OML and ADR: Quixotic and patriotic
Two close friends passed away last week a few days after my Leni had gone.
OSCAR M. LOPEZ (OML), 93, was a man of honor, dignity, and integrity; he was courageous, patriotic, and quixotic. Many years ago, the First Philippine Holdings Corp. (FPH)—which he chaired—agreed to sell its concession in the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) to Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) chaired by Manuel V. Pangilinan.
When the agreement was to be ratified during an FPH board meeting, an urgent letter was received offering “P500 million more to whatever amount MPIC had agreed to pay.” When an influential FPH board director suggested the acceptance of this higher offer, OML boomed, “No sir, I will not break my word of honor for P500 million, or for any amount.” Period. End of discussion.
During FPH’s annual shareholders’ meetings, Oskie (as I am privileged to call him) invariably criticized the sitting president of the Philippines for what he believed were policies and actions detrimental to our country, without fear of presidential ire. To him, the country was first, and corporate profits, second. Though he doggedly pursued the reasonable expectations of his shareholders, he was even more relentless in his passion for green energy, climate change, and philanthropy.
Despite being one of our country’s few “venerable working rich,” he and his family humbly visited our home one fine evening in December 2016 to make up for their inability to attend (because they were abroad) “Ageless Passion,” an 18-song musicale composed by national artist Ryan Cayabyab (with lyrics by Jeff Agustin) that was staged at the Maybank Theater to mark my 80th birthday. He, his late wife Connie, and his baritone son Piki (who succeeded him as FPH chair) gamely serenaded me in total abandon.
From 2010 to 2016, he and his family were very close to then incumbent President Benigno Aquino III but he never used this closeness to expand their businesses. Neither did he exploit government renting to acquire new businesses, franchises, and/or concessions. He expanded their empire through sheer hard work, foresight, and teamwork. I know because, as a director of FPH, I was seated beside him during our monthly board meetings. Thus, I had a front-center view of how he walked his talk.
Indeed, of his many attributes, quixotic, I think, fits him best. To quote in part Piki’s eulogy, “On a trip we made to Spain’s La Mancha region almost 14 years ago, Dad picked up a figurine of his favorite character Don Quixote. When I saw the trouble he took to bring home that figurine as well as the prominence he gave it in his office, I felt a lifetime of lessons finally coming home to roost: He wanted us to keep dreaming big dreams no matter how impossible they may seem at the time. Because he strongly believed that when a commitment comes from the heart, the mind follows by moving in all sorts of creative and innovative ways …”
ALBERT F. DEL ROSARIO (ADR), 83, and I had been personal friends for over 40 years. He, Doming Lim, and I formed a triumvirate; we called one another “Mr. Chairman” because we took turns in hosting a breaking of bread once a month to discuss the political, social, economic, and diplomatic issues facing our country and the world. Our enjoyable trilateral exchanges ended when Doming died in the 1990s, and I joined the Supreme Court.
Albert was a formidable athlete. My Leni and I watched him and his wife Gretchen play championship tennis at the Manila Polo Club, a habit we continued by watching—together with them—professional tennis championships at Wimbledon in London and at Roland Garros in Paris.
His appointments as an envoy and, later, as our nation’s top diplomat were a perfect fit for mild-mannered Albert who, nonetheless, personally wielded a big stick. Much has been said about him, but I think the best tribute was rendered by Ateneo de Manila when it conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities. Due to my limited space, I will quote only the prologue of the award:
“It is said that a nation has four elements: its people, territory, government, and sovereignty. Albert F. Del Rosario has defended and promoted all of these … He took care of Filipinos in the diaspora [overseas Filipino workers], defended our territory and sovereignty with passion and discipline [by ferociously fighting for and magnificently winning the Arbitral Award over the West Philippine Sea], and worked consistently for a better and more dynamic government bureaucracy …”
Indeed, ADR was patriotic. And beyond that, quixotic, like OML. Though knowing victory would be extremely remote, still he (and retired Justice Conchita Carpio Morales) charged Chinese President Xi Jinping with crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court (ICC). As expected, the ICC threw out the accusation due to lack of jurisdiction since China had never been an ICC member. For his quixotism, he (and Morales) was stopped from entering Hong Kong and pursuing his activities there.
Adieu, my dear quixotic and patriotic friends. Well done on your earthly sojourn. Till we meet again in the peace and love of our Father in Heaven.
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