I was in the midst of writing this week’s column when I got word that fellow Davaoeno, former House Speaker Prospero Nograles, my Kumpadre “Boy Nogie” just passed away.
So sad to hear this! Unknown to many, both our lives spun an interesting web together.
We went a long way back, with some remarkable (if not eerie) coincidences I just noticed as I wrote this article. Here are a few I can recall off hand.
He was a bar topnotcher (2nd place) from the Ateneo de Manila. I achieved mine (as 10th) two years after, also from Ateneo but in Davao. He married Rhodora (BBeth) of the Bendigos in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur. My own Beth of the Salutillo family also came from Davao del Sur where we were next door neighbors in Guihing, Hagonoy. (As I always say, I followed to the letter God’s commandment: “Love thy neighbor!”)
He was our chapter president of the Davao Integrated Bar of the Philippines. I also became one, after being his IBP chapter secretary. He went on to become the southern Mindanao IBP governor.
We became “kumpadres” when the family chose me as a baptismal “godfather” of his son Jericho (now PBA partylist congressman.)
But here’s the remarkable part of this “coincidence” in our lives: we both became congressmen of the 1st district of Davao, almost equally sharing the five-year full term from 1987 to 1992 during the first elections after martial law was lifted.
We both ran for the same Davao congressional seat in the 1987 elections and by some quirk of fate, I won by 7 votes over him (yes 7 votes from about 350,000 voters then.) I served as Davao congressman while he filed his election protest against me. After my more than 2 years in office, he won the recount of votes in the House Electoral Tribunal. Against the advice of my lawyers and well-meaning friends, I refused to appeal the HET finding to the Supreme Court which could have conveniently kept me in my congressional seat until 1995, the end of the full term. Instead, I forthwith voluntarily relinquished the congressional seat to him without protest. My quiet, dominating thought then was he equally deserved to be there too despite the usual recriminations of our emotional and agitated supporters. I even appealed to my protesting supporters to respect my decision in a rally I organized.
In 1992, I ran again and returned to my congressional seat while he ran unsuccessfully against then Mayor Rody Duterte.
All told, our political differences never got in the way of our personal friendship.
I went on to serve President Ramos and President Arroyo in various capacities while he went on with his political career and capped it to become the 3rd highest official of the land as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
I was no longer privy to his situation but I got word that he was not well. Significantly, when son Karlo Nograles took his oath as Cabinet Secretary, I noticed he failed to attend. That was a clear message to me that indeed he was not well.
Once we took the same plane to Manila and he confided to me that he got surgery in his spine and jokingly told me: “Don’t be surprised if you see me an inch shorter now!” I saw he was wearing high heeled boots so I didn’t notice the difference!
Rest well and be in peace Pare Boy Nogie. You lived a full life with distinction!