Books, Books, Books: Juan Ponce Enrile (a memoir)

I just finished reading Juan Ponce Enrile (a memoir) and I thought it was a book deserving of being blogged about. I know that there are people who hates what he represents but I would call even them to give it a chance.

I have the Kindle version which is 19.00 USD. Not cheap but since I am overseas I’ve been ordering Philippine published books available on Kindle when I have spare cash to spend. Reading them makes me feel right at home—albeit only in the mind.

Enrile’s book is an important memoir, if you don’t believe that, well, ask ex-President PNOY. He attended the book lunch four years ago, along with Imelda!

The history buff that I am relished the parts where Manong Johnny wrote about his childhood in that isolated bucolic barrio of Gonzaga in old Cagayan. His notes on how people behaved back in the day were charming snippets of the Filipinos old way of life.

I am aware of the criticism leveled against Enrile’s memoir. Some say it reeks of lies. Case in point was the “ambush” story which Gen. Montaño, the PC chief then who investigated the incident, already said was bogus.

In the first chapters, Enrile recounted the story of his father, his childhood, his old town and his beloved mother. Her only surviving photo I read prominently hangs in his posh Makati home. He looks more like his mother than his mestizo father. She sent him in several occasions to school by asking whoever was administering the school to charge them nothing in exchange for little Juanito running errands for them.

Enrile recounts in his book how he changed his mind from having no desire to become a lawyer (his father’s a popular lawyer, cousin of Mariano Ponce) to devoting himself to become one. The famous story of boys stabbing him with blades because of jealousy I have heard before but reading his accounts provided more details. The attackers were scions of Cagayan elites. They were never charged and remained regular students, while the young Enrile was expelled for causing trouble. Imagine if this injustice never happened, the man would have been an engineer we probably would never heard of.

An interesting account from the book was when Enrile was imprisoned by the Japanese. He shared a small dark space with a man he would later discover to be a Spanish tobacco trader. He spoke with the man in Spanish. He explains that while his Spanish was not perfect, he learned the language from his mother who spoke it with his grandparents. They were fluent speakers. My distant relative, Guillermo Gómez Rivera, whom Enrile represented in the past told me that the man speaks Spanish.

Rene Saguisag, one of the few lawyer that I admire, in a recent podcast interview with Martin Andanar (now PCOO secretary) said that our experiences during the war had a lot to do with corruption. I read the same observation from Director Erik Matti, who I heard was making a film about it. This same observation was echoed by several WWII survivors I’ve had the chance to meet. Not to blame past experiences for our present predicament but it’s an interesting subject to say the least.

My father’s stories about how Filipino guerrillas, in guise of fighting the Japanese, cruelly raped women and ransacked houses I thought were isolated incidents. He’s from Negros, Enrile’s from Cagayan and yet they have familiar stories. The former Senator recalls how bandits, after looting the houses in Gonzaga, brought him and his friend to the seashore. The abductors then asked them to dig their own graves. Enrile begged for his life from the group’s leader. He mentioned to him that his brother is a soldier fighting in Bataan. Upon hearing this he freed them. Turns out that this bandit trained along with his brother in the army reserves.

Unfortunately, my Father’s uncle in San Carlos was not spared by the guerrillas. Like Enrile, he was made to dig up his own grave but his fate was different. He was buried in that hole he burrowed.

The other book that I had the chance to read was “Altar of Secrets : Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church” by Aries Rufo.

It’s an interesting book that most Filipino Catholics should read. The work of Rufo reminds us that even prelates are susceptible to sin. They’re human beings like you and me.

Rufo wrote about the once popular Bishop Yalung, a Cardinal Sin protege. He was later defrocked because of alleged romantic relations with a couple of parishioners. He came from the parish where I took up Catechism, The National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in San Antonio Makati. The same parish where I would see the Binays attend Sunday mass regularly.

Could  you imagine the Church having a fund for illegitimate children of priests? It’s hard to believe but this exists.

The last time I visited this church was when I attended the wedding of a friend. He met his wife in the software company where I was a supervisor. I hired the guy and has become friends with the two. They’re both very good people and now they have a happy little toddler, a cutey named Liz!

Not all men who wears the cassock lives holy lives. But I have met great priests in my life; like the Servites in Muntinlupa, all selfless missionaries of the Lord. They’re great inspiration to young Catholics like myself. I’m inclined to believe that most are true servants but there are exceptions, of course, and this is what “Altar of Secrets : Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church” is all about.


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