He walked very softly. Like a cat. Many times, I would be startled nearly out of my skin by the low “pare” that initiated most of my conversations with him. And every time – once I regained my composure – I would have a fleeting moment of something very like gratitude that he used that bit of familiarity with me. Not that it was some sort of special greeting – to him, everyone was pare.
I imagine it’s been that way for the entire 35 years he’d given to the COMELEC. Everyone was pare to him. Just like everyone has been favored with that childish giggle of his.
That laugh. Many COMELEC officers guffaw. Some chortle. Others, more niggardly perhaps, just smile. But he giggled, complete with a hand covering his mouth and heaving shoulders convulsed in mirth. For many, this will be how he is when they remember him.
The laugh, the easygoing familiarity with everyone, the soft walk – all that concealed a truly fearsome legal warrior. Many times we’d find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, and I’d be on the receiving end of a withering lecture on the fine points of the law. He had earned the nickname ‘Justice.’
But for all that, he’d always quickly go back to that easygoing fellow whose company I always found enjoyable. The stormclouds gathered on his furrowed forehead during an argument would almost immediately be melted away by the sunny and mischievous disposition that was normal for him.
I think I may be rhapsodizing him, but then you’ll have to excuse me seeing as how I knew him personally. And most of us who do will probably talk about him the same way.
He was one of the last of his breed – a COMELEC warrior who dealt with politicians fiercely and firmly, had only snarling patience for those who gratuitously bad-mouthed the COMELEC and its personnel, but who was gentler than strangers imagined, and who was every COMELEC employee’s friend.
Allah hafiz, Sir.