KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson () - January 2, 2006 - 12:00am
I feel privileged to have been taken part in the production of a couple of books that came out towards the end of the departed year. One is handsome, the other gorgeous. Imaginably, they should make quite a pair, lying on a coffee table. Except that my bedside table serves as my coffee cup landing, and those large tomes won’t fit atop that, even when shorn of its reading lamp.

Unfortunately, both books aren’t readily available. Anyone interested in acquiring either or both would have to find his/her way up the social-cum-business ladder as I often inadvertently do. And attempt to entreat the respective publishers into parting with precious copies.

Say you’re a scholar and have to be constantly put up to speed on Filipiniana. Or say you’ll review the recent releases, a function I’m exempted from by virtue of participation. Say anything. For now, the books aren’t for sale.

To put a closure on the suspense, this early in a yet uneventful year, here are the coffee-table books’ titles: Jobo: The Life and Times of Jose B. Fernandez Jr. (1923-1994), published by Ateneo de Manila University, Office of University Development and Alumni Relations; and Since 1854 – Tanduay: The Filipino Rhum, published by Tanduay Distilleries Inc.

The first book was launched early in November at Manila Golf Club – fittingly enough, as it was one of Jobo’s favorite places on earth. Ma. Dulce Cacho Fernandez and her brood – Enrique, Jaime, J.M., Roberto and Malena – presided over the launching that was attended by friends and associates of the biography’s subject, whose career pinnacle was his service to country as the sixth governor of the Central Bank of the Philippines (1984-1990).

Many of these friends and associates contributed in no small measure to the book, which puts together their recollections and anecdotes about a man who commanded respect and admiration, and much appreciation among his peers as well as objective observers, for his sense and practice of ethical conduct, his intelligence and wit, his love for literature and music, his integrity, courage and passionate patriotism.

Interviewed for this biography were men and women who today still hold court as our finance experts, among them former Prime Minister and Finance Minister Cesar E.A. Virata, Washington SyCip, Cesar Buenaventura, Jose L. Cuisia, Ramon V. del Rosario Sr., Gabriel C. Singson, current SEC Chair Fe B. Barin, Federico Borromeo, Aurelio Montinola Jr., Romeo Bernardo, Ernest Leung, Felix Enrico Alfiler, Edilberto Javier, Oscar Lopez-Dee, Louie Jalbuena, and historian Benito J. Legarda Jr.

The book owes much to AIM professor Sonny Coloma who conducted many of the interviews a few years ago, as well as Venie B. Rañosa who had written much on Jobo during the years of prominence of Far East Bank and Trust Company.

Prominent political commentators also find themselves quoted in their reckoning of the heroic if controversial figure the book celebrates.

Dr. Adrian E. Cristobal wrote in 1994, a day after Jobo Fernandez passed away: "Opportunism, such as those shown by his business contemporaries, might have earned him the label of ‘hero’ in the passing context, but he kept his political opinions to himself, as he served the country and not passing personalities. It was his belief that in the worst of times, good men could still serve and nevertheless offer their talent and honor to the common weal."

For his part, then editor-publisher and now Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. characteristically delivered such eloquent prose: "Jobo Fernandez is not an example of anything except himself. His experience is singular and it illustrates a fate that is reserved for the proud, who are legion in government, and whose gifts and accomplishments entitle them to be proud, which is not true of anyone in the government today. Even in his triumph, he is all alone."

Beniting" Legarda provides the foreword, while this writer is given authorial credit, albeit I could argue that it was a truly collaborative effort that gained merit from many voices. The effort was considerably helped along by the Fernandez family, who contributed meticulous research and documentation, and themselves gave verbal and written recollections, as well as shored up certain sections with their own writing and editing supervision.

For book lovers who may not have much time (or patience) for cover-to-cover perusal, but who appreciate photo galleries, this book is a treasure trove of images of the man for all seasons that was Jobo. His widow "Toti" certainly did a fine job in selecting the visuals that help make the book look very handsome and worthy indeed. These include not only numerous pictures that are representative of the stages and phases in a great man’s life, but also various citations and myriad communication that flesh up the legend that is Jobo Fernandez, the man credited with saving the Philippine economy at a time of severe crisis.

The book is a praiseworthy tribute to him then, as the product of collaboration among those who loved him and those who remain very respectful of his memory.

For the Tanduay book that comes in either a colorful slipcase or an elegant box that’s copper-embossed with the 150-year-old company’s historic escutcheon, the word can only be gorgeous.

Here, too, pictures tell half of the story, ranging from vintage photos in black-and-white or sepia to contemporary documentation of the rhum-making process and all other facets relating to the product: from the use of Tanduay in Filipino movies to its influence on our pop musicians, let alone our farmers, fishermen and common folk.

But the array of features on "The Filipino Rhum," with its welter of labels marked by varying years of aging in wooden barrels, and now touted as the first truly Filipino global brand, is of course essentially served by way of essay-narratives covering many subjects – something like, say, everything you wanted to know about Tanduay but weren’t yet too spirited too ask.

Our best writers are fully engaged in rounds of toasts to truth-telling, among them Butch Dalisay, Pete Lacaba and Wilson Lee Flores on "El Kapitan" himself – Dr. Lucio Tan who successfully turned the company around since his acquisition of its storied name in 1988.

Then there are Ambeth R. Ocampo on Tanduay’s beginnings, Randolph Joseph de Jesus on the war years, and Marra PL Lanot on the man called "El Maestro" – the brew-master Faustino Munarriz who concocts all the Tanduay Distillery products.

Edilberto N. Alegre writes on "The Making of Rhum," Lourd Ernest de Veyra on "Tanduay Time," Peque Gallaga on "Tanduay Spotting at the Movies," Michaela Fenix on "Tanduay on the Kitchen Table," Juaniyo Arcellana on "When the Music Plays Tanduay," Tessa Jazmines on "The Legacy of the Tanduay Rhum Makers (basketball team)," Dinah Ventura on "The Tanduay Calendar Girls," and Antonio S. Lopez on Tanduay as "The Philippines’ Original Global Brand."

Other essays round up the picture with entries on global awards and recognition, Tanduay’s affinity with the Pinoy fiesta, and the evolution of the Tanduay logo. Capping the textual strength of the book are two poems in Filipino by Vim Nadera.

The company’s president, Wilson T. Young, himself served as the book’s project director, with Ro-Charmaine M. Pidal as managing editor, and yours truly as editor in chief.

Young writes in his foreword: "To celebrate 150 years of Filipino patronage of Tanduay, we find it fitting to gather only the country’s most reputable writers in a coffee-table book that chronicles the times shared with a tagay of rhum…. Let this work be Tanduay’s contribution in enriching the heritage of the Filipino – his culture, his tradition and his way of life."

For his part, Dr. Lucio C. Tan, chairman and CEO, who gave happy remarks at the launching held at the Top of the Century on Dec. 16, and who proved patient and determined enough to sign the first 200 copies that night, writes: "Tanduay’s story is a tale of transformation, of convergence and indomitable Filipino spirit. Its story is about people, of the nameless, faceless individuals who gather every day to partake of a unique Filipino tradition: the sharing of stories of love and loss, of successes and failures, over a glass of Tanduay rhum."

Ring out the old, ring in the new doesn’t quite encapsulate Tanduay’s history, but still somehow serves up its essence and spirit, one of a cherished continuum.

Tagay! Mabuhay ang Tanduay!

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