Good Morning Philippines
November 12, 2011
ON SECOND THOUGHT
The Leon Maria Guerrero Anthology authored by his only son, David Guerrero, is a must read for anyone that wishes to serve in our Foreign Service, or wishes to become a writer, or simply wants to know about a nationalist of the top order that lived through the country’s transition from colony, to occupied, to independence from foreign domination or at least, a semblance of it.
The book opens with a brief summary of Ambassador Guerrero’s family tree beginning the mid 19th century, a family described by historian/writer Nick Joaquin as “a mixture, a very uneasy blend, of religious conservatism and intellectual radicalism.” “On the one hand, they uphold tradition; on the other, they sponsor revolution.” LMG’s immediate forebears include, among others, Dr. Leon Ma. Guerero, the first Filipino botanist; Lorenzo Guerrero, the famed artist and one time teacher of Juan Luna; the highly acclaimed poet Fernando Ma. Guerrero; and Manuel Guerrero the scientist and discoverer of both the Beri-Beri disease as well as the remedy for it, the Tiki-Tiki .
From there, we are introduced to the subject’s student days at the Ateneo where he excelled academically, graduating Suma Cum Laude together with Horacio de la Costa and Jess Paredes. These three very bright students “got the highest grades of 99% and a 100% continuously in their classes. Leoni’s “quick rapier-like mercurial mind turns now to satire, now to tragedy; mobile, pliant, never at rest – the dream of Jesuit education realized; soul and substance, genius and geniality – a gentleman who is also a man,” as he was described in the Ateneo “year book.” But it was not only in grades that LMG stood out among his fellow students; he was just as active and prominent in debates, school plays, sports, and of course, the student publication of his school. Estefania Aldaba Lim’s recollection of him typifies how most remember him as a college student : “ I knew him in Ateneo like Manglapus as the rah-jah boys, scions of wealthy families, blue blooded of Ermita. As a young man, women chased him because he was an Atenean Big Man on Campus.” And from Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee: “Leoni was the campus idol and took part in almost every extra- curricular campus activity.” In fact, if his academic performance can be seen as nothing short of superlative, none would disagree that it was well matched with good looks and a captivating charm. And as his sister “Chitang” described him as a young college student (and she is not one to say something untrue just to make a brother or anyone for that matter feel good): “he had a fresh open, handsome face with a dazzling smile which he could hold indefinitely. He was chief altar boy, cadet commander, and champion debater. He had been born charming and he knew it.”
We don’t intend to relate here all the wonderful snippets and stories of this exemplary Ambassador who did plenty to gain respect for his country in all the posts he was assigned to in his more than three decades as Philippine Envoy, culminating with the conferment of the highest award given our diplomats, the Order of Mabini, the third only to receive it. The award was personally handed to him at his hospital bed by the late President Marcos. Joe Guevara then reminded his readers that “they were ‘enemies’ then, Special Prosecutor Guerrero asking the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court conviction of fresh bar topnotch Marcos for murder imposed by Judge Roman Cruz Sr., father of now Ambassador JV Cruz….”
As author, he is already guaranteed immortality through his translations of both of Rizal’s Fili and Noli from Spanish to English; and of his biography of Jose Rizal entitled, The First Filipino, one that’s been read by millions of people and to be read by more millions in future years. It has become a standard text in Universities here and had won the first prize in the Rizal Centennial Commission’s biography competition.
The book,The Leon Maria Guerrero Anthology, is available in all major bookstores. Good read or Christmas gift.