Saying goodbye
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - May 20, 2014 - 12:00am

A light flickered, and was gone, leaving many  of us bereft. Although Froilan Bacungan had slowed down and was moved around in a wheelchair for months, when we got word he passed away the other day, at age 88, our world was stilled. For the man had touched our lives by his kindness, patience, concern, counseling, intellect, fine example of  how life should be lived.  He had taken every involvement seriously, attending scheduled meetings ahead of the rest of his colleagues.

He was always called or referred to as Dean, which he was,  of the University of the Philippines College of Law from 1978 to 1983. Those were tough martial law years, when one had to maintain grace under pressure, but Dean Bacungan stood firm in what he believed in. At one of his wakes, officers of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) said that under his watch, “new academic institutions in the field of law were established in the college,” and “a new law curriculum was adopted to make legal education more responsive to the vital roles of the legal profession.”

At his wake at the Loyola Memorial Chapels last Saturday, Philconsa Chairman/CEO Manuel “Lolong” Lazaro spoke about his friend’s integrity and respectability, and president Martin Ferdinand Romualdez said he had wondered how he would have fared as a law student had the dean not retired. Other Philconsa officers related of fun times with the dean like Teddy Pena who related how Froilan, as a graduate student of law at Yale University (under a Smith-Mundt grant), was famous among Filipinos  in New Haven, Connecticut, for his weekend cooking of “Tuna a la King.” Rafaelita Gono said she had recommended him for the  Ulirang Ama award. Philconsa economic affairs committee chairman  Alfredo Ching  likened him to the Chinese description of one’s being “light as a feather, heavy as a mountain.” Former Congressman Romulo Lumauig, former Comelec Commissioner Manolo Gorospe, former Congressman Mariano Tajon, and former UP regent Nelia Gonzales, spoke also of his being such a good-natured gentleman.

The dean also served as director of the UP Law Center, and commissioner of the Commission on Elections, and president of Philconsa.  He taught labor and constitutional law at the UP Law Center. He wrote two books: “Labor and Social Legislation: An Updated Systematic Presentation,” and “Universal Human Rights: A Reality in the Constitution of the Philippines.”

He chaired a ten-person committee that studied and submitted a report on legal education to the Supreme Court in the 1990s.

He defended journalists during the martial law years, helped workers, students and NGOs with labor problems.

He had many friends, one of his closest being Atty. Fred Tadiar, who shared his advocacies. They were either chair or president of the Women’s Health Care Foundation and the Institute of Social Studies and Action. For my part, they considered me a colleague, recommending me to be a director in the two NGOs, and be a member of PROCESS (Participatory Research Organization of Communities and Education Towards Struggle for Self-reliance Foundation), and to deliver the First Augusto Caesar Espiritu Lecture on the Philippine media during the martial law years.

The dean’s sister, Dr. Cleofe, director of the Philippine Science High School for 20 years, died just last month. His wife, Monina, whom he loved so well, died last year.

The dean is survived by his children Linda Luz, lawyer Froilan Albert; engineer Froilan Victor; Dr. Froilan David, and lawyers Eliza Beth and Eleanor. As you notice, the dean liked his name so much he prefixed his sons’ names with his name. That’s the lighter side of our beloved friend and mentor.

*      *      *

Another figure of note who passed away was Azucena ”Nene” Perez. The world of  movies, of  reel and real life, was hushed by the message that a Philippine cinema’s queen maker, had passed away at age 96 last week. And so it was that at all the wakes held in her honor, at Mt. Carmel Church and the family gardens in San Juan,  came actors and actresses, movie directors, as well as politicians and well-to-do matrons and friends to pay their respects.

Nene was the other half of the Perez couple that made the world of make-believe so real and desirable. Her late husband, Dr. Jose Perez, was from Bulacan, and she, of the Vera family, was from Albay. While her husband personally picked potential crowd drawers, Nene was the treasurer, who respected and found true her husband’s choices. Their kingdom was Sampaguita Pictures, one of  the Big Four studios during the Golden Age of Philippine cinema in the 1950s and 1970s. The other studios were LVN, Premiere, and Lebron.

At the Mt. Carmel wake we attended, we had a glimpse of movie stars, some of whom uttered a few lines of thanksgiving to the matriarch who made them big, like  Susan Roces and Barbara Perez. The speakers who I could not discern, the crowd having filled the chapel to the rafters, cracked jokes and there was laughter all around. As practically all wakes turn out these days, Nene’s wake was a happy one. There was a picture of the matriarch, so pretty like a movie star.

Nene was kind-hearted, giving loans to stars when they ran out of money.

They were for sure at the other wakes, they whose fame and fortunes Sampaguita Pictures built up: Gloria Romero, Amalia Fuentes, Gina Pareno, Rita Gomez, Pancho Magalona, Romeo Vasquez, Eddie Gutierrez, German Moreno, Vilma Santos, Nora Aunor.  Other big stars who have died are Dolphy and Tita Duran.

The Vera-Perez’ eldest daughter, Marichu, merrily emceed the post-mass program. Seated quietly at the front row were pretty as a star Rep. (4th District, Pangasinan) Gina de Venecia,  and her husband, former House Speaker Joe de Venecia. Moving about were the siblings Pepito, Gina, Lilibeth, Kokoy and Chona, and grandchildren.   

*      *      *

At the Arlington chapel at the Heritage Park  in Taguig, Upsilonians gathered for the final rites Saturday  night for Cesar Dario Batch ‘52. Two of his batch mates came. They were Aniano Bagabaldo and Saeed A. Daof. Dr Fernando Piedad, who  was at the previous night’s rites for Cesar, sent his very touching message Saturday that was read by Cesar’s son, medical doctor Noy, also an Upsilonian, Batch ’75. Fidel Alfonso, a former chairman/president of Malayan Insurance Company, delivered his eulogy for Cesar yesterday.

Cesar served the government in different capacities for 35 years, including  serving as Deputy Commissioner of Customs and head of the Manila International Police Force. Public relations man Danny Gozo, Batch ’67, spoke of his close friendship with Cesar while he was a reporter for the Daily Star, then a big shot at Channel 5, resulting in Danny’s scoops. Together with other newsmen, who made up the LBWMG group (Local Boys Who Made Good), the two had “mamam” (drinking) sessions.

Cesar’s other son, lawyer Rey,  spoke about his father’s “living up to the ideals of service to the public good and the country, and ideals of the university and fraternity.” His dad, he said, retired “without a single complaint against him.” Rey and Noy were the first twins to join the Upsilon frat.

Sitting quietly at the front row was Cesar’s lovely widow, Ching. Noy said it was his mother who persuaded her suitor, Cesar Dario, to join the Upsilon, or else , and Cesar never regretted joining the frat.

*      *      *



  • Latest
  • Trending
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!

or sign in with