With Due Respect

‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’

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We have four granddaughters, aged 6 to 15 years, living with their parents (our daughter Celine and her husband Patrick Hannett) in Connecticut in the United States. Incorrigible beach freaks, they have frequented the beaches in Maui, Hawaii.

Butanding. Two years ago, I invited them to join their four cousins who live here (children of our daughter Len and her husband Alex Yaptangco and our daughter Tet and her husband Noy Mañalac) to try the white sands of El Nido, Boracay, Cebu and Bohol. They loved what they saw. Since then, they have come back several times. For them, Hawaii is now passé, even if the airfare going there is much cheaper.

For their 2-week school break last February, I brought them (and their four cousins) to Bicol and they absolutely loved the 5-star Misibis Bay Resort near Legazpi City. What especially delighted them were the whale sharks (locally called “butanding”) in Donsol, Sorsogon, about two hours’ drive from Misibis.

Together with experienced “BIOs” (Butanding Interaction Officers), our eight apo (and their parents, too) enjoyed frolicking with the huge but gentle butanding. They gleefully jumped again and again from the motorized bancas to interact with the giant whale sharks. Indeed, as Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez exclaims, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”

On our scheduled return flight to Manila, the day was cloudy and the airplanes could not land. I thought we would be stranded in Legazpi and our American guests would miss their flight to Connecticut. Fortunately, there was an alternative. All 16 of us boarded an air-conditioned bus and traveled all night back to Makati, enabling them to catch their flight to the United States.

They will be back this June and will stay until August. This time, they have enticed their two other cousins aged 4 and 6 (and their parents, our daughter Mabel and her husband Pete Reagan) who live in New York, to join them not just in Bicol but also in Palawan. Yes, Secretary Jimenez, your marketing program is working wonders. Now, my wife and aging me need not endure debilitating jet lag (and freezing weather) to enjoy our United States-based apo. They are raring to spend their vacations here!

This is just a part of the fun. The other parts deserve another column. But as a preview, 15-year-old Patricia Hannett decided to have a taste of Philippine education by cross-enrolling at a high school in Alabang and at Ballet Manila.

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Book launching. The Inquirer formally launched on March 29 at Powerbooks, Greenbelt, Makati, my new book titled “With Due Respect.” In between his graduate studies at Harvard, John Nery took time out and synthesized my columns from 2007 to 2010 by topic and thereby ushered in a new tome.

This was like creating a new dress by stitching several fabrics of different hues, or like cooking a new specialty by stewing various meats and vegetables. John put together my thoughts on the same topic and thereby injected wholeness to seemingly disparate ideas published on different dates.

Published at the initiative of Inquirer chair Marixi R. Prieto, the book is the first in a series to be undertaken by InqBooks headed by JV Rufino. Though the hard copy was formally launched only a few days ago, the digital edition was already accessible and sold last January via Amazon, Apple’s iBook Store, Apple’s iTunes and Barnes & Noble Nook.

On February 11, I was amazed to receive a text message from Inquirer president Sandy Prieto-Romualdez that my book was No. 3 in the Amazon bestseller list for the courts category, outranked only by the latest works of veteran book writer and Time correspondent Jeffrey Toobin and US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Maraming salamat po. May I thank several friends who spoke and endorsed the book during the launch: retired Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., business legend Washington SyCip, banker extraordinaire Aurelio Montinola III and ACCRA Law Office chair Avelino V. Cruz.

May I also acknowledge the generous Foreword written by Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot who unfortunately passed away a few weeks ago. I met him in the early 1990s when I was still a practising lawyer and prior to my Supreme Court stint. He taught me how to write simply but effectively with the use of as little legalese as possible. I took that teaching to heart, such that even in penning my decisions in the Supreme Court, I endeavored to use simple words so litigants, not just lawyers, could understand me.

An acclaimed master of English, Gani was nonetheless humble and self-effacing. He patiently edited my first book titled “Love God Serve Man.” In his “Editor’s Note,” he wrote:

“This book highlights the multifaceted career and the many interests of the author. It shows his perspectives as a practising lawyer for the past 33 years. He views law not just as rigid formula but as a powerful force for giving order and justice to our society. He tempers the harshness of dry legal abstractions with the vigor and vivacity of the social milieu in which they apply… This book reflects the eloquence of the man, the brilliance of the lawyer, the thoroughness of the scholar, the pragmatism of the businessman, the high-mindedness of the civic leader and the spirituality and high moral purpose of the lay leader that is Art Panganiban.”

I am certain that my eventual appointment to the Supreme Court by President Fidel V. Ramos one year after that book was published was influenced by his generous words in more ways than I can ever know. Maraming salamat Gani. Adieu, my friend.

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