13 Lovers.

Like Tony Meer’s, True Love stories never have endings

Tony Meer is 5 feet short, not tall. But he is a big man now, because along the years from 1941, beginning with the advent of World War 2, he learned to fight fire with fire, box with shadows, play ball with notoriety, swim with the tide not of his own making, and finally to sing and live in the Love That Defies All Understanding. The hard way. At least he learned how to fly.

Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly. – Richard Bach

Today he would love for us to learn from his mistakes, imbibe from his merits, drink from the wellsprings of his best self and quaff from the music in his soul.

Who is Tony Meer again? A hero in war and a hero in peace – and a history maker in both. He wasn’t always like this. Read his heavy and hearty coffee-table book! His memoir, A Lawyer’s Fate & Faith (2003, published by Antonio Malvar Meer, 500 pages). He was always trying to be the best, not always to be good!

He celebrated his birthday in mid-December. As my birthday gift to him, I thought I would write a tall tribute to his life, touching on both pleasures & pressures; that was my original ’13 Loves. Tony Meer, Biggest Little Man in Philippine history, alive!’ all 13 single-spaced pages of it in printout, Word 2003, a total of 6666 words. (My first draft, 7 pages, I printed them all out, taped one to the other at the bottom, and they came up 8 feet all. My tall tribute. My final draft, 13 pages, I planned the printout and the page-to-page tape and to show by unfurling it in front of him, but I forgot. ‘An idea is never given to you without you being given the power to make it reality,’ says Richard Bach. ‘You must, nevertheless, suffer for it.’ Now I’m suffering for forgetting.)

Notwithstanding, the day after, Tony Meer called and said, ‘It’s not me, what’s important is what I have fought for all my life.’ Ah, Tony Meer just made it more difficult for me to write about him! His book of life is too long to be quick to read; his accomplishments are too much to be easy to digest. But I don’t mind; I enjoy a big challenge as much as he does.

Every problem has a gift for you in its hands. – Richard Bach

I accept the gift. I accept the gift even before it’s offered; that explains why I always receive a creative surprise, if only from myself. Let me tell you Tony Meer’s bulky book is an enjoyable, educational read: historical, brave, well-researched, vibrant, challenging – of lives well-lived, of loves freely given and well-received, of War and Peace. It tells also of his Personal War, and for that alone, the book is worth reading. War is always Hell; Peace is what we make of it.

I assure you Tony Meer’s is a story of True Loves. You know Love, it comes and it goes – because Knowledge gets in the way. ‘The good life is inspired by Love and guided by Knowledge,’ the philosopher Bertrand Russell says. In that case, Tony Meer has had a damned good life. He is 86. He has made love, done it all, his way.

This little man celebrated his birthday on the 13th of this month, December. Is 13 an unlucky number? ‘As far as I was personally concerned,’ Tony says, ‘to the contrary, it was decidedly a lucky number.’ Duh. He is celebrating his many Lives; he is celebrating his many Loves.

Did I say this lawyer’s autobiography is historical? I did. I’m reading for the 3rd time all 500 pages of it. He also contributed to that history, Philippine history.

He was born in inflammable as well as encouraging times. It was in 1923 when the USSR was established, when Mussolini formed Fascist militias, TIME magazine debuted, Firestone first made inflatable tires, insulin became generally available, New York State revoked Prohibition, and Albert Einstein spoke on pacifism in Berlin.

He has lived through incendiary as well as hopeful times, from World War 2 in 1941 through the Manuel Luis Quezon Years, Sergio Osmeña Years, Jose P Laurel Years, Manuel A Roxas Years, Elpidio Quirino Years, Ramon Magsaysay Years, Carlos P Garcia Years, Diosdado Macapagal Years, Ferdinand E Marcos Years, Corazon Aquino Years, Fidel V Ramos Years, Joseph Estrada Years, to today, the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Years. 13 Presidents!

In his book, Tony Meer, writing of 8 December 1941 to 29 September 2003, shows that either he was there when things of national importance were happening, or he helped make them happen pour la patrie, for the country.

