Joker never ran away from a fight, says friend
BAAO, Camarines Sur—Joker Arroyo had been a fighter since he was in high school, never running away from a fight when he thought he was right, according to his contemporary here.
Epifanio Borja, 94, still vividly remembers when Joker’s father, Ceferino Arroyo, made him quit school in 1947 because he always got in trouble with toughies in Baao town.
He said Joker was twice involved in a brawl and was hospitalized in Iriga City, about 10 kilometers from Baao town, because of knife injuries
Borja said Joker had a quarrel with a certain Baisa family member regarding a property of his parents.
“Joker thought it was a fistfight and learned too late his opponent had a knife,” he recalled.
He was impressed by Joker’s toughness and courage when his friend grabbed the knife of his adversary, Mariano Baisa, during the fight.
“When Mariano swang his knife, Joker caught it with his bare hands, gripping the blade to avoid a fatal injury. He suffered several cuts including cuts on his palm before he fled and hid from his enemies,” he said.
Joker was sent by his father to their house in Naga City, where he was born, after finishing high school in Nabua, a neighboring town of Baao, where he spent his teenage life, Borja said.
The Arroyos, a landed family, fled to Baao to avoid Japanese atrocities in Naga City, he said.
He said Joker’s mother, Eusebia Paz, a housemaid in the Arroyo residence, was the second wife of Ceferino Arroyo after his first wife died.
Joker has a half sister named Herminia from his father’s first wife, Borja revealed.
Joker’s record of troubles in his teens is talked about by the old folk in Naga and Baao.
Reynaldo Paz, 26, a grandnephew of Arroyo, said the former senator was the third child among eight siblings—three boys and five girls.
Paz said his grandfather, Juan Arroyo, Joker’s younger brother, had a premonition when Joker died on Oct. 6.
He said Juan, whom he checked regularly in his room in their house in Baao, was feeling weird and could not get himself to sleep the day Joker died.
Paz said after that incident, his grandfather received a call that Joker had died after a heart bypass operation.
Before Joker left for the United States to undergo the operation, he wrote a letter in longhand to his brother Juan about his coming trip, at the same time reminding him of the ongoing transactions regarding their properties, he revealed.
Paz said Juan was the caretaker and trustee of Joker’s properties in Camarines Sur and in Baao town.
He said Joker left several unfinished businesses regarding his property here in which he was involved in generating the documents.
Paz’s grandfather is now in Manila with the immediate family of Joker even as there was nothing final yet about the burial arrangements for the former senator.
Alfredo Imperial Perdon, former deputy executive director of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) and now manager of a local television network, was told on the phone by one of Joker’s nieces about the death of the former senator.
Perdon, 62, was a protégé of Joker who was the executive secretary of President Corazon Aquino from 1986 to 1987. Through Joker, he was also appointed concurrent executive director of the Presidential Commission on Filipinos Overseas while at the PMS.
“I got a call from New York Wednesday morning (Oct. 7), and found out—though I still have to verify if it’s true—that Joker was supposed to have an eye checkup, but in the process they found out he had a heart ailment. So he had to undergo bypass (operation),” said Perdon, who stayed with the Cory administration from 1986-1992.
“The information I got is that the bypass was successful, but there were complications, so that’s I think the reason why he passed away,” Perdon said.
He said Joker was born in Naga City and studied at Naga Central School and Camarines Sur High School but transferred to Baao town during the war and graduated from Nabua High School.
The senator studied prelaw at Ateneo de Manila University and graduated with a law degree from the University of the Philippines.
Perdon said Joker was instrumental in the appointment of many Bicolanos in government positions and described the executive secretary as a big influence on Cory, signing orders and directives on behalf of her office.
What he knew about Joker’s departure from the Cory administration in 1987 before entering the political fray in Makati district as congressman was that he was pushing for the removal of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile because of the continuing coup attempts against the former President.
Perdon said Joker was also accused by Enrile of leaning to the left movement which prompted him to resign from his post as executive secretary.
Former Sen. Richard Gordon, Philippine National Red Cross chair, said he was “completely shattered” by Arroyo’s passing.
“He was a great senator with an outstanding command of the law; he always had an acerbic manner and wry humor who got everybody’s attention,” Gordon said in a statement.
“He will always be tops in my respect for being a principled man; a wonderful and thoughtful Brod who always gave great advice,” he added.
Gordon and Arroyo are fraternity brothers, as members of Upsilon Sigma Phi, the oldest Greek-letter fraternity in Asia.
He said Arroyo would always be in his thoughts and that he would continue to pray for his wife and the rest of his family. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria