|23 Landing On D-DayIt was in
the course of my PSJ/PESJ/IPSJ adventures that I came to know more closely of Ambassador
Espaldon. He was certainly pushing over 60, maybe even over 70, but had the stamina and
energy to sit with us parents, mostly in our middle to late 30s, on long tables from early
evening into the early hours of the next day, convincing us about the finer points of
diplomacy and constantly telling us about his Erap jokes. And these were in between his
shuttling on Saudia flights from Riyadh to Jeddah to Dhahran back to Riyadh then Jeddah
and so on.
I particularly had a fit of laughter on
his Erap joke about the VP receiving a plaque of appreciation from the International
Olympics Committee during his 1996 sojourn to Atlanta, Georgia. Erap, as the joke goes,
took the plaque to Malacañang, and upon presenting it to his boss, proudly read out:
That probably must have been the point
when Fidel Ramos started toying with the idea of charter changes, bouncing it in his head
like soft, catchy music: Cha-cha-cha, perico ambuta.
Ambassador Espaldon was a deep believer in
the unity of the Filipino community, and, surprisingly for a military man, did not show
any military harshness at all in his disposition. He was more of a patient father to
everyone of us involved in the school altercation and had a soft spot in his heart for our
lady principals. He claimed he succeeded bringing in more rebels to surrender peacefully
during his stint in Mindanao, a lot more than the body count.
For a while, a lot of people in PSJ
thought that he did a grave mistake by allowing PESJ to rise up from the ashes of an
abortive election campaign and thereby divide the community. But when, after the PESJ had
shown the way for real changes to take effect and shown them to be very achievable, and
the PSJ started to actually compete with us to stop their population hemorrhage, and the
Ambassador of All Philippine Schools in The Kingdom started pressuring both sides firmly
but gently on re-unification, it dawned on me that the military man was all along playing
a solid strategy that cut right through the waves and landed on the beach like D-Day.
It was a good plan, although some of my
comrades in arms would hang me for admitting this.
At some point, I did not stand further in
the way. By the time our interim board called for an election of the next school board, it
was quite clear that the two schools will have to merge sooner than later, with all the
changes, triumphs, broken shells and windshields, wounds and scars that had taken place
over the months and years, all mixed up with the uncertainties, hopes and fears of a
grower trying to hatch her eggs.