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ROUGH CUTS: A tribute to a ‘Giant in our midst’

WE HAD the opportunity to open our Facebook account last Friday while we were at the house of our brother-in-law in Calinan. We were actually there so we could send through e-mail our Cebuano column “Nunot sa…” for last Saturday’s issue of this newspaper. We had been doing this for the last two months since we do not have the internet and Wi-Fi facility in our farm residence somewhere in a remote barangay in Tugbok district roughly 31 kilometers away from downtown. We are isolated there since the imposition of the quarantine due to the CoViD 19 pandemic.

Our brother-in-law of course had obliged because he understands our work and he knows how it is when there is absence in communication lines. He has a large farm in own barangay only less than half a kilometer from our house.

After sending our column we had to wait for our wife who went to the nearby public market to buy some items for the kitchen. We had coffee while waiting, and it was at that time that we had the chance to open our Facebook account on our mobile since the internet service was available – and for free.

From the many posts we learned that our good friend former Konsumo Dabaw executive director Wenifredo “Wennie” Gorres had shared to his friends an item he wrote as a tribute to Don Julian Rodriguez Jr. Don Julian, now in his early 90s, is the patriarch of the family that is currently in the thick of a do-or-die effort along with members of some environmentalist groups to have the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board-approved final design and location of the 4-lane Davao City-Samal Island connector bridge relocated.

No, the family of the man as well as the environmentalist organizations are not against the construction of the bridge. They are simply requesting to relocate the route of the span either to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-recommended location; or from Tibungco to a shore area in Samal still owned by the family of Don Julian. The route identified in the JICA feasibility study is from Tibungco in Davao City to the abandoned shipyard now called the Bridgeport owned by the family of banana magnate and top political kingpin the late Don Antonio Floirendo. The JICA design is much lesser in cost than the one approved for implementation by NEDA which will take off from Lizada Beach in Davao City and lands at the Rodriguez family-owned Paradise Island Resort cutting across a rich area of corrals including the so-called vanishing island adjacent the Rodriguez-owned pioneering tourism establishments in the island city.

Wennie Gorres’ accolade of Don Julian comes at this most opportune time to show to Davaoenos that his family’s protestation of the bridge’s project route could not have been driven by even an iota of greed.

Yes, we had only a very limited opportunity to meet and interact with Don Julian Jr. And those very few meetings had nothing to do with our being a media person. It was more of our responsibility as the former community relations man of Davao Light and Power Co. where we had to meet people in the barangays in the company’s entire franchise area.

Beforehand of course, we heard of Don Julian and his family’s philanthropic characteristic. But only after a good number of residents in Tigatto and Mandug in Buhangin district confirmed such generosity to us that we believe in the accolade that was once only a simple tale in the minds of the unknowing. The people in the communities we mentioned told us without batting an eyelash that they were beneficiaries of the local Don’s innate kindness. The land that they now live and till was given them by the Rodriguez family.

So, now, it should not be surprising that Don Julian has offered to donate a piece of valuable shoreline property as the alternative Samal take off site for the connector bridge. That simply is one act that can never be indicative of greed in any man who is already part of the history of Davao City while still very much alive.

Since we shared with Wennie our appreciation of the life of Don Julian Rodriguez we requested the former’s permission to publish as part of our today’s column his tribute to the Rodriguez patriarch. Titled “Don Julian Rodriguez Jr. A giant in our midst,” here it is:

“`I am not the founder, I am the father and the son.’ He was referring to Rey Magno Teves and the various NGOs that he, Rey and other friends founded in the 70s like Konsumo Dabaw, the Coordinating Council of Organizations In Davao, and other well-known cause oriented groups during that time.

The grand old man repeated this several times when he and his daughter Pura or Lingling, toured me around Dona Pilar Learning Center Foundation which he founded more than 30 years ago. At 92 that time, visiting the school and talking to the teachers and staff is a daily afternoon routine for him. I can sense his pride when he talks about what the school has accomplished through the years – a multi-awarded center of excellence in early childhood education and its sustainability when he is long gone.

Back at his house which is less than 10 minute-drive from the school, we talked about some people he worked with in some causes he was involved in the 70s. I found it strange that we had so many common friends but hardly knew each other before.
The late Rey Magno Teves seemed deeply etched in his memories now, as well as Pilar Caneda Braga. These two I had worked very closely from 1978 to 1996 in Konsumo Dabaw. He mentioned Cesar Ledesma and Cris Lanorias who were my very close friends until they died.

He (Don Julian Jr.) and councilor Pilar Braga currently serve as directors of the Board of the University of Mindanao. She (Pilar) told me that she is amazed at his sharpness of mind and memory which is not common among people 90 years old and above. She said somebody should interview him before his memories fade away.
Just before I left Don Julian’s house his daughter told me that his mental sharpness seems to be affected by the quarantine imposed due to CoViD 19 pandemic.

I am very honored to meet a man whose life seemed spent entirely for the good of the less fortunate; who has touched and influenced the lives of so many and relentlessly pursued his visions and dreams into reality. I pray that he lives 10 more years so I could cherish his presence, the presence of a moral giant in our midst.”
Well now, we said earlier in this space, and we are saying it again, the Rodriguez patriarch clearly is not anymore in the forefront of his family’s ala Sancho dela Mancha’s fictional struggle against the windmill that is the government itself represented in this epic battle by the Department of Public Works and Highways, NEDA and of course the LGUs of Davao City and Samal Island City.

But it is our personal take that this battle is not at all unwinnable. But it need not be won by any of the protagonists. It has to reach a “win-win” solution. That is, that everybody wins — the Rodriguez family, the government, and above all, the general public who stand to get the most if the issue disputed on is settled in the most amicable of terms.

It should not reach to court litigation. Otherwise, the Davao-Samal connector bridge will continue to be still a dream for years.”

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