Here are some of the names of those who crossed the path of Tony Meer, not necessarily crossed him, almost all of whom I know reverberate in Philippine history (alphabetically arranged):

Jose Abueva, Terry Magtangol Adevoso, AG&P, Encarnacion Alzona, Corazon Aquino, Amado Araneta, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Roberto Benedicto, Jorge Bocobo, Fred Ruiz Castro, Ramon Cojuangco, Horacio de la Costa SJ, JV Cruz, Ngo Dinh Diem, Del Monte, Jose Wright Diokno, Dole, Dwight Eisenhower, Manolo Elizalde, Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcelo Fernan, Enrique Fernando, Carlos P Garcia, Larry Henares, General Homma, Huks, Jaycees, John F Kennedy, Ed Lansdale, Vicente Lim, Fernando Lopez, Mochtar Lubis, Luzon Stevedoring, Diosdado Macapagal, Douglas MacArthur, Ramon Magsaysay, Raul Manglapus, Ferdinand E Marcos, Yay Marking, Meralco, Andres Narvasa, Richard Nixon, Operation Brotherhood, Pacifico Ortiz SJ, Camilo Osias, Sergio Osmeña Jr, Sergio Osmeña Sr, Ambrosio Padilla, Carlos Palanca, Quintin Paredes, Emmanuel Pelaez, Salipada Pendatun, Macario Peralta, Eugenio Perez, PLDT, Manuel L Quezon, Fidel V Ramos, Claro M Recto, JBL Reyes, Flerida Ruth Romero, Carlos P Romulo, Gerry Roxas, Manuel Roxas, Sabah Claim, Rafael Salas, Jovito Salonga, Vicente Abad Santos, Francis Cardinal Spellman, Harry Stonehill, Luis Taruc, Toribio Teodoro, Jorge Vargas, Jose de Venecia, Luis Villafuerte, Cornelio Villareal, and Jose Yulo.

In World War 2, he was a guerrilla leader and an intelligence officer. The Japanese led in brutality; he led in outwitting the enemy. He saved the Romulo Family from Kempei Tai revenge. He guided through the fastnesses of Mt Makiling the Filipino guerrillas and American soldiers in their Los Baños rescue of 2,147 POWs in the Japanese concentration camp at the campus of the University of the PhilippinesCollege of Agriculture; it was the most perfect rescue in the history of prisoners of war. (I’ve written about this; see my ‘Most successful rescue in history,’ 11 February 2008, uplbvanguardsclass58.wordpress.com). Having suffered and sacrificed much in it, he is against War.

In Peace, he has been a lawyer who time and again advanced the theory and practice of law for the protection of citizens and companies against ignorance of the law and/or abuse of authority in the name of the law. As a Jaycee leader, climbing up to become Vice President for Asia (1960), he brought to the attention of the East and West the best in the East (Reginald T Yu).

He unlearned his egoism and demonstrated this by acts of charity that left no doubt of his sincerity. ‘I know Tony Meer does not like the Marcoses,’ First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos was heard to say, ‘but I also know he is a gentleman.’ No truer compliment than what comes from someone who doesn’t like you.

He saved many lives at the Ritz Towers during the December 1989 putsch (aka coup d’etat), the most serious coup attempt against any Philippine President. When about 200 rebel troops, mostly Scout Rangers, moved into the twin towers in full battle gear, instincts aroused, as President of the Condominium Association, as a precaution, he had all the residents go down the basement where they could be safe in case of exchange of fire. They stayed 4 days. Meanwhile, their apartments were riddled with bullets, some completely demolished. There were no casualties. That’s called keeping your wits about you.

By the way, if I say Tony Meer is the Biggest Little Man in Philippine history, as he is just about 5 feet, I do it with apologies to Carlos P Romulo, the Philippines’ Biggest Little Man in World War 2, a Pulitzer Prize winner (1942), President of the United Nations General Assembly (1949-1950), as well as President of the University of the Philippines (1962-1968). (If you must know, the Romulos were family friends of the Meers.) As I am about to prove to anyone, despite his small size, if Tony Meer is not the biggest lover the Philippines has ever known, he is the most lover. And he is happy about it all.

Happiness is the reward we get for living to the highest right we know. – Richard Bach

13 Lovers? Yes Indeed

When I visited him in his domicile 3 days after his 1-man art exhibit (3 December, Shangri-La Plaza), he was singing to me, in practice, songs he has composed and dedicated to his many ladyloves, set to music by the genius of his grandson, Jose Luis Meer Vera Perez. I listened and I was wowed. Music becomes him.

