It is both odd and morbid to be right now attending a wake, and thinking (and writing) of another dead. But the living owe the dead a debt of immortalizing and the ritual of paying last respects, sometimes more for our peace than theirs. So here I am, pecking away at what passes for a laptop, and thinking back to the necrological service for former dean of the College of Liberal Arts Prof. Reynaldo Aguilar early in the day today.
He and I did not have much by way of shared histories, since I was fairly new to the college, someone who came in “from the cold”– but I know he won’t mind my saying a line or two to eulogize him.
As the first dean I served under, Sir Aguilar was a leader who took everything in stride. He was not easily frazzled by people and circumstance that would reduce the weak to tears, and as those who knew him very well would attest, would utter “Madaling problema lang yan…” each time problems loomed in the horizon, which calmness, I suspect, could only have come from someone who had weathered enough storms in life. Someone who had gone to unknown depths of pain and sorrow, and who came back with the tranquility such experiences bring. His low-key style of leadership, coupled with an unhurried mien was a model for a greenhorn like me who knew next to nothing about managing, let alone charismatic leadership.
For he had a charisma all his own. For all his seemingly serious countenance, he was actually extremely humorous without trying to be. He was a funny man with a perfect deadpan expression: the punch lines to his jokes we await with bated breath! We’d be guffawing and slapping our legs in merriment, while his face registered not much, save for a sly smile. In like manner, when it was time to make his opinions known about something that had concerned the college, he did so with a crushing blow, and without the sly smile.
Sir Aguilar was my comrade-in-arms, we who had survived enough trials in the conduct of our duties, except “surviving” is a term I now use rather loosely.
He was known to be protective of his friends, and they him. But no amount of protection, or wishing evil away had prepared us for the sadly tragic end he’d met in the hands of his killers, who today have not been caught. But we all know, as sure as there is a God, that retribution will do enough of catching up. His family and friends may not have seen his mortal body entombed properly but in our hearts, his good deeds will be kept alive.
For a father, a teacher, a friend. May justice be at hand.