to the top of the American political pyramid, the study of the life of any U.S. President will always be, for anyone, a highly-enriching gaze into human character—the virtues, defects, ideas, biases, leadership styles, etc., that go into the journey to the office, the exercise of power, and eventual (inevitable) retirement or death. My father, Badong, and, I suppose, many university-graduates of his generation of Pinoys (material would have been hard to find outside of university libraries), had read biographies of at least George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, not to mention stuff on contemporaries like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon.
History, as written record, is still largely the lives of the newsmakers of the past (there will always be some truth to the philosopher Thomas Carlyle’s “great man theory”)His; and those lives would certainly have lessons for everyone, especially to persons aspiring for positions of leadership in any kind of community.
As regards grooming leaders, the abundance of Greek-letter fraternities in universities and colleges all over the country speaks, positively, of a consciousness among young people of the need for training in leadership, be it in government, business or civic organizations, in a manner that does not shy away from simulating the rough-and-tumble of real life, for that is what fraternities offer, along with the fellowship. I know more than a few personalities who would ascribe their leadership skills to the “formation” they received as fratmen.
Today, November 19, is also the 102nd anniversary of the foundation of the Upsilon Sigma Phi of the University of the Philippines, the oldest Greek-letter fraternity in Asia, to which Ferdinand Marcos and Ninoy Aquino belonged; together with Judge Jose Rodriguez, Natural Resources Minister Teddy Peña, original “doctor-to-the-barrios” Dr. Joe Laceste, PPC Mayor Bert Oliveros, and Banker/Businessman Tom Española (may they all rest in peace), all Palaweños of historical note.
Among the still-living Upsilonians of Palawan are retired Banker/Businessman Roger Almira, just-retired PCSD Executive Director Nelson Devanadera, DAR Undersecretary Homer Tobias, U.P. Professor Rikki Sandalo, Banker/Businessman Dado Mitra, Provincial Board Member Jay Rodriguez, Gastroenterologist Dr. Jojo Bautista, PGP Executive and Culture-Czar Sammy Magbanua, Environmental Planner Paolo Devanadera, DFA Consular Officer Donald Ocampo, Marine Biologist Jess Bream, Businessman/Engineer Ralph Santos, and myself.
Palaweño Upsilonians who are still in the university (or have just recently graduated) include my baptismal godsons, Jalo Felizarte and Franz Vincent Legazpi; and, of course, the history-making Karl Josef Legazpi, who happens to be the incumbent head, the Most Illustrious Fellow, of our fraternity; the first Palaweño to hold the highest office in the Upsilon Sigma Phi. My apologies to those Palawan Brods, living and dead, whom I might have failed to mention.
Still with regard to leadership, this coming Sunday, November 22, the Catholic Church will be celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King, whose Kingdom is “an eternal and universal kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life…of holiness and grace…of justice, love and peace” (Preface of the Mass for Christ the King). Jesus Christ our King is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29): “a bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Mt 12:19; Is 42:3). He “came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20:28); his throne was a manger in a cave in Bethlehem, and the Cross on Mount Calvary; his ride, the colt of an ass, “the foal of a beast of burden” (Mt 21:5; Zec 9:9). May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen because she is the mother of the King, raise us, members of Christ, to become more like her Son, and to grow in our desire to place Christ at the summit of all things.
P.S.: I join the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all persons of goodwill in denouncing the murder, and in condoling with the bereaved family, of my former law-school student—the bright, proper, and gentle Atty. Eric Jay Aston Magcamit—who was shot and killed by still-unknown perpetrators on the morning of November 17 in Narra, Palawan, while on his way to a court hearing. The pious reader is requested to include his eternal happiness in prayers. Rest in peace, Compañero Eric Jay. (19.XI.2020)