I find myself very blessed. I did not only have a second lease on life, I am now on a third lease and wondering how on earth I am still alive considering all the physical problems that beset me.
But above all the blessings, I am most thankful to the good Lord for the parents he gave me and my siblings. More than the good genes, more than the unconditional love and the best education — Mom and Dad provided us hands-on training for character and value formation.
Dad showed us the reason why intellectual brilliance and accomplishment alone are not as important as love, family, compassion and integrity. Born at the end of the 19th century, Marcial, my Dad, came from the "old school" as people refer to them today.
The Esposos are originally from Paoay, Ilocos Norte and was part of a large clan that included the Evangelistas, Diazes (Marilou and Gloria) and Pobres. Dad’s family eventually settled in Moncada, Tarlac where our grandfather had a successful trading business. Although they were well-off, my father could not get our grandfather’s approval to enter college and to become a lawyer.
In those days, people were happy to finish high school. Our grandfather felt no need for a lawyer in the family and preferred to have another family member help him run the business. Unable to get his father to bankroll his dreams, Dad went to Manila sans his father’s blessings. He took the first job available for him in the big city and became a houseboy, or what we would call a domestic helper today.
He eventually found better jobs and completed law. The day he took the bar exams, he was suffering from a urinary tract infection and had to be accompanied to the restroom to relieve himself a number of times. Despite this, Dad obtained above average marks. In due time, he rose in the corporate world to become the president of the Philippine Education Company better known then as PECO, the biggest wholesaler and retailer of publications in the ’50s and the ’60s. We all grew up around my Dad’s many sensational legal cases which included milestone victories.
Dad walked among kings, so to speak, but this neither turned his head nor did it make him less compassionate to those who were of lesser means or stature. He counted among the regular Malacañang guests of close friends Elpidio Quirino and Carlos P. Garcia when they were presidents. Presidents Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay and Garcia offered Dad to be their Secretary of Justice but he refused because he knew he would be earning more in PECO (where he was then already its vice-president) than the government salary for a Cabinet Secretary.
Dad was a friend of Mariano Marcos, father of President Ferdinand Marcos (FM). When he was still a senator, FM, a voracious reader, used to visit Dad in PECO whenever he went there to buy some books.
Dad never took advantage of his closeness to former presidents Quirino and Garcia but he did seek FM’s assistance once and only once — and this was when money sent through the postal service by a househelp was not received by her family in the Visayas. Dad wrote Marcos an impassioned letter to which FM acted with dispatch.
When the Quirino administration decided to sell the NAMARCO’s one-hectare lot at the corner of Azcarraga (now C. M. Recto) and Quezon Boulevard in Quiapo, President Quirino called Dad to ask if PECO would like to buy it. This lot would be your equivalent of today’s prime locations in Greenhills, Cubao or Ayala shopping centers.
Businessmen would have loved to buy the prime property at even twice its asking price of P1 million. PECO saw no need for the property and despite the rejection, President Quirino asked if my Dad would like to get it in his name and do whatever else he sees fit with it. When my Ninong and Alemars owner, Dr. Ernesto Sibal, learned about it, he asked Dad to go for it. Dr. Sibal will lend Dad the money to buy it — interest free — after which he will buy it from our father for P1,300,000 (nowadays that P300,000 windfall would easily be worth P300 million).
Although Dad never lobbied for the NAMARCO property and there were no considerations attached, he refused to take advantage of the offer. To him it reeked of influence peddling. The Roman family eventually bought it and it became the Cinerama Center.
Once, I thought I’d impress Dad when I said to my half-brother, one of Dad’s children from the earlier marriage (Dad was a widower and Mom a widow when they married) that "honesty is the best policy." My half-brother was selling a car and he wanted to hype certain features to make it more attractive. I then told my half brother that ‘honesty is the best policy’ and he should fully disclose product details. I got the surprise of my life when Dad snapped at me and said: "Honesty for a policy is the worst form of deceit." What Dad meant was that honesty is a person’s manifestation of ethical and moral conduct and not something to be used to promote personal gain which then makes it an ulterior motive instead of a virtue.
Dad became a widower a second time when Mom passed away in 1966 at age 55. When Dad passed away in 1970 at age 74, I was 21 years old and my two younger sisters and brother were ages 15 to 18. The money he left us was not enough to see my sisters and brother through college. But Dad and Mom instilled more than enough values and strength of character to see us through this lifetime.
My sister Carol heads her own communications outfit while Dorothy is based in Singapore as the Corporate Communications head of Bayer in the region. Dicky was part of the marketing team of STAR EVP Gracie Glory Go and later became the advertising manager of the Village Voice. He passed away at age 48 in 2001.
Save for Dicky, none of us obtained college degrees as we all had to work to be able to make ends meet. But the values and character formation — more importantly, the role models Dad and Mom provided us served us in good stead.
Today, February 8, we share them with you as we remember the day Dad and Mom rejoined our Maker. They both died on the same day, four years apart.