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Eulogy for Former Senate President Edgardo J. Angara

May 16, 2018

Senator Loren Legarda
Eulogy for Former Senate President Edgardo J. Angara
May 16, 2018 | Senate Session Hall

To the bereaved family of Former Senate President Edgardo Angara—Mrs. Gloria Angara, Senator Sonny and Tootsie, Alex, Anna, Katya, and Congresswoman Bella Angara-Castillo,  my sincerest condolences.

How do I even start honoring a man so accomplished on wide-ranging issues and advocacies? It seems there was no issue he did not know about. How do I choose the words to describe him and the life he lived? Even the best words would seem too humbling for someone so great.

It is not easy to eulogize, lest I miss out on so many accomplishments or even overshoot the time allotted to me, because there is just too much to say about a person whom I have known and become close to, both at work and on a personal basis. And so allow me to just read this prepared eulogy, although this in itself is just like “a speck in the universe” because no amount of words will suffice, no statement or article or eulogy can ever live up to the great man that he was or to the accomplishments of such life well lived.

Allow me to start my eulogy with a very important announcement. Starting this school year, Filipinos who have graduated from high school can now access free college education in all of the country’s state universities and colleges, local universities and colleges, and state-owned technical vocational institutions. This has been a longtime dream of many underprivileged Filipinos. Thanks to the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, more Filipinos will now have a chance to get a bachelor’s degree and have a better chance in life.

This is truly something that we can all be happy and proud of for our nation and our fellow Filipinos. But this would not have been possible and we, the authors and sponsors of the law, would not have done this if not for a much earlier intervention, three decades ago.

On May 26, 1988, Republic Act No. 6655, or the Free High School Act, was signed into law, which allowed even the poorest of the poor to gain access to secondary education. It was authored by the man whose well-lived life we honor today in this august chamber that had been his home for four terms as legislator.

Former Senate President Edgardo Javier Angara, or Ed, to us his colleagues, was an education advocate and in that sphere alone, he was already able to introduce measures and reforms that have greatly shaped the country’s educational system. He was the author of the laws creating the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Technical Education and Skill Development Authority (TESDA), and the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE).

Prior to the enactment of these laws, however, he had already established a sterling reputation as a man who had the vision to improve Philippine education when he was President of the University of the Philippines. His initiatives were not merely focused on upholding the reputation of UP as the country’s premier university but also in establishing a good rapport with the students.

Yes, he was a very accomplished lawyer, legislator, statesman. But he had always maintained a connection with the people. Maybe because even with all his achievements, he had always considered himself a “probinsiyano.” He dearly loved his home province and its people, including the Dumagats, the indigenous people of Aurora.

But his love for the IPs was not limited to the Dumagat. He had deep respect for our indigenous peoples. He had deep appreciation for our indigenous culture bearers, which actually led him to create the National Living Treasures Award, a prestigious recognition for exceptional traditional Filipino artists. He was a patron of the arts and a passionate cultural worker who authored and sponsored laws creating the National Museum, the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the National Cultural Heritage Law.

His dedication to his causes was unmatched, and I am honored to have been able to work with him on shared advocacies particularly on education, agriculture, culture and heritage, and the environment.

Ed was a statesman, embracing public service as a badge of honor. A visionary, he worked tirelessly so that national interest reigned paramount over parochial concerns.

Ed was a man who had his heart in the right place. He engaged in fruitful debates in the Senate, but also immersed himself in philanthropic activities for the benefit of the underprivileged, the vulnerable, and the needy. He knew how to communicate with people from all walks of life, but he was also an eloquent communicator with the environment; he was a lover of the forests and the seas.

No one can doubt his sincerity in the causes he had espoused; but one cannot resist the urge to smile or even laugh when he shows his wit.

Once, when I greeted him on his birthday, he replied: “Whose birthday? It’s been deleted for being overdue!”

Then one time, I got this message: “My food supply has dried up. The food chain has been interrupted.” Apparently, he was just asking me to send over paksiw na bangus, which is one of the dishes I share with friends and colleagues.

Ed had an interest in everything—from admiring a Dumagat baby to relishing baby lechon or “cochinillo;” from organizing community choirs and artists’ communes to collecting placemats, plates and towels, to discussing science and technology and constitutional issues.

I will have to agree with the late Grand Old Man of Philippine Literature, National Artist Nick Joaquin, when he wrote this in the book, Ed Angara: Seer of Sea and Sierra, “Edgardo Angara as senator had range and relevance: his attention is wide-ranging, his relevance instantaneous.”

Truly, Ed had a great mind with a noble heart. He was a statesman who proudly remained a probinsiyano.

For sure, he will be missed.  His sudden departure leaves a gaping hole in his beloved Aurora, where his towering presence had served as a powerful inspiration to the young to pursue excellence as a way of life. On the national stage, his absence will be felt long after his body is laid to rest.

The passing of Ed marks the end of an era. But his legacy lives on.

We may have lost one of the Philippines’ most brilliant minds, but he left an indelible mark not only in this nation’s history but also in the life of every Filipino who has benefitted and will benefit from his life-long work as a public servant.

Ed, yours is a life well-lived. Thank you for your untiring service to our country. Rest now in peace.