In Tony Meer’s case, the 1st time, love is beautiful. Love is lovelier the 2nd time around, and the 3rd time, and the 4th time, and the 5th time, and the 6th time, and the 7th time, and the 8th time, and the 9th time, and the 10th time, and the 11th time, and the 12th time, and the 13th … oh, there’s more where it comes from.

Michelangelo loved sculpting and painting. In the movie The Agony And The Ecstasy, as it was taking years for the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel to finish, Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) shouts to Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) up on the scaffold, ‘When will you make an end?’ ‘When I am finished!’ Michelangelo shouts down (Edward J Urbanowski, 9 April 2008, qgazette.com). It took Michelangelo 4 years, 1508 to 1512. In fact, he never finished – he was pissed off from the constant badgering of the Pope. As with Tony Meer, you can’t simply stop a lover.

All in all, judging by the evidence at hand, based on his own confession consisting of 500 printed pages of testimony complete with photographs and index, his oral and written arguments against the malpractices of the mass media, and a handful of secrets he shared with me, my honest opinion is that he has many more loves than he has confessed in the court of public opinion.

And yes, his love goes on and on. ‘He is not a lover who does not love forever,’ Euripides tells us. But Tony Meer likes to quote the Englishman more, so here is William Shakespeare:

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Tempests, Tony Meer has been through many of them, the longest being 3 endless years of depression. He rose from the depths of despair only when a vision of love visited on him.

We’re the bridge across forever, arching above the sea, adventuring for our pleasure, living mysteries for the fun of it, choosing disasters triumphs challenges impossible odds, testing ourselves over and again, learning love and love and LOVE! – Richard Bach

Tony will be recording, in his own voice, 10 love songs composed with some 10 girls in mind. Which song for which girls? ‘They know who they are,’ he says. Years ago, the Philippines’ most famous operatic singer, Jovita Fuentes, overheard him in another room vocalizing, imitating her, and she told him pointblank, ‘You have a voice.’ He has. Oh, it is a voice that his loves love.

Tony Meer is as many lovers as he is as many lives; right now, I’ll tell you only of the Lovers 1 to 13 that he is (not alphabetically arranged):

(1) Lover of Beauty
(2) Lover of Parents
(3) Lover of Country
(4) Lover of Law
(5) Lover of Horses
(6) Lover of Challenge
(7) Lover of Giving
(8) Lover of Family
(9) Lover of Soldiers
(10) Lover of Justice
(11) Lover of Jesuits
(12) Lover of Faith and Reason
(13) Lover of Bruising.

We are all lovers or, which is the same, we can all learn to be 13 Lovers, each one of us. But if I were to do it all over again, I would be extremely careful with my 1st love, as a lover of beauty.

Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it.
Teaching is reminding others that they know it as well as you do. We are all learners, doers, teachers.
– Richard Bach

Learn to love anyway.

(1) Lover of Beauty

‘Life is beautiful,’ Tony Meer says. ‘Life is sweet. It sometimes plays tricks on you.’ To Tony Meer, if eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being a gentleman in love. ‘I confess I loved so many ladies in my time,’ he says. In his coffee-table book, I saw maybe 26 good-looking faces, 12 of whom are in a double spread (pages 318-319) titled ‘the Stars in my galaxy.’ In private, in 2 albums of photo static memories, I saw those pretty faces, one too many. His own mother could not remember and follow, he says, ‘all the escapades of my very active heart!’ When he was younger than today, his father had told him, ‘The fact remains that you appeal to women in some mysterious way.’ This is the way Tony puts it: ‘What happens is that before I know it, I am smothered with another love.’ One girl told him bluntly, ‘You are not in love with me. You are in love with love!’ He is King Solomon sick of love. A blessing and a curse. Tony Meer took the blessing – so he had to take the curse. ‘If you’re not careful,’ says Bill Cosby, ‘you might learn something.’

If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were. – Richard Bach

Love beauty anyway!

(2) Lover of Parents

His mother was Crispina Maloles Malvar, UP Pharmacy 1918, ‘UP Mother of the Year 1950’ for having nurtured 2 outstanding sons, Alberto, UP College of Law, magna cum laude, Valedictorian, and Antonio, UP College of Law, cum laude, President of the Student Council.

