JUAN PONCE ENRILE: A Memoir
A BOOK REVIEW
I read the whole 753-page book in 30 days. That long because I wanted to read it only during a period when I was not in a hurry to complete a task for a day. And it was a real treat (although it cost me P1,500—but its worth and more). Procuring the book is almost a story. I even went to check all book stores (in Davao and Manila) for a copy and for some time, it was very frustrating not to find a copy. On the second month of its first publication I became lucky to get the last copy, the only one left on the display shelf.
After running away with a newly printed tome, I read through seriously like a copy writer and a fledging student of history. It was so solemnly serious that I even noticed lapses (there are two in the midpart of the book) on grammatical construction notwithstanding the technical assistance of a professional biographer in the person of Nelson A. Navarro. But lapses do not make or unmake the true essence of a literary gem, although it saddles a fellow writer once in a while. Senator Enrile’s life indeed captured the substance of a period which had been covered by several layers of intriguing situations. And it supplied all the necessary impressions which in effect are reflective of a historical span which my parents undergone and which at a certain stage I have played some minor parts too. It was like living what my parents have gone through and in a continuous fashion, reminiscing those times when I would follow through the same historical path without gaps.
Senator Enrile’s youth as pictured in the biographical work, was a very difficult act to follow. It was very, very tough. I would not even venture to presume that my ancestors would survive such a situation given the same challenges. I must admit that I have to submit a respectful genuflection on the man, calling him with the title Senator even if in writing it would be enough to call him just Enrile for purposes of literary discussion. But no. He must be that respectful to the point of adoration. Let us give what is due for the man. He lived through, endured and even outlasted almost all those whom he patronized and even those considered as opponents.
After reading the first few chapters in the volume and hearing erstwhile rebel Joma Sison expressed disgust about the biography, I felt that the rebel Sison was merely being iconoclast to the core. He never appreciated anything including what is current in history. He would even find himself still living in a period when he regards dissension as being progressive. He dissents and tries to live in a world outside of reality. And he governs homegrown rebels according to same myopic view of political changes. But that is democracy, one can raise hell and as long as it never transgresses a right, it is even encouraged.
The succeeding chapters were also engaging. It is a personal confession. The man reveals his inner thoughts and discipline. It was a very instructive and inspiring monologue. I would even mistake the lesson-filled talk as Shakespearean.
The characters in his book were not surreal creatures not even caricatures of their better selves but real protagonists in the unfolding drama of politics during the era. He was fair in his description, although a bit sounding melancholic when it pertains to his inner concerns. All throughout he never gave himself to partiality and preconception, ever the top notch lawyer that he is. His legal mind, cautious and guarded, was his arsenal in dealing with every dispute he would encounter.
He knew his facts well. And in every stage of his development he reflected and punctuated a season specific for his no non sense character. He wanted to impress and this made him a favorite and easily a friend to all by being real, by being candid, by being truthful, honest, straightforward. For him it is like what it really is the law. He is a lawyer and as such he clings to all its principles and precepts. He does not only try to live with it, he lives by it.
You may dislike the man, as he admits his engineering feat for constructing brick by brick martial law, but no one can swear that he used it for his own vanity. He never abused. Otherwise, then President Marcos during the period when Senator Enrile rebelled and ignited the 1986 Edsa revolt would have a lot of issues thrown at him to discredit him from the adoring mass of people standing on vigil at Camps Aguinaldo. But Senator Enrile was a serious man, frank and faithful to his cause. He knew that he was up against a cabal of untrustworthy allies, that he would eventually be whisked, that the good oftentimes get the short end, that evil triumphs because decent people wait for the slow wheel of justice to the detriment of time, that he must, as a matter of faith, more so as an antidote to fate, to raise the bar using violence to achieve the purpose of peace.
He outlived most of his contemporaries and unlike those who lived to repent and resent the additional years as burdensome, he continued to prove himself worthy of a man who tried to exact the truth in every minute of his lifespan. His book even dared those who peddled lies and challenged them to live according to the true measure of one’s conscience.
The biography of Senator Enrile, as a reader’s treat, is a disclosure of a crusade along political, social and personal veracity. His sincere dedication to uprightness made him a hero twice over and he continues, in my estimation, to lead the life of a true warrior.