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Remembering Tony

/ 12:10 AM March 14, 2016

THE CLASS of 1956 of the Philippine Military Academy adopted Antonio Cabangon Chua as a member of the group before he became the empire builder and media tycoon that he is now known throughout the country. He was our friend, a sincere friend who joined in our reunions even when his schedule would keep him on his feet for long hours at a stretch.

Tony was born on Aug. 30, just a day before my own birthdate. And often times, I would tell friends in jest that his party was also my party and not to expect anything more.

The story of Tony Cabangon Chua is a rags-to-riches tale that could easily serve as a plot for a telenovela. This is not to say that Tony’s family was poor from the beginning. In fact, he started life under comfortable circumstances. But in 1944, during the Japanese occupation, his father was executed for suspected guerrilla activities. Mother and son lost everything during the battle for the liberation of Manila.

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But she kept the family together, working as a washerwoman for GI troops at Camp Murphy (now Camp Aguinaldo), while Tony helped out by shining shoes for the soldiers. These were the hunger years of his early childhood. He would later say, “Being poor is harder to bear when you had it easy before.”

Through hard work he was able to establish himself, and with financial success came political influence, one that was quiet and unobtrusive, just like the man himself.

When he was being considered for a posting in the foreign service, he was given a choice between Vienna in Austria or Vientiane in landlocked Laos. He chose the one nearer to home, perhaps to be able to keep a closer eye on his growing business empire. The fact that he was given options for his ambassadorial debut is probably the best measure of his political clout in the administration. His appointment to Laos gave our class its second ambassador. Both of us were political appointees.

Tony was also a favorite of the Catholic Church hierarchs, since the time of Jaime Cardinal Sin up to the present leadership. I recall that during one of his birthday parties, a Mass was officiated by an archbishop assisted by 10 other priests who practically occupied the entire length of the altar during the ceremony. The joke going around was that Tony must have committed some grievous sin that needed an archbishop and 10 assistants to drive out the devil.

When he made it to the top, he never forgot his roots. Of all his charity works, none was closer to his heart than the Dominga Lim Cabangon Scholarship Foundation, which is named after his mother. From the barrios of Mandaluyong, children are selected as scholars of the foundation with all expenses—school fees, books and uniforms—shouldered by the group.

One morning, after I had checked out from one of my periodic visits to the hospital, I received a call from Tony inviting me for lunch at the Cowrie Grill in Greenhills. When we sat down, I asked him what the occasion was and he replied by saying, “Being with friends is a good enough reason.” And though he knew that I didn’t drink, he always had a bottle of red wine for me to taste.

Sleep well, dear friend. Yours has been a life well-spent.

* * *

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Let me congratulate the new commanding general of the Philippine Air Force, Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, PMA Class 1983. He takes over the helm of an organization that has just started its reentry into the jet age. We have full confidence in his ability to lead the command in the critical years that lie ahead.

We also wish Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado all the best as he starts a new chapter in his career of service to the nation.

* * *

A few days ago, Rizalino Villaruz, officer in charge of the Mandaluyong City Office for Senior Citizens Affairs, dropped by to explain his side in the complaint filed by senior citizen Oscar Lagman against Generics Pharmacy Qualigen. He was accompanied by Nandy Charvet, former regent of the Rizal Technological University in Mandaluyong and a leading business leader of the city.

It would take up more space than is available to present the arguments of both sides in the dispute.

Let me just mention that the complaint of Lagman ended up in the Business Permit Office (BPO) of Mandaluyong City, headed by Catherine de Leon-Arce. After deliberating on the matter, the BPO issued a “stern warning” against Generics Pharmacy Qualigen, for its refusal to honor Lagman’s status by denying him his 20-percent discount on the purchase of some medicinal cream. Qualigen was also informed that a repetition of the same offense would result in the closure of the establishment.

Lagman was not satisfied with the decision, and wants to see the imposition of the P50,000 fine as provided for in Republic Act No. 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. This action would require a formal complaint which Lagman must file in court. Considering the time, effort and money that such a move would entail, is it worth filing the complaint?

By the way, I have been informed that a few days ago OIC Rizalino Villaruz submitted his letter of resignation to Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos.

Which brings me to another subject matter—the need to review and amend certain portions of the Senior Citizens Law. After more than five years, it is time to update its provisions in light of the experiences of the past.

The provision on penalties and other sanctions is quite impractical for senior citizens who are mostly in their twilight years. Just the expense involved in filing a court case is often out of the question, considering their critical finances. We must come up with more convenient and reliable means for addressing their grievances, and this should not entail getting mixed up in our expensive and slow-moving judicial system.

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TAGS: Antonio Cabangon Chua, Edgar Fallorina, opinion, Philippine Military Academy, PMA
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