The champion of the little people
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-04-05
If you study the life of Jesus Christ, you’ll note that an important point of His ministry on earth was to champion the cause of the least of our brethren or those we often refer to as the little people. Christ empathized with the little people and it was for them that He dedicated his great commandment — “Whatsoever you do to the least of your brethren, you do unto me.”

The greatest enemies of Christ were the Pharisees — the pretenders to being paragons of virtue and piety. Christ disdained the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It could well be that Christ had the little people and the Pharisees in mind when He said: “The first shall be the last and the last shall be the first. The proud will be humbled and the humble will be exalted.” Christ also downplayed the distracting addiction to wealth and power when He said: “What good is it for a man to gain the world yet lose his soul?”

Christ in His infinite wisdom recognized the value of the collective labor of the little people. “That all may be one,” was the Lord’s fondest wish, the wish to which Focolare Movement founder Chiara Lubich pushed the Movement to attain.

Christ also knew that the little people could be better trusted than those who have sizeable interests to protect. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Gate of Paradise,” the Lord said. Indeed, the more we amass the wealth of our world, the more inclined we become to stray from the commandments of God and we thus become poorer in the eyes of God.

We have true Christians in our midst who actively promote unity with the little people, good role models for sanctification. The Gawad Kalinga (GK) and the Focolare initiatives of Bukas Palad and Economy of Communion (EoC) are dedicated to fulfilling that unity between the haves and the have-nots. For GK, the best foundation for nation building is the bridging of the Wealth Gap through the restoration of the sense of dignity of the poor and the sharing by the elite. When the poor do not feel oppressed, exploited, neglected or abandoned, there will be harmony in the land.

The recent passing of one outstanding member of the tribe of the little people inspired these thoughts in your Chair Wrecker. Last March 20, Teodoro “Tate (pronounced Ta-Teh)” Abcede, our driver for the last 25 years, passed away after a bout with lymphoma cancer last year and a stroke with pneumonia two weeks ago. Tate was the epitome of loyalty and dedication to duty. Through my many health crises since 1988, Tate provided my wife Mey with invaluable support, shuttling to and fro the Makati Medical Center to bring things that we needed.

Tate started working for me in 1987 when your Chair Wrecker was then a member of the Cory Aquino cabinet. After the assassination of Jimmy N. Ferrer in February 1987, the intelligence community advised me to undertake security measures because of a monitored threat by the Reds to eliminate me. A security man detailed to me by the Department decided not to report anymore for work when he learned that the Sparrows are gunning for me for promoting the local government anti-insurgency campaign, which is hurting them immensely.

That didn’t bother Tate. He stayed on but only asked to be given a pistol by the Department and a permit to carry it so that he can at least offer some measure of repulsion to an attack. We knew that one pistol in the hands of an untrained person is illusory protection against Sparrow ambush. The pistol was more of a security blanket for Tate than a real deterrent to experienced assassins who pick the time and place to strike.

Tate was the envy of some of my closest friends. The late Teddy Benigno asked me how we manage to keep an excellent driver like Tate. Maria Montelibano and the late Tubby Fernandez both asked me to give Tate their home addresses on one of those days when your Chair Wrecker wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and fires him. They promised to give him an on-the-spot signing bonus of 50 percent on top of his monthly salary with us. That, of course, never happened because we had the good sense not to fire Tate.

Tate was more than a driver to us. To see him as a driver is to reward his services with the top wage rate for good drivers. We opted to see Tate as one of the little people who deserved a far better reward than what his services could earn. We gave him a townhouse in a respectable subdivision in Las Pinas City and we sponsored his four children’s education in private schools. We also protected him with a health insurance coverage, which became very useful in coping with his lymphoma cancer. If you ask us, Tate had reciprocated our efforts with dedication and loyalty that far outweighed the benefits he received from us.

This season of Lent, let’s meditate on how the little people can become our means for sanctification.

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must never unwatched go.”

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