fresh no ads
Farewell to a Filipino champion |

Arts and Culture

Farewell to a Filipino champion

KRIPOTKIN - Alfred A. Yuson - The Philippine Star

Another good man, a much-respected friend and outstanding Filipino, passed away earlier this month.

On Dec. 8, it was a shock to receive the following SMS from fellow poet and STAR columnist Ed Maranan: “Ambassador Cesar Bautista died from a massive stroke. He was cremated this afternoon. Memorial mass at the Santuario in Forbes on Friday, at 9 a.m.”

Passing it on to other colleagues through cell phone and e-mail, I prefaced the brief announcement thus: “Another terrible news of a sad demise…” And on social media, bookended it with the following: “Ambassador Cesar Bautista served as our most worthy ambassador in the Court of St. James in London early in this millennium. He was instrumental, even after his retirement, in organizing and spearheading the English-Speaking Union Philippines chapter, of which he was chair until recently.”

AdMU Humanities dean Dr. Marlu Vilches, who had taken over as ESU-Phil. chair, was first to respond by e-mail:

“This is sad news indeed! Can’t believe this at all! I’m grief-stricken! Ambassador Cesar is one person we will never ever forget — gentle, serene, magnanimous, a self-effacing leader. I’ve learned so much from him about humble and patient service. May perpetual light shine upon him and may he rest in peace in God’s loving embrace!”  

Pilipinas Shell’s CEO Ed Chua, a staunch supporter and director of ESU-Phil., relayed the following:

“Following the wishes of Ambassador Bautista, there will be no wake. The 9 a.m. mass this Friday at the Sanctuario will be followed by his interment.”

Only our president, Gigi Virata, and treasurer, Erlinda Panlilio, managed to attend that first memorial service, of which Erlinda wrote:

“His self-effacedness was evident in his funeral Mass this morning. Instead of a choir, there was only one male singer, accompanied by music from a minus-one. I guess it was his eldest son who delivered a simple, brief eulogy, without the need of extolling his humble father, because, he said, we already knew what his accomplishments were. He also took the opportunity of thanking everyone who came. There were no other eulogies. The church was almost full. 

“I invited Gigi Virata, who was seated two pews behind me toward the back, to come forward with me to pay our respects below the altar, where Ambassador Bautista’s ashes were placed at the center. The children were lined up to the left, thus we were able to shake their hands and express our sympathies. Their mother Pacita was seated at the front row wearing a hospital mask, her face contorted by grief. My heart went out to her; I felt what she must have felt, because I had been there before. It was in this same church where my own husband had his funeral Mass in 1999. He had passed away just as suddenly and unexpectedly, from cerebral aneurysm, like Loline did.

“With Ambassador Bautista’s passing, we have now lost our two central and essential leaders in ESU-Phils., the other being Loline Reed, who passed on only a few months ago. I am certain they would want us to carry on. We can best honor their memory by fulfilling our mandate as an ESU branch, and more!”


Indeed, we of ESU-Phil. had all felt suddenly orphaned. Marlu and Gigi were quick to discuss plans for organizing a tribute ceremony of our own.

Marlu wrote: “I’d like for us to do our own ESU-Phil. memorial service… Maybe we can hold it around the second week of January? Ambassador Cesar was one who didn’t want to rush things. And I would also like for us to plan this memorial well. Meantime, I thought we could prepare our own individual tributes for him (in whatever written format) that we can compile and give to the family. This could be part of the ceremony in January.”

A week later, we were happy to receive an invite from the good ambassador’s daughter Meean, for another memorial service that was held on December 19, a day after Cesar Bautista would have celebrated his 78th birthday.

This time, a good number of us attended: Marlu, Gigi, Erlinda, FEU chair Dr. Lourdes Montinola, and British Council Manila director Nicholas Thomas, apart from Ambassador Bautista’s long-time friend Ed Chua. Of ESU-Phil.’s other directors, Butch Dalisay was out of town, while Ed Maranan was still recuperating from a medical condition. 

Ed Chua spoke at that service, recalling how as a fresh graduate in 1978, he had faced an interview panel at what was then the Philippine Refining Company. It was a panel of foreigners except for one Filipino, who was Cesar. Ed related how he had been such a nervous applicant, but that Cesar’s presence in the panel had comforted him somewhat.

“He was quiet, so low-key, had absolutely no air of superiority, nor ever kept anyone at arm’s length.” Ed got the job and spent a year at PRC, which would become Unilever Philippines, where Cesar eventually became only the second Filipino president. He received good coaching and mentoring from Cesar, Ed recalled. So that decades later, when the ambassador retired, it was Ed’s turn to offer him a directorship at Pilipinas Shell. 

