Nobody can recall that my father (Prof. Carlos Legaspi Tesoro) was a hero, greater even than those we read in our history books. He was unfortunately bumped by his contemporaries but not in the deepest bin of history, at least not as long as my notes on history is concerned.
During World War II, there were numerous accounts of heroism. Soldiers fought mightily hard, statesmen fought using their position of influence, guerillas fought on the sidelines, martyrs fought with their faith, so on and so forth. All of them became heroes, were feted, recognized and even lionized for a while. They all went out of their way to keep enemies at bay and while some survived to live another day, others perished.
My father was not a soldier during World War II. He was not conscripted too in the guerilla movement. He was neither a martyr nor anyone pretending to fight the enemy. He was a lowly acolyte in a provincial church then. He was in charge of keeping the convent which at that time the Japanese Imperial Army held court.
He tried to learn the language of the occupant and sooner became conversant. In just a few months, my father could already discuss military science and philosophy in Nipponggo and could even write in Jap characters to the amazement of his foreign visitors. The occupant armed forces were impressed with the youthful chapel helper. In time, he became even a consultant for social affairs, explaining tradition and customs of the townsfolks.
One day, hundreds of local citizens (in San Pedro, Laguna) were huddled inside the church and were about to be sentenced to the firing squad on suspicion that they were cooperating with the insurgents. It was then that my father appeared before the Japanese tribunal to appeal the case of the condemned. Eloquently delivered, my father championed the cause and innocence of the people. That very day, hundreds and truckloads of people saw freedom. If that is not heroism then I don’t know what it is.
They were the people who populated an entire town and whose descendants are now prosperously living. They may no longer remember what happened to their forefathers. They never knew that the courage of one man made an entire town a living proof of diplomacy. They merely inherited their ancestors’ industry and assets, their accumulated properties and trade. The descendants are no longer keen on their past because it was nearly traumatic and must be forgotten. But had my father merely kept his silence, the place could have been a ghost town for a long time.
The invading army could have easily wiped out not only a town but an entire province. The armed invaders however never resorted to massacre anymore but had grown relatively attached to the community. They left after the war, brotherly and socially attached to the town as if it was their birth place. My father went back home and continued with his studies.
My father, during his internship in the enemy’s camp, taught the fierce invading army the value of peace and understanding through his acts of friendship and cooperation. He interceded in their requirements, organized their social interactions, and evaded trouble in every form. He was virtually a church in the absence of any superior.
My father knew peace more profoundly than those who professed power and supremacy. He had a greater appreciation of amity and harmony more than those who projected then to have an understanding of concord and unity. He exuded spirituality at a time when faith was hidden and tucked inside the armory. Yet his pronouncements were louder than bombs and explosives.
That day my father saved hundreds of people is to my estimation a fitting legacy to call as Father’s Day.