Flavier called Drilon Mila’s lechon
MANILA, Philippines–Sen. Juan Flavier spared no one from his ribbing, including Senate President Franklin Drilon whom he called “Mila’s lechon (roasted pig).”
Drilon and other senators on Monday extolled their late colleague as a funnyman, mentor, “quorum-maker” and “best friend.” Otherwise, he was a “giant of a man,” honest public servant and a doting grandfather.
Former senators also turned up to pay their respects to Flavier during necrological services at the Senate. The urn containing Flavier’s ashes was brought to the session hall on Monday morning, escorted by his widow, Susan, and children.
In his eulogy, Drilon said Flavier did not only inspire people “to give their best” in public service but also brought joy and laughter to all.
“Known for his quick wit and ready repartee, he spared no one from his brand of humor. I can only imagine the chuckles he drew from people every time he referred to me as ‘Mila’s lechon,”’ he said, chuckling.
The name of Drilon’s wife is Mila. But Mila’s lechon is a popular roasted pig chain in La Loma, Quezon City.
Flavier brought the house down each time he spoke before the crowd during senatorial campaign rallies, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III recalled.
“I vividly recall there was this one chubby, middle-aged woman in one of our town rallies in Cebu. She gently elbowed her way to the front and in two minutes, she had tears rolling down her cheeks, in laughter,” Osmeña said.
Flavier’s one-time seatmate, Sen. Loren Legarda, shared an anecdote about the senator joining indigenous people’s members for a photo opportunity, claiming he was also an IP.
When one of the visitors asked him to wear the same garb to the session hall, the senator rejected it, and said: “No, because Loren might be distracted by my white butt.”
“That was vintage Johnny Flavier. That was just one of the many lighthearted moments we shared in six years,” Legarda said.
Flavier, who wore several hats as president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, health secretary and senator, died on Oct. 30 from multiple organ failure as a result of pneumonia. He was 79.
He was also a mentor to Legarda.
“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,” Legarda said.
For Sen. Pia Cayetano, he was both a teacher and a father.
“We shared a common passion for healthcare. He was the teacher and I was the student. I had dreams and aspirations; he had wisdom and experience. I had a passion for healthcare. He had the medical degree and expertise,” she said.
When the 13th Congress started, Cayetano recalled asking him if he would continue to chair the health committee. Flavier replied: “It’s your turn. I will support you.”
And so with Flavier by her side, the senator said she faced challenges with a positive look. When lobby groups blocked key legislation, she got this piece of advice from Flavier: “Let them convulse.”
“You had to know him to understand what he meant. He could say this because he had earned the people’s respect. He could say this because people knew he didn’t mean it in an insulting way. It was just his way of putting his foot down with a bit of humor mixed in,” she said.
Given his pioneering work in public health, including his advocacy against smoking through the “Yosi Kadiri” campaign and his promotion of family planning, Flavier was an inspiration in the crafting of the Graphic Health Warning, and the Reproductive Health (RH) Acts, Cayetano said.
“And although he was not in the Senate when two of these very hardly fought health bills—tobacco graphic health warning, RH and if I could include, also the amended sin tax bill—were passed, he provided the foundation and should forever be a part of the legislative history of these laws,” she said.
Drilon said the passage of the RH law was a “fitting tribute” to Flavier.
Santiago’s best friend
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago called Flavier her “best friend” in the Senate.
She, however, recalled an instance that in her view made Flavier a cut above the rest. In their first year in the Senate, she took the floor to denounce pork barrel kickbacks, exposing contractors who promised her kickbacks if she released her pork barrel funds to them.
“But foolish me, after my speech, there was no interpellation and no comment from anybody. Nobody spoke, except for one man: Sen. Juan Flavier. With an offended expression, he rose to affirm my accusation of corruption in the Senate,” Santiago said.
“If Senator Flavier did not have the courage and purity of heart to support my story of corruption, I would have made no impact. Because of Senator Flavier’s comment, the media picked up the story,” she added.
Quorum of two
Flavier also endeared himself to his colleagues by turning up at the committee hearings to constitute a quorum of two senators.
“No matter what the committee or subject was, the genial Senator Flavier made himself available every single day of the week for a quorum, as if it was his duty,” Santiago said.
Osmeña agreed: “He humbly became the quorum-maker… When, invariably, four or five committee hearings were being conducted at the same time, one or two hearings may not begin for lack of quorum, and that’s when a call would be made to Johnny’s staff.”
Otherwise, he was a “giant of a man” whose monumental achievements “made him stand out from the rest,” Drilon said.
With the different hats he wore as a public servant, Flavier consistently championed the poor and sick, he said.
As health secretary, novel approaches to healthcare, such as “Oplan Alis Disease” and “Sangkap Pinoy,” which he had introduced, were a success.
Doctor to barrios
His “Doctor to the Barrios” program inspired young physicians to leave their comfort zones and the prospect of lucrative practice in the city to administer to the poor, sick and ailing in the rural areas, Drilon said.
At the Senate, he authored landmark pieces of legislation, such as the traditional medicine law, the poverty alleviation law and Indigenous People’s Rights Act, he added.
Contrary to predictions, Flavier would reach his limits. The Senate became a “bigger stage,” where he garnered bipartisan support for his bills, Sen. Gregorio Honasan II said.
“He believed that the Hippocratic Oath, together with our entire bodies of codes, should be honored in the poorest and most remote corners of the country,” he said.
All hearings, debates and caucuses he attended with Flavier in the 10th through 13 Congresses “became to me an important lesson in public service, humility and compassion,” as well as “lethal exposure to the viral Flavier humor.”
One little candle
Dr. Jonathan David Flavier thanked the senators and former senators for welcoming back his father again to the chamber.
Inheriting his father’s humor and size, he said he would have preferred an extra stand so he could be seen better and joked about the choir’s piece for the necrological services, “One Little Candle,” until his emotions overtook him.
“We would like to think that his memory lives on and his spirit is still present with us this morning,” he said.
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