Cesar served for 12 years in that board, and never missed a meeting, according to Ed, except that fateful one on Dec. 8. “He always came early, with that encouraging and cheerful smile of his. I will also miss his leadership in ESU-Philippines, where we managed to produce two world champions in the International Public Speaking Competition in London. He always gave meaning to public service. As he liked to say, ‘The goal is not to give forever, but to create something that will.”

Former president Fidel V. Ramos also spoke at the memorial service. Cesar had served in his Cabinet as Trade and Industry secretary as well as head of the National Competitiveness Council, before being appointed ambassador to the U.K. As other speakers had noted, Cesar Bautista had admired FVR’s discipline, work ethic and can-do attitude, and always found him to serve as an inspiration in his 10 years of government service.

For his part, FVR recalled how Cesar had transitioned to government service in 1993, after being with Unilever Philippines for 33 years. After paying his respects to the widow Pacita, FVR read a poem about coming safely home. It was Cesar telling us all, he said, “I am home in heaven, dear ones.” He went on with his own recollections:

“Cesar loved this country so much. He kept saying that it was not enough to move forward, but to move ahead. I remember Cesar as a good team player. He even helped in the efforts regarding the Pasig River, Unilever’s own backyard. And he was always championing our Philippine competitive sector.”

Former Bulacan Governor Obet Pagdanganan of Bulacan recounted how Cesar had been his direct superior, “a kuya and a mentor, the best civil engineer I’ve known, who would constantly write notes on small pieces of paper, and knew how to delegate responsibilities. As chair of the National Competitiveness Council, he excelled in making subordinates shine in their jobs.”

In our continuing e-mail loop, Gigi Virata also recalled how she had been “attending meetings led by the Ambassador for eight years, first with the National Competitiveness Council and then with ESU-Phil.” At our last meeting a few months back, it was propitious that we presented him a surprise citation thanking him for his leadership.

It was in 2001 when I first met Ambassador Cesar Bautista, when eventual National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario a.k.a. Rio Alma, fellow poet Benilda Santos and I visited London as part of our cultural itinerary courtesy of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). We had also conducted poetry readings and lectures in Brussells and Rome. In London we were joined by Ed Maranan, who was then serving our embassy there as its one-man information officer.

Ambassador Cesar took us to the English Speaking Union International headquarters to meet with its chairperson, who expressed surprise over why our country still had to form a chapter. Ambassador Cesar tasked me to get the ball rolling once we came home. By 2012, we were all set up.

The second student delegate we sent to London for the International Public Speaking Competition, a then 18-year-old Patricia Evangelista, struck gold by beating over 60 other students to be declared world champion. A few years later, Santi Dapul would follow suit. We had two world champions in barely half-a-decade of existence as the ESU-Phil. Chapter. And all our other candidates did very well, many of them making it to the semis if not the finals.

These included the following,who joined our e-mail loop in expressing condolences and their memories of a good man:

Germaine Chuabio: “I will always remember Ambassador Bautista as a humble and generous man who freely offered help and advice because of his kind spirit… Surely, he is terribly missed by us all. ESU Philippines won’t be the same without him.”

Joeven Castro, now the director of Student Development at FEU: “The Ambassador was very dedicated and concerned about selecting our country’s contestant. In last year’s ESU National Search hosted by FEU, he always asked us about the event’s? logistics, number of contestants, and quality of adjudication. Difficulty in walking did not hinder him from judging the grand finals, his swansong engagement with us. We will remember him for being hands-on, for his humility ?despite ?his stature, and his unwavering commitment to provide the best learning opportunity to the Filipino youth.”

Ramon “Renzo” Guinto, MD, now a co-convener of ASEAN Youth Dialogues and co-founder and director of Reimagine Global Health: “Deeply saddened by this news. Ambassador Bautista was an ardent supporter of young people, and perhaps one of the most approachable ambassadors we had. He is in a better place now, and we are blessed to have known him even for a short while.”

Santi M. Dapul: “The passing on of Ambassador Cesar is indeed a great loss, not only to ESU Philippines, but to the nation he served well. I agree that we should have our own Memorial Service and Tribute in his honor sometime in January 2016.”

Yes, now we all look forward to Jan. 13, the date pegged by our chair Marlu Vilches for this remembrance of a great man who had touched our lives. We hope that other student delegates we had sent to London — Ryan KC Buenafe, Byan Chua, Patricia Evangelista, Arizza Nocum, Ervim Charles Orbase, Ella Quing and Lenard Robles — can join us to pay tribute to one outstanding Filipino who championed the Filipino, and who himself was a champion for all of us.

vuukle comment












Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with