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Commentary

Salute to friendship

12:07 AM February 03, 2016

Death is best seen through the eyes of faith. “Until we meet again” thus makes better sense than “Goodbye.”

Cayetano “Dondon” W. Paderanga Jr. and I first met in 1969 in the summer qualifying program for the Industrial Economics Graduate School of the Center for Research and Communication (CRC), the forerunner of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P). It is a 47-year friendship that has transcended space and time. I got to visit his home province, Camiguin, in 1970 after he and I, along with our classmates Temi Padla and Fr. Rolly Sto. Domingo (since deceased), traveled to Cotabato for a Ford Foundation project of the CRC.

We went our separate ways in 1972, when Dondon went to the United States for doctorate studies at Stanford University. We got in contact again only in the early 1990s, when he joined the government. Time did not seem to have elapsed. Our CRC graduate school days felt like yesterday when we met again. The two years we were together at the CRC packed an intense amount of experiences and memories, more than enough to build a solid foundation for friendship.

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Indeed, we studied and worked our butts off in the work-study graduate program, when the 24/7 mode was not yet in vogue. Dondon and I and our classmates—Vic Abola (who became a UA&P professor), Father Rolly (one of the first Filipino Opus Dei priests), Temi (Development Academy of the Philippines consultant), Romy Borja (presiding justice of the Court of Appeals based in Cagayan de Oro City), Clem Escano (ex-bank executive, Singapore-based), Buddy Magturo (management consultant)—were privileged to be the first students of what is today the UA&P.

The university will mark its golden anniversary in 2017. Dondon had suggested that as a gift to the UA&P on this milestone, we could put together the stories of students from our class up to the class of 1988, the year the CRC went beyond economics, highlighting its impact on our lives. We had been working in the last two years to get this project going, and we are blessed that Dondon submitted his story early.

A need beckoned in 2010, after the presidential election, testing the dictum “a friend in need is a friend, indeed.” President Aquino asked Dondon to reassume the post to which his mother, President Cory Aquino, appointed him in 1990: socioeconomic planning secretary and director general of the National Economic and Development Authority. There was opposition to the appointment expressed in the media, with charges that I thought were unfair and uncalled for. Dondon and I discussed the matter; we decided to respond and to present his side. With the help of a friend, Ding Gagelonia (since deceased), we countered the attacks through the media. And the opposition fizzled out.

With the experience in responding to the opposition to his appointment, Dondon realized that the government must be able to deal with the media productively to deliver messages of the good things that were getting done. The public must be made aware of the successes and failures of the government—an honest and humble sharing of governance outcomes. In the public-private partnership program that was launched under his wing, there was a deliberate effort from the start at recognizing the positive role of the media.

After Dondon resigned from the Cabinet for health reasons in 2012, he chaired the DAP. My understanding is that he made, as part of the Career Executive Service Development Program (CESDP), a course on media interaction, the principle being that the government and the media need not be in an adversarial relationship. A former colleague in the Inquirer, Ruby Paurom, helped him and Temi in this effort.

When he was in P-Noy’s Cabinet, Dondon invited me to his house many Saturdays for coffee and occasional dinners with his wife Delia and their sons Paolo and Marco. We talked about the country’s and the economy’s situation, and how he could better serve.

One afternoon, I received news that he had been rushed to the Philippine Heart Center for extreme blood pressure issues after a jogging session. I got to see him still at the emergency room, and he shared with me the diagnosis of a congenital heart problem that makes jogging risky for his condition. Since that time, I learned, greater care and attention had to be given to his heart. He resigned from the Cabinet and completed his university commitment in Japan. And when he joined the DAP, he invited me to lunch a number of times at his office with Temi, who had been active in the CESDP since it was first introduced in the early 1970s. I will miss those lunches and productive banter.

Being currently in Vancouver, I will not be able to make it to Dondon’s wake or to the memorial service planned at the CRC/UA&P. But then regular physical presence has not been the mark of my friendship with Dondon, or, for that matter, with our classmates at the CRC/UA&P. We were (are), however, close, and close, too, to the members of other classes and the staff, and of course, to CRC/UA&P cofounders Jess Estanislao and Bernie Villegas. There must have been something in the institution that truly bonded us.

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I have read tributes from esteemed colleagues and friends about Dondon’s competence, humility, wit and wisdom. It was a real blessing to have him as a friend. Forty-seven years of friendship is a long time, but it is just a wink in the eternal scheme of things. We have lost a good man. Dondon will be missed by many. Godspeed, my friend! Until we meet again.

Danilo S. Venida (danilosvenida@gmail.com) is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is now a business consultant.

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TAGS: Cayetano Paderanga Jr., friendship, National Economic and Development Authority
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