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‘The Salt Doll’

/ 01:05 AM April 10, 2017

It seems like only a few months ago that members of PMA Class 1956 laid to rest one of its classmates, Gen. Rodolfo Canieso, former commanding general of the Philippine Army. Affectionately referred to as “Pilipino” by close colleagues and admirers, he embodied the finest qualities of the Filipino soldier and was idolized by his men, knowing they had a leader who would take care of them.

Last March, Gen. Rodrigo Gutang, principal author of the law creating the Philippine National Police, passed away after a series of ailments that finally took him down. Also a member of Class 1956, Rod Gutang was the first captain (baron) of the cadet corps during his time at Fort Del Pilar. After graduation, he joined the Philippine Constabulary. His action as PC regional commander of Region XII, in support of the Enrile-Ramos forces in Camp Crame during the Edsa Revolution, is one of the highlights of his military career.

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Both Canieso and Gutang were buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani with full military honors.

Last Tuesday, April 4, exactly 61 years to the day when he graduated from the PMA, Gen. Jose C. Bello Jr., of Ilocos Sur, slipped away peacefully in the company of his loved ones.

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Joe Bello, or “Jobel” as he was known to close friends and classmates, was the valedictorian of PMA Class 1956. The first topnotcher of a postwar PMA class was Leopoldo B. Regis, Class 1951. He was followed by Marcelo S. Nuguid, Class 1952; Bernabe D. Salvador, Class 1953; Donato L. Guzman Jr., Class 1954; and Rosalino A. Alquiza, Class 1955. Regis who was serving as presidential aide-de-camp, perished in the Magsaysay plane crash in March 1957.

Joe Bello was also the cadet battalion adjutant or “Bow-Wow,” the fellow who would bark out the orders calling the corps to attention on the parade ground, or at the cadet mess hall. The irony of it all was that Jobel in private, was a quiet, soft-spoken individual who even when chewing out plebes, did so in a firm but dignified manner, never losing his cool, and always keeping his temper in check. He was also an outstanding academician with graduate degrees from Princeton University, University of the Philippines, University of Asia and the Pacific, and the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed him as one of 50 members of a consultative committee formed to draft possible amendments to the Constitution.

The death of my three classmates brought to mind a story by Anthony de Mello, SJ, from “The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything.” The story is titled “The Salt Doll” and as the title indicates, it is about a doll made from salt.

“A salt doll journeyed for thousands of miles over land until it finally came to the sea. It was fascinated by this strange, moving mass quite unlike anything it had ever seen before.

“‘Who are you?’ the Salt Doll asked the sea. The sea smilingly replied, ‘Come in and see.’ So the doll waded in. The farther it walked into the sea, the more it dissolved until there was only very little of it left.

Before that last bit dissolved, the doll exclaimed in wonder, ‘Now I know what I am!’”

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Food for thought

Many years ago we attended a Lenten retreat conducted by Fr. Thomas Greene, a Jesuit from Rochester, New York. Much of what he said I forgot by the time Easter Monday came around. But there are a few items that remain in my thoughts.

First of all, Father Tom must have been raised in a home full of love, gentleness and devotion. Every mention of his father or mother was in the context of much affection. But the one I
enjoyed most was about his father being the ultimate segurista. He said that “much to the exasperation of my mother, he wore both belt and suspenders to be secure against the day when the force of gravity might suddenly increase.”

Father Tom spoke about making mistakes in our lives.
He mentioned that too often, we spend so much time protecting our loved ones from situations that could result in making
mistakes when, actually, we should allow people to make mistakes. But he stressed that what one must avoid is making the same old mistakes because then it only indicates that we have not learned any lessons.

“Make new mistakes,” he said, using as example his advice to a nun who had fallen in love with a priest. The next time, “Don’t fall in love with another priest,” he cautioned the nun. “Fall in love with the bishop.”

In the United States is a place of worship, a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility. Here in the
Philippines there is a great devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Perhaps, what we need is a devotion to our responsibilities and obligations, and not just to our individual rights and needs or, as Father Tom put it, there is “too much prayer and
not enough sharing.”

A lot of people conclude that Judas Iscariot the apostle who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and in the end committed suicide, is now languishing in the fires of hell.

Father Tom said we don’t know who is in hell. Even Judas may have repented at the last minute, and may now be in heaven with so many others. Perhaps, it was Father Tom’s way of telling us not to judge others too rashly.

Aside from the talks he gave, Father Tom also answered written questions from the congregation. One of them was from a young boy.

The boy asked, “Why is Good Friday good instead of bad?”

Father Tom’s reply: “Because death on Friday would lead to the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Without pain there can be no gain; without suffering, there can be no meaningful victory or achievement.”

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