‘I loved my mother so much,’ Tony says, ‘that I cannot describe my happiness in having served her to the end.’ She died at 100 years of age, plus 2 months. She was athletic and had a mind of her own. She was President of the Asociacion de Damas de Filipinas and officer of the League of Women Voters of the Philippines. ‘She was tough and made decisions which made me cringe. She was not afraid of anything.’

‘My father, Bibiano Lirio Meer, was a man of letters.’ He was a graduate of the UP College of Law in 1920. ‘He was musically gifted and he played the piano and the violin with equal ease.’ He was fluent in both English and Spanish. As a student, he was an outstanding orator, winning the Justice Carson Gold Medal in 1918, the biggest in oratorical contests in those days. He was Collector of Internal Revenue for 3 Presidents: Manuel L Quezon, Manuel A Roxas, and Elpidio Quirino. He was the first Filipino author of a book on taxation, The Internal Revenue Law Annotated (1925). As a law professor, he taught Taxation and Negotiable Instruments. He co-founded the Far Eastern University and the MLQ University. He was one of the original faculty members of the Ateneo College of Law. He retired as Undersecretary of Finance and founded the Meer, Meer and Meer Law Office with his 2 sons as partners.

He was a wide reader, and this was reflected in his extensive library with classical books such as those of Tolstoy, Voltaire, Durant, Dumas, Shakespeare, Kipling, de Maupassant, and Jose P Rizal (Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, plus the valedictory poem ‘Ultimo Adios’). The son takes after the father. When I visited him, Tony Meer recited for me, ‘Adios, Patria Adorada, region del sol querida / Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Eden.’ Tony has what he calls ‘photo static’ memory. (Me, I forget things, but I like Rizal too. I have a book on Rizal to be published; my own English translation and interpretation of his ultimate poem you can already read in my ‘Adios, Beloved Country,’ 2006, adiosfarewellgoodbye.blogspot.com.)

Bibiano Meer gave his son a commandment, which he said summed up all the commandments of God: ‘Never do anything that will prevent you from looking another man in the eye.’

Father advised Son not to serve Government because ‘one martyr was enough.’ A dutiful son follows a good father. But in one of the Ateneo alumni homecomings, Fr Horacio de la Costa, a scholar of the first order, who in 1964 became the first Filipino Provincial of the Philippine Province of the Jesuit Order, who was a relative and neighbor in Malate, was quietly listening to Tony Meer haranguing the Government for graft and corruption, and the good Father said, pointblank, ‘Calla te tu la voca. You have lost your right to speak.’ ‘Why do you say that, Horacio?’ He was familiar with him. Fr de la Costa replied:

When you left Ateneo with your impressive scholastic records, we were hopeful that you could be one of those who would help and contribute to the upliftment of our government service to be of (more value) to the people. But what did you do? You were so smug in your success in your profession and in your business, you refused to dirty your hands. You have the right to do that, but if you do so, you have lost your right to speak!

The loquacious Tony Meer was speechless. Only a martyr has the right to speak. And of course the media, the self-appointed critics. Tony damned the self-righteous media in a 1-man, 1-page newspaper manifesto in 2003. (I myself have written about how politicians catch media attention by criticizing, in ‘The intellectual mess we are in,’ 2006, bravosindios.blogspot.com.)

Abraham Lincoln said it somewhat differently from Fr de la Costa, and this is what I have memorized: ‘He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.’ Lincoln showed the blacks and whites how they could be one great country. He emancipated the slaves. He was one martyr of a President.

We could learn from Filipino Fr Horacio De La Costa and American Abraham Lincoln.

You teach best what you most need to learn. – Richard Bach

Love your critics and parents anyway.

(3) Lover of Country

Tony Meer loved his parents, as he says; did he love his country less? Less in peace, and more in war, as he was whispered to over the generations by the ghost of his grandfather Miguel Malvar, a National Hero, who fought for Philippine Independence from Spain and the United States of America in the Philippine Wars of Liberation. (I say ‘War’ instead of ‘Revolution’ because it was not against duly constituted authority. And yes, there were 2 wars, which overlapped within a span of only 4 years, 1896-1899: against the Spaniards, and against the Americans; both were international aggressors, unduly constituted authorities in the Philippines.)

