Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio 738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday
To his kababayan (townmates) and his numerous clients, he was known as Tata Ago, with emphasis on his nickname, contracted Santiago who, many people may not know as James - St James or Santiago, preacher and martyr of the church.*
But Tata Ago was not the religious we know, that's too assuming and doctrinaire if justice is to be fought for and in behalf of the faithful - the grassroots who quite settle into penitence and asceticism - or silence - in lieu of fundamental human right - the right for justice. Social justice.
Graduation photo on finishing law and passing the bar soon after, from Manuel L Quezon University then the primer law school in the country. He was only 28, idealistic and full of dreams. He run for mayor in his hometown although he knew well the fate of a neophyte in traditional politics. After recovering from defeat he furthered his studies at the University of Southern California for a masteral degree. He returned and landed as a public servant in Comelec, a job he did not find excitement and challenge. He went into private law practice and became an institution in his own right.
The arena is no longer the amphitheater or the cathedral, or some fortress, but a room called the hall of justice where the search for truth is governed by proper conduct and inspired by principles of human society - liberty, brotherhood and equality. Which means that the law must uphold these principles.
But these are beyond the comprehension of common people. And this is where Tata Ago excelled: the interpretation of the law on the grassroots, particularly criminal and civil law. Tata Ago is a kind and considerate man, with a Solomonic psychology as in the case of two mothers claiming for the same baby. When the king threatened to cut the baby in half, the impostor said, go ahead. But the real mother said, no, let the baby live, give it to her.
Or Lincolnian compassion. When a boy soldier was presented for deserting the union army and was condemned to hanging, the kind president said, give him some spanking and send him home. Breaking the law may be resolved by the letter, but the future of the young man was more important.
On one occasion Tata Ago was relating the life of the hero of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo who was thrown into the dungeon for stealing bread. I thought that was one of the casual stories on a Saturday afternoon. But he continued. There was this boy who also committed the same crime and was brought to justice. Upon pleading guilty and showing remorse, the judge said, Society can't just coolly take cognizance of the law in the face of extreme poverty. He took his hat put a dollar and passed on to everyone in the court. The collection was given to the boy. Of course this is just an anecdote, but Tata Ago could have been a good judge.
And would Sherlock Holmes be impressed with investigative cases Tata Ago handled? There's one thing that can't pass through his scrutiny - the evasion of justice however "perfect the crime may look." Face it, the law is not intended to shield a crime. Tata Ago's jaw tightened and the suspect submitted to a plea.
What greater role does a lawyer play but the prevention of crime? There on his front yard in San Vicente or in Providence Village in Marikina, he was a teacher not so much on the fundamentals of law but the sixth sense of the law. That is, the potential of crime must be removed to prevent its commission. Like medicine, prevention has no substitute. Which means only one thing practical for everybody: be a good citizen. Strive to be one always.
Young people, aspiring to pursue their career used to consult Tata Ago. For he was a model in town particularly San Vicente a small community where looking for a model may not take one to the likes of legal luminaries in the books. But the local model is not without the qualities of a Recto, Marcos, Saguisag, Roco, Rojas (another model of the town, regional director of NBI), and the vision of those non-lawyers who even surpassed those in the profession.
There is always a disturbing question raised to those people who rose to fame. And that is, Have you changed the world? Of course it is a gross, unkind expectation, but this leads one to examine his contribution to the betterment of life. Victor Frankl in his book, A Search for Meaning, confirmed that those who held on to their hopes and dreams mostly survived the concentration camp. We are in a kind of concentration camp, not to merely escape but help others, too. Tata Ago was like that, no doubt.
And when he was about to take the armchair to spend more time with his family - a loving wife and four beautiful children all raring to pursue their careers, tragedy struck.
I would like to stop here. As a chronicler I find it difficult to shift from a happy story to a sad one, from the ideal to the cruel reality of life, the momentum set for a lifetime to end abruptly, inconsolable, irreparable, tragedy beyond any definition of the word. Beyond any explanation. Beyond any answer. How we wish heaven has an answer to our tragedies.
Two of the children died in a fire that razed their house in Marikina, with the eldest son braving the fire to save his sister. It’s a dead end, Tata Ago, Nana Carolina and the surviving children faced. Silence in gloom is perhaps the most difficult thing to bear. Time stood still, neither can it bring back the past nor pave a clear path and direction.
Tata Ago lived to 82. On his wake my wife and I joined our townmates to pay tribute to the fallen old man, a relative both on Cecille's side and mine. I played on the violin Meditation during the blessing. Méditation is a symphonic intermezzo from the opera Thaïs by French composer Jules Massenet. The piece is written for solo violin and orchestra,1894..
The final melody of Meditation sounded like dirge, lament in the deepest sense for losing a man who stood up for the dignity of the legal profession, who remained a model of aspiring young men and women to take up law, and practice law in its finest, incorruptible and indelible in the annals of history and the hearts of men - and shining like the legendary compostela.~
* NOTE: The name Santiago goes back to the Apostle James (Saint James = Santiago) who went to this most north-western part of Spain, called by the Romans "Finis Terrae", "end of the world", to preach and convert people to Christianity.
After returning to Palestine in 44 a.C., he was taken prisoner by Herodes Agrippa and tortured to death. The king forbid to bury him, but in the night Jacob's disciples stole the body and brought him, in a sarcophagus of marble, on board of a small boat. The current of the sea drove the boat to the Spanish coast, into the port of the Roman province's capital, Iria Flavia. Here the Apostle was buried at a secret place in a wood.
Centuries later, in 813, the hermit Pelayo listened music in that wood and saw a shining. For this shining the place was called, in Latin, "Campus Stellae", field of the star, name that was later on turned into Compostela.