Vice Mayor Renato V. Osmeña
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - June 1, 2014 - 12:00am

A careful reading into the lives of great personalities of ancient history invariably teaches us profound lessons on the various facets of leadership. The ferocity of Genghis Khan, for instance, and the organized thought of Hamurabi, for another, are there for us to behold and perhaps, emulate. Those two were an unusual combination of leaders with incomparable physical prowess and vision.

Even men of stature who lived in much later civilizations were not of different mold. Mahatma Gandhi, and Moshe Dayan are fine examples for their contrasting styles. In the midst of raging, even bloody conflicts, they displayed more concern for their people than for their own personal comfort.

But, whether in ancient or modern times, we recognize leaders because of the sterling qualities they possess, the kind of character not normally found among us, ordinary mortals. Great men are frank without being offensive, firm without being insensitive and relentless without being inhuman. In these admirable contexts, I remember these great leaders as we are gathered today to honor our dear departed friend, the honorable former vice mayor Renato V. Osmeña.

In his lifetime, I called him as Sir Nato. He might not have occupied similar volume of historical pages as Genghis Khan, Hamurabi, Mahatma Gandhi or Moshe Dayan, but deep in my psyche, he was their peer. Sir Nato was of their genre.

Truth to tell, Sir Nato was years ahead of me in almost all conceivable societal perceptions.  I am not saying this for comparison because, in all honesty, I did not belong to his league. We were paradigms apart. He was too high in social status to my modest life. Not only did he carry a family that had, for many decades been nurtured with dignity and respectability, he was gentlemanliness personified.

I had the privilege of seeing him close enough in two different settings.

When I dared to step into the world of politics, a majority of those whom I approached for support trained their sight in the direction of Sir Nato. Their seeming unanimous opinion was that Sir Nato could give me the needed boost to my aspirations. Of course, they did not withhold their caveat. Sir Nato was a known timber whose strength was aligned with someone else and he was most unlikely to shift his preference.

On that suggestion, I sought Sir Nato. One afternoon, at the old Club Filipino, he was seen in close huddle with a number of barangay captains. It became doubly important for me to see him. I literally begged the opportunity to talk to him. I was sure that he did not know me. I was certain that he had no idea who I was, nor where I came from such that at the back of my mind, it was highly possible that he would dismiss my plea to converse with him.

Believe me, Maam Marivic, Sir Nato did not opt to observe the deep social and political chasm that divided us. Yes, he was superior to me, but he did not display his upmanship. He could have simply dismissed my glaring insignificance in the face of his mighty clout and I was prepared for that. He could have completely ignored my importuning by refusing to share with me a minute of his precious time and I was ready for it. He could have shown his different political leaning and could have handed me my first political insult and yes, I primed myself for it.

But, no, he did not do that. Instead, like Mahatma Gandhi, he was a most reasonable human being as he coaxed his otherwise indifferent political flock to listen to my impertinent pitch. He entertained me despite my obvious modesty and labored to hear my cause. After my plea, Sir Nato took time to explain his position. He said he wished he could help me but, at that point of time, he already had a commitment. It was not necessary for him to commiserate with me but that was the kind of a leader he showed to me in the very first meeting we had. It was a lesson learned. His frankness without being offensive disarmed me absolutely.

The second opportunity to know him came by complete accident. It was about an hour past midnight. I just came from an inner portion of Barangay Luz.  Near a point of a then notorious area, I heard a car screeching to a sudden stop. And came down Sir Nato. His face registered the kind of fatherly concern Genghis Khan showed for his people. Because he apparently feared for my safety, he placed his arms around my shoulders and offered to drive me home.

Ironically, his kindness was totally unexpected. Only in the afternoon of the previous day, when we argued our divergent positions as members of the city council, I stung him with an inconsiderate language. But, like Hamurabi, he was not consumed with personal vengeance for he was more driven to approximate common weal.

Friends, he is now gone. Sir Nato will no longer walk with us. But until my last breath, I will always remember him not just for those valuable teachings on leadership he showed me. You see, in front of my humble home, there is a robust guava tree. When Sir Nato gave me its seedling to plant, he said that as long as the guava lives, our friendship survives. God speed my friend, Sir Nato.

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