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The business of emulating Haydee Yorac |

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The business of emulating Haydee Yorac

HINDSIGHT - HINDSIGHT By Josefina T. Lichauco -
The uniqueness of the human race is represented by its ability to do things that have never been done before. People have done, and can do, the impossible. The first time I ever heard of Haydee Yorac was many years ago, it is difficult to say exactly when. Someone told me, "You will like her. She is unique in every way. She usually does the impossible." Haydee Yorac’s sterling uniqueness shines through every facet of her personality and every expression of her face.

Even on a wheelchair recently, despite her gaunt look and the frail exterior, that indomitable spirit, that fire in the Yorac belly, that fierce passion for pursuing the truth, and that inimitable courage came shining through. As she answered questions about her illness after being serenaded by admirers, straightforward as always, she said she expected to be back to work soon. Indeed, Haydee Yorac is a unique individual, fiercely unbending in her moral code as ever, as she likewise answered questions about some recent headlines that involved the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), where she sits as chairperson.

The last time I saw Haydee before she became ill, was at a WILOCI (Women Lawyers’ Circle) affair, where she received an award. The WILOCI is composed of female graduates from the University of the Philippines College of Law. Aside from bestowing awards on some members, it was also an afternoon where new members from the said law school, who had just passed the bar, were being inducted. Haydee looked fine, her signature hairdo as distinguishable as ever, and her acceptance speech was simple, straightforward, solid – vintage Yorac, I told myself.

In fact, she was the one who induced me to attend the WILOCI event that afternoon. I had brought a recent picture of the two of us, which my nieces (the seven daughters of my late sister-in-law Ginny Lichauco de Leon) had asked me to give to Haydee since the picture was taken at the posthumous launching of Ginny’s last book of poems.

It is the picture you see on this page, and it is a picture I treasure. Ginny had explicitly tasked her seven daughters to launch the last of three books of poems she had authored. I found out that Haydee was a good friend of Ginny, who placed her name among the first ones in her guest list. From her sickbed, Ginny even discussed with me the reason why she had written one particular poem. (This has been valuable in analyzing one facet of her life, which had always puzzled me.) Less than two weeks later, Ginny passed away. It was the joy of preparing for the launch and doing everything possible for its success that became the balm that miraculously lessened the ache that tugged at her daughter’s hearts and mine.

When I saw Yorac’s name on the guest list, and of course saw her at the launch, I knew why Haydee and Ginny had become friends. There was absolutely nothing false about the two of them. Their personalities just came on to everyone up front, devoid of pretension. The truth marked both their faces and their mental integrity spelled "untarnished ever."

I have not seen nor spoken to Haydee for a long time. I have not seen that tempestuous scowl for a white, and neither have I heard those delectable brutally frank words unleashed by a wit that is unique. In fact on July 7, when the headlines screamed that she had protested a person’s designation to the board of a powerful company as the government representative, I did not see the familiar scowl on the TV screen. The, a day later, there she was, "roused from her sickbed," as big as life itself, her indomitable moral compass a work again.

When the television cameras showed her sitting on a wheelchair and answering the questions of the reporter, I knew that Yorac was still the same solid rock who will always be unbending where the moral code is concerned, who will never compromise or turn her back against the people she has sworn to serve, never ever succumb to political malaise of any kind.

Haydee Yorac is the fearless warrior whose spirit remains unquenchable, imperishable, and indomitable. That business of emulating Yorac especially for people in government, in business, in education, in the military, and in every aspect of life, within the incredible chicanery of today, and the indescribable fallacies of tomorrow, is an absolute necessity.

There is something you see in her, a nobility of the human spirit, that no one, no matter how powerful, will be able to overcome. And, boy oh boy, how we need that today! Fortunately, ours is still a moral universe. Right and wrong matter. Injustice and oppression, and evil and exploitation, will not ultimately have the final say. This is still God’s world. For everyone gets called upon to make that choice between the devil and the dream, and this comes up everyday in different little disguises. I am certain it comes up in every field of endeavor, and among our lofty decision-makers with their access to premeditated corruption sometimes smooth and suave, other times brazen and clumsy. I think it is important to look the dilemma in the face and decide what we can live with. If we can live with the devil, then God have mercy on us. Or, we can galvanize our energies, our consciousness, our ideals the Yorac away.

There is a line I read attributed to Robert Kennedy: "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice and abuse, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope… and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression, abuse, and injustice." This line captures succinctly what Yorac is all about.

Sometime in 1989, when a challenge turned cruel and ugly for me, a solicitous friend quoted a passage from his memory but couldn’t remember the name of the sage who said it: "Ideals are like stars – you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the desert of wars, you choose them as your guides and following them you reach your destiny."

This business of emulating Haydee Yorac can be the star that will bring us to the shores of our destiny.
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(This is a reprint of an article the author wrote on the late Haydee Yorac on Aug. 25, 2003 in Philippine STAR’s Business Life section.)

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