Enrique Syquia: A family tribute

SUNDRY STROKES () - March 4, 2006 - 12:00am
Dr. Salvador Malig, a distinguished Hispanista, informed me that members of the Academia Filipina would have a meeting at the Casino Español, with Dr. Alejandro R. Roces presiding. The Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española, the local counterpart of the Academia Real de la Lengua Española in Madrid, counts with several illustrious Hispanistas, among them the late Ambassador Enrique Syquia.

To commemorate his passing a year ago, his five sons Thomas, Fernando, Rev. Fr. Francisco, Luis and Martin, and his wife Letty (nee Corpus) jointly penned a tribute to him. Ambassador Syquia was an exemplary lawyer, diplomat and gentleman who, despite his eminence, stature and achievements, remained humble, unassuming and approachable. Herewith is the family tribute:

One evening, during one of Papa’s trips abroad, he and two others were given awards and each of them was asked to respond briefly.

The first two awardees delivered lengthy responses and when his turn came, he said "My friends, I prepared two speeches tonight – a short one and a long one." After a brief pause, and putting on his glasses he said, "Now for the short one. Thank you."

And after another pause he said, "This is my long speech. Thank you very much." And he received a sounding applause. This and other beautiful memories come back to us when my mom, brothers and I get together.

We then decided to pay him a tribute tonight on the first anniversary of his passing by sharing with you a few moments of his life.

Papa had an elephantine memory, he was a voracious reader who absorbed what he read and shared it with others.

He was a sincere person ready to be of help, always giving something away to show and to express his friendship and esteem of the person he was giving it to.

Papa was a product of the Dominican education, a Thomasian garnering the highest honors, valedictorian from grade one up to the time he finished high school and graduated summa cum laude when he finished his degree in law and went on to finish his doctorate of laws from the Universidad Central de Madrid sobra saliente.

Then he opened his Syquia Law Offices which became in its day, the biggest single proprietorship law firm in the country with one of the most extensive private law libraries.

Known for his probity, integrity and independence of mind, he reached the height of his career and became one of our country’s top practicing lawyers. He chose to remain in private practice resisting various offers to join the government.

He held on to three truisms. First, there is no compromise for values. Second, no amount of success can compensate for failure in the home. And third, there are only two things a father can leave behind to his children: a good name and a good education.

He was far from perfect but he was a kind and a good man. Together with his then flourishing law practice, he donated his talents to those who needed their sentences reviewed. His works of charity extended to priests and seminarians and organizations needing help.

His name is engraved among the great alumni that crossed the portals of his Alma Mater, the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university in the country.

His membership and, eventually, his assuming the presidency and vice-presidency of the London-based International Law Association and the International Bar Association gave him the opportunity to interact with the world’s great and noted jurists. It gave him the opportunity to meet in private and in non-political capacity, leaders and heads of state. This was further enhanced when he headed the international institute of humanitarian law based in San Remo, Italy and in Geneva.

This position expanded his involvement in humanitarian activities including the plight of refugees.

Because of his inputs and humanitarian contributions, the Duke of Malta awarded him in 1985 the Grand Cross of Merit in Italy at the Villa Nobel. In 1990, Pope John Paul II awarded him the medal of recognition for representing the Vatican as an observer at the Beijing conference on the Protection of Women and Children.

In the 1980s, Dr. Boeri, a former foreign minister of Monaco and one of the private physicians of the royal family, invited him to join the medico juridique comite de Monaco which he did for four years.

The French bar awarded him a medal of distinction and made him its honorary member.

The King of Spain, Juan Carlos, through the Spanish embassy in Manila, awarded him the Orden de Isabela Catolica; in Toledo he was conferred the Order of Corpus Cristi.

The church through his Eminence, Jaime Cardinal Sin, conferred on him the highest award given to a layman, the order of St. Gregory and on several occasions, he was asked by the Cardinal if he was willing to accept the Ambassadorship to the Vatican.

On countless occasions, he was invited to lecture or speak in the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Lagos in Africa, Qatar and Jordan in the Arab world, China, India, Singapore, Europe, Bangladesh, Nicaragua and various other places in South America and in other parts of the world as well as in the Philippines.

His many plaques, awards and citations are testimonies to these engagements.

He became not only our country’s candidate to the International Court of Justice, but also the candidate for the ASEAN countries.

After the Gulf War, the United Nations in Geneva invited him to be one of four international lawyers from different countries to be in the United Nations Compensation Commission whose work was to draft the provisions and guidelines needed for compensating countries affected by the Gulf War.

For ten years, from 1986 to 1996, he held with dedication and honor, the position of Honorary Consul General of Jordan to the Philippines addressing problems of Jordanian students in the country. For this work, he was decorated by the king of Jordan, the late King Hussein. Then in 1996, the headquarters of the sovereign Military Order of Malta in Rome informed him that he had been selected the next ambassador extra-ordinary and plenipotentiary of the sovereign Military Order of Malta to the Philippines.

He presented his credentials to then President Fidel Ramos.

He was also the ambassador to Micronesia in a concurrent capacity. He was also the Order of Malta’s ambassador accredited to Micronesia.

The family was given the Most Outstanding Family Award for the year 2002.

A few years before he passed away, Enrique semi-retired from his law practice. He often said that the best lawyers are lawyers who seldom go to court to settle their cases. Yes he was a good man, remembering birthdays of friends and relatives and never failing to greet them. Very few realized that he was seriously ill because he managed to bounce back very much alive and laughing. But one day, he could not do that anymore. His spirit was willing but his body wasn’t.

His daily comfort and companions were Jesus and His Blessed Mother and we know that with the strength of his faith, they met him when he made his last step from here to eternity.

Enrique lives on. He lives and laughs in his photographs, in his children and with the birth of each grandchild comes a hundred more years of his life. And so it goes on.

We do miss him. There are times when we’d like to share a joke, even a story. Even a little piece of gossip to which he would always remark, "I hope that’s not all you did today."

During family celebrations and gatherings, we feel his absence. But life must go on. In our remembrance, we always thank God for having given us one of His finest creations, Enrique.

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