Attending session is like going to class. We have a bell that rings reminding us that session is about to start. We start every Monday with a flag ceremony, every session day with a prayer. Right after that is attendance, when we are all scrambling to be on the floor to be sure we are not marked ABSENT or LATE.
My seatmate is never absent nor late. He is always the first one there. When I arrive, he always greets me with a warm smile and in return, I give him a kiss on the cheek…
Then I sit down and he says “how are you young lady”?And like a girl in need of a father, without further prompting, I pour my heart out to him, sharing the highs and lows, the joys and trials of my day.
He listens patiently, laughs heartily, shakes his head compassionately.
Today, my seatmate, along with some great men the senate has seen, Senate President Frank Drilon, Senator Jun Magsaysay and Senator Serge Osmena graduates from 12 years of serving the people in the Senate.
I will miss him so dearly. In many ways, he was the father of a girl who sorely missed her father. He was the mentor of a neophyte senator both in the political arena and in the legislative field. He was an attentive listener to her sometimes, nonsensical babbling.
He protected me from the naughty boys who sat in the back. You know how boys are. They have nothing better to do some days but joke about my breastfeeding bill or the color of my dress or hairclip. But that’s just the way they are. He would give them a stern look every now and then reminding them to stop bugging me.
When I confided in him about the frustration of dealing with certain groups who refused to see the other side of certain issues, he would say to me, â€œhayaan mo silang kumisay. When I explained that some people are impossible to deal with because they expect me to adopt their entire position en toto, he says sabihin mo, pwede nilang gawin yun, kung sila na ang senador. Of course, only he could get away with saying that. But he always gave me the reassurance I needed to hear that after studying an issue, he trusted the decisions I reached and would always, as he did, support them.
One other thing I loved about him, we both dislike long circuitous speeches and debates. Sometimes debates would go on and on for days. I would tune in and out and at some point say to him, the last I heard , ganito ganito ang pinagdedebatihan, may bago na bang pinag-uusapan? And he would, say wala, ganun pa rin, buti pa magmerienda ka na lang at growing girl ka pa.
But close to my heart, of course, is when he shares his memories of my dad, his former colleague, the late Senator Rene Compañero Cayetano.
Ayy, I feel so sad that my seatmate has graduated. Its like your best friend transferring to another school. You know you can still see her, you know you can have lunch dates anytime but it’s just not the same without him by your side (especially kung hindi marunong mag-text, email or ym).
To my seatmate truly the Honorable Senator Juan Flavier, doctor to the barrios, senator of the Filipino people, it has been my pleasure and utmost privilege to work with you, laugh with you and share my life with you.
I know he will now be busy in the Mr. Bean Watchers Club, where his granddaughter Kia is the self appointed President, his grandson Pio is the Vice President, Migo, the Treasurer and he is well, just a member. What does he say about that?
He says, Who could ask for more?
FN: I copied that Mr Bean story without his permission from his autobiography, From Barrio to Senado.