On 8 December 1941, along with other ROTC cadets, this cocky Browning machine-gun expert willingly enlisted in the Philippine Army. General Douglas MacArthur had called for a General Mobilization of the Army, including cadets who were at least 18 years of age. MacArthur had been tasked to build up the Philippine Army under the National Defense Act; he chose a handful of Filipino graduates of the US West Point Academy to help him. Tony Meer tells us MacArthur’s recommendation was for the US to extend her military line of defense to the Philippines, as he believed it could be defended against the Japanese onslaught.

During the war, Tony Meer was a dauntless guerrilla leader with the Filipinos, an excellent intelligence officer with the US Army. And he was a dead shot, rifle or pistol, carbine or Garand or 45 caliber. You messed up with him at your own risk.

And he survived unscathed, escaping from deadly explosions and dangerous situations. This reinforced the old folk’s belief that Tony had a magic charm (anting-anting) that his grandfather Miguel Malvar had bequeathed to him to make him invulnerable to bullets and blasts. Invincible. ‘Only God decides whether we live or die,’ Tony says. ‘How can you be afraid?’ Faith makes you invincible.

And while Carlos P Romulo broadcast against the Japanese and for the Filipinos, endangering himself and his family, Tony Meer saved the Romulos (mother and children) from the hands of the Japanese Kempei Tai. Intelligence makes you aware of what to do.

And together with the 1st Cavalry Division of the US Army under General Mudge, they routed the Japanese in the last major battle of the war, the Malepunio Last Stand (my term). The Japanese were ordered to die to the last man, last act of foolish bravery. Their Comfort Women were taken back; 30,000 Japanese died, no prisoners were taken.

In peace, Tony’s love of country includes English as the medium of communication, and has no admiration for rabid nationalists going after the national language that reflects the true Filipino, as they claim. ‘I am no less a Filipino because I speak in English,’ Tony says. ‘A Filipino can speak in English and defend his country’s interests. He can, with equal ease, speak in Tagalog and betray it.’

Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully. – Richard Bach

Love your country anyway.

(4) Lover of Law

For love of Law (Theory), Tony Meer graduated cum laude from the College of Law of the University of the Philippines. He was almost a magna cum laude, but his arrogance with his photo static memory on Civil Law cost him the higher honor, and he deserved it!

He now wishes to acknowledge the contributions of his professors to his education:

We are the personification of the precepts and ideas inculcated in our minds and hearts by sages; our professors, who had slowly but surely molded our character and very being, so as to make us what we are today. I salute and extend to them my eternal gratitude.

He mentions especially Dean Jose Espiritu, Professor Ramon Aquino, Justice Carmelino Alvendia, Justice Magno Gatmaitan, Professor Emiliano Navarro, Professor Lapuz Laurea, Professor Hilarion Jarencio, Professor Gaudencio Garcia, Professor Sibal, Professor Vicente Abad Santos, Professor Juan T Santos, Professor Ambrosio Padilla, Judge Juan T Lantin, Professor Enrique Fernando, Professor Ventura.

For love of Law (Practice), Tony Meer exuded brilliance. He blazed new trails in Philippine tax jurisprudence, such as in ‘directly assailing the right of a government official to destroy the property rights of a taxpayer by methods not conferred upon him by the law involved, or in excess of the authority granted him under the law.’ He extricated Del Monte from its tariff & customs predicament. For the auto assemblers in the Philippines, he convinced the Secretary of Finance to issue the Fabar Ruling supporting his position ‘that our laws should be interpreted in a manner that protected Filipinos as well as industrial or manufacturing activities located in the Philippines’ – in other words, lower those duties and import taxes! For the pharmaceutical industry, he solved their tax problems just as he did for the automotive industry. For the film industry, he fought for the right classification of movies and helped out in their labor pains, so that they could perform well even offscreen.

Out there, he resolved the conflict of laws which plagued the Pacific Conference, composed of Asian shipping companies. We are Asians under the skin.

