Senator Loren Legarda’s Eulogy for Former Senator Juan M. Flavier
17 November 2014 – Senate Session Hall
How do you eulogize a man who was bigger than life? Who epitomized what public service really means? Who stood for the words integrity and work ethic?
When I was a neophyte senator in 1998, Johnny Flavier was my seatmate. I chose him. He chose me.
He was witty and had a wonderful sense of humor.
One time, a certain indigenous community visited the Senate and came in their traditional garb, G-strings. Manong Johnny went up to them and had his photo taken and said he was also an IP.
When he went back to his seat next to me, someone told him that he should wear the same garments at the session hall. But he immediately shunned the idea, and said “Huwag, baka madistract si Loren sa puti ng aking puwit.”
That was vintage Johnny Flavier. That was just one of the many lighthearted moments we shared in 6 years. But when he was a mentor to me, the conversations were earnest and became more serious.
Manong Johnny guided me when I was very new to the Senate. He taught me about parliamentary procedure. He patiently coached me on what went on in Plenary during the first few months of my first term in 1998.
I sought his advice on what to do about my first privilege speech. He told me that I should talk about something distinct, something that the rest of the Senators know nothing or very little about. And so I remember I spoke about the delineation of our forests and filed it as one of my first bills in 1998. Manong Johnny’s own maiden speech was about tuberculosis.
I could also count on him whenever I needed quorum for committee hearings I chaired. He was “Mr. Quorum” and would be more than happy to join me in my hearings.
When I did not feel well, I would consult him. He was my “doctor-confidante.” As a young mother of 8 year old and 5 year old sons, he would see me talk to my sons very often on the phone and he would affectionately ask, “O sino na naman yan, si Lanz o si Lean?” Our friendship extended to his family. Tita Susan, to whom he was so devoted. To his children, I just remember “little John”, whose restaurant I enjoyed going to in Baguio and Joy, his daughter, who baked delicious siopaos. Of course, there is Dr. John. He doted on his grandchildren and never accepted speaking engagements after session or out of town trips because he always preferred to go home to his family after a long day’s work. Siya ang politico na hindi kailangan umikot ng Pilipinas para manalo.
I recall that I would often share my chocolates or sweets with him and he would gladly take them much to the consternation of his staff. I did not know he was a diabetic.
Manong Johnny was a helpful, kind, selfless and dependable person. He was also fiercely protective of me. When criticisms were hurled against me, he would advise me, “Ibalato mo nalang sa kanila yun.”
My first official trip abroad was courtesy of him. He was a good friend of then New Zealand Ambassador Terry Baker. Thanks to him, not only did I get invited as one of the panelists in the APEC Women Leaders’ Network Meeting held in Wellington in 1999. I was also an official guest of the New Zealand government.
He was my partner in legislation. We worked together for the passage of many health-related laws. He sponsored bills I filed and authored like the Tobacco Regulation Act, the Philippine National Ear Institute Act, and the Newborn Screening Act. We had a synergistic working relationship. He was Protemp and I was majority leader. We were the first ones in and the last ones out of the Senate. Though gifted with a sense of humor, Manong Johnny was never a push-over. He was firm in his beliefs as seen in his advocacies that sometimes went against established institutions. Manong Johnny had character.
Manong Johnny will always be remembered for bringing healthcare to the unempowered and to the marginalized, for being kind, for being generous, for being noble. He has touched us all and his memory shall forever be etched in our minds and in our hearts.
Manong Johnny, you will truly be missed. For the jokes, for the guidance, for your encouragement, thank you. Till we meet again.