Sunday, October 10, 2004

On turning 80

On turning 80

Updated 04:30am (Mla time) Oct 10, 2004
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the October 10, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

CONGRATULATE me, and thank you very much. Tomorrow I'll be 80 years old. I'm still up and about, by the grace of God and my dear wife Sally, who has taken care of me since our marriage 52 years ago. My children have all been a joy to me and have given their parents little trouble except the usual youthful mischiefs that they have now outgrown. My grandchildren have added happiness to the twilight of my life although I will not be able to see the youngest of them grow up. Cara just turned 10, Bala is 9, and Bea is only 4 months old. I have written a letter to Bea that she can read 10 years from now, when I'll no longer be around.

Although some say that I don't look and act like an octogenarian (that's an intimidating word), there are times when I wish I still had the vivacity of my younger years. I especially miss the nocturnal adventures that gave Sally and me six healthy children at almost annual intervals. They were five boys in succession-Cesar, Claro, Celso, Carlo and Isagani Jr.-before we finally got a daughter, Cynthia, who is the apple of my eyes. Although I don't blame them, my regret is that they have been rather sparing with their progeny. My own parents had 18 grandchildren from us six children while my own six children have produced for Sally and me only seven grandchildren.

Since the luxury of old people is remembrance, I will tomorrow look back to some of the more beautiful memories of my happy life. They will be like roses in December as Sir James Barrie would put it. Many of them were retained in a photo album lovingly kept by my mother (she had one for each of us children) that I have, sadly, misplaced. It contained one important picture taken when I was chosen one of the officers during the yearly Boys Week in Manila and we were all taken to Malaca¤ang to visit Governor General Frank Murphy. I approached him and a cameraman took our picture together-Murphy to later become justice of the US Supreme Court and I to become justice of our own Supreme Court. I was only 10 years old then.

When I graduated from the Legarda Elementary School and missed top honors in favor of a girl classmate, all the boys struck and boycotted the commencement exercises. At the Mapa High School, I won an Eversharp fountain pen in a writing contest and earned P2 every time I was published in the Graphic student literary page. At an alumni reunion five years ago, I was widely applauded when I said I was the first editor in chief of our student organ, the Mapazette. I was in UP when the Pacific war broke out and all of us ROTC students were required to report for eventual detail to fight in the front. On Christmas Day, however, we were disbanded and told to go home, leaving what could have been our last feast of lechon and other comestibles.

Like most young men then, I had my share of female friends and had a special girl friend named Chitang. She had a pretty face and a wonderful figure. One day we had a quarrel and I let it be known to her that I was leaving for Baguio, where my friend Fred was bound the next day. I asked him to send for me a telegram to Chitang reading "I miss you so much. Oceans of love." I learned later that this led to Fred's arrest by the kempetai, who suspected he was talking of MacArthur's return. They kept tapping his head with a steel ruler to force him to confess but finally let him go.

I studied law first in UP and later in MLQ, where I graduated in 1951. I had two sweethearts, Sally in the morning and Caring in the afternoon. When Caring noticed I was wearing Sally's school ring in the afternoon, she broke up with me and for several days attended classes without makeup. She recovered soon enough with Bart, whom she later married, and during our bar review gave me a pile of law books to read. What a sweet girl! I was disappointed later when I placed eighth in the bar exams, a justice of the Supreme Court having earlier congratulated my brother Virgilio that I was No. 2.

As a struggling young married lawyer, I started practicing and later teaching. I chose Political Law at the suggestion of Dr. Jose P. Laurel of the Lyceum, where I in time became dean. Before long, I was a bar reviewer on the subject in practically all the law schools in Metro Manila and was named chair of the Code Commission. When martial law was declared, somebody I did not know saved me from being picked up by the military for attacking Marcos in my lectures. Edsa I saw my appointment to the reorganized Supreme Court, where I stayed for eight and a half years until my retirement in 1994. Now I head another law college in Las Pi¤as and have been writing this column for the past 10 years. Last April I was conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by the MLQ University.

It has been a satisfying life so far, but I am not yet ready to write finis to it. That is not for me to do but for Somebody Up There who, I think, is my friend. I will continue to live as I have done these 80 years, worshiping God, respecting my fellow human beings, loving nature, and protecting the little children who will inherit this earth. Then, ad astra.


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