2 former Presidents, senators pay tribute to Edgardo J. Angara
Tears and remembrances marked the final return of former Senate President Edgardo J. Angara to the Senate on Wednesday, where he spent, according to his son, Sen. Sonny Angara, “the best years of his life.”
The elder Angara, who died of heart attack on Sunday, described the Senate as “being on a high promontory in the Philippines with an unobstructed view,” his son said in response to the tributes and farewells from the former’s peers and juniors in the chamber.
Two former Presidents — Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — took turns in eulogizing Angara during the necrological service for him at the Senate, saluting his record as an advocate of education reform and as “a giant among legal luminaries.”
“We’re mourning the loss of this great man. We’ve lost a public servant with the highest integrity, a man with passion, an intellectual with a heart for the poor and a champion [of] the cause of education,” said Estrada, who was Angara’s running mate in the 1998 presidential election.
Arroyo, who defeated Angara in the vice presidential race, said she looked up to him as a “kind and mild-mannered mentor.”
She recalled that during her presidency, Angara “was there when I needed him for my legislative test on political will” and in ensuring that her reform agenda were prioritized in Congress.
The Senate session hall was packed to the brim with senators and staff, who condoled with Angara’s family, and sent off one of the chamber’s most decorated members.
The Madrigal Singers of the University of the Philippines (UP) sang the “Prayer of St. Francis” and “Go the Distance,” while the UP Singing Ambassadors sang “Lux Aeterna” and “You Raise Me Up.” The two choirs performed “Dahil Sa ’Yo” together at the end of the ceremony.
Angara served as UP president from 1981 to 1987.
Former Sen. Rene Saguisag acknowledged that he and Angara had “differing views on what was best for the motherland,” but added that the latter had the best interest of the country at heart.
Saguisag dedicated a passage from William Wordsworth’s “Ode on Intimations to Immortality” to Angara:
“What though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”
Former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said of Angara: “He remained a person with balanced human perspectives. He had perks to savor, but he tried to share them with others less privileged.”
Pimentel was recalling an episode during the Marcos dictatorship, when Angara “tried to share” some of his benefits, though the two were on opposite camps.
Angara cofounded in 1972, the year Marcos imposed martial law, the Accra Law Offices, which became one of the country’s top law firms.
“Differing opinions invariably bedevil the reputation of public servants … So right or wrong, we just have to bear the contrary views as will come our way, rebut them as best we can and let history be the judge,” said Pimentel, who was imprisoned by the Marcos regime.
Some of those who delivered eulogies struggled to rein in their emotions, among them Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano, Sen. Loren Legarda, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
Legarda said the Philippines owed to Angara the free college tuition law, which “would not have been possible … if not for a much earlier intervention, three decades ago.”
Drilon said his friendship with Angara “transcended political colors and affiliations, even if sometimes, we found ourselves opposing each other and sitting [on] opposite political fences.”
“Once he even tried to depose me as Senate President. But the friendship remained,” he said.
The younger Angara thanked the well-wishers and mourners and asked them to remember his father as “a boy from a small town with big dreams and big plans, a boy from Baler who made good and gave back, a man who loved his country and its people, a man who helped build a better nation for our children and the future generation of the Philippines.”
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