Back here, he made a sensation out of a health case by exploring and expounding on the medical science of shadows – radiology – arguing that a doctor cannot be disbarred after making an honest and qualified opinion based on one X-ray plate, on the basis of another doctor disagreeing with his findings. ‘The X-ray science is accepted to be the science of shadows and does not permit a positive conclusion.’ Case dismissed!

He is a much-revered member of the Philippine Bar Association, whose President, Rolando P de La Cuesta, calls him ‘a lawyer’s lawyer.’

With him as the legal guardian angel, Filipinos took ownership and gained effective control of PLDT, when it was simply the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company. That started PLDT on the road to becoming the prime and dominant telecommunications provider in the country to this date. ‘The changes continue and we have seen the blending and mixture of telephony and the world of computers,’ Tony Meer says. More so, ‘the cellular telephones of today really provide our people with more than the basic requirements of connectivity for the servicing of their basic needs.’ (I myself have grown accustomed to her face, my cellphone, a Nokia XpressMusic, and I can’t leave home without it. I am a Smart subscriber, and that’s connected to PLDT. I am connected to the Internet world via SmartBro, and that’s connected to PLDT. Today, I can’t live without PLDT and PLDT can’t live without me. Fair enough.)

He defended ex-Congressman Sergio Osmeña’s City of Cebu reclamation project against highly placed, powerful enemies, winning the case with a novel theory of law that an LGU (local government unit) such as Cebu City, has the authority to reclaim the foreshore within its territorial jurisdiction. In fact, such LGU authority extended to the reclaiming of the deep sea up to the China Sea, except that ‘the economic factors will not allow (them) to do so, unless they have lost their minds.’ The Supreme Court voted in favor of the City of Cebu, 6-5. Justice deserved.

Don’t turn away from possible futures before you’re certain you don’t have anything to learn from them. – Richard Bach

Love the law anyway.

(5) Lover of Horses

‘I have been a horseman all my life,’ Tony Meer says, ‘so it was natural for me to join the Manila Polo Club.’ He became President of the Club in 1966, when it was yet at Dewey (now Roxas) Boulevard. Those were the days when the ladies came in their finery and the men in formal dress for the games, a gala affair. His buddy riders were Heather, Jenny, Louise, Ingrid. He remembers those midnight, moonlight rides. And Joyce, who rode away with his heart and became his second wife.

‘I have been a horseman all my life,’ he repeats. ‘I have wandered far and wide to see the greatest horsemen of the world ride.’ Colonel Podjaski, founder of the Vienna Spanish Riding School. Maestro Nuno Oliveira, who taught in Lisbon, the French Riding School, and American Dressage Riding Academy in Washington DC. He rode with the gauchos in the pampas in Argentina and Uruguay. He rode the islandic ponies in Reykjavik, Iceland. He saw the famous Royal Canadian Red Mounted Police at the Victoria Hall. He was at the Fiesta de Golga for the horse show of Portugal. He was there when Bi Valencia, daughter of the famous Luis Valencia, won in Lisbon, Portugal as the High School Dressage Rider and the horse, Infallible, won as the Best Horse that year. Infallible was Tony Meer’s horse. ‘Nothing is forever,’ he says, ‘even my magnificent stallions. All I have is the memory and the pride of ownership.’ Be glad memories are not made of dust.

Allow the world to live as it chooses, and allow yourself to live as you choose. – Richard Bach

Love animals anyway.

(6) Lover of Challenges

‘A subject so close to my heart, the Sigma Rho Fraternity,’ he says. This is the fraternity of the UP College of Law. This is the story of a triumph over great odds. At that time, the Upsilon Sigma Phi was the dominant fraternity at the UP campus, and it had been so since 1918. Then, in 1939, a handful of scholars of the College formed a new fraternity, the Sigma Rho, exclusively for Law students. And they had a dream: to be #1 in the UP campus. ‘It was their feeling that it was excellence, and not numbers, which would be the pivotal issue.’ When his brother Alberto became Grand Archon, he joined the Sigma Rho together with Jovito Salonga. The fun began.

So he became the President of the UP Political Science Club. (The war merely interrupted the dream.) Then he became Grand Archon in 1948. Then he became President of the Junior Student Council. The Sigma Rho adopted the Delta Lambda as their sister sorority. They forged alliances with the Tau Alpha and Beta Epsilon in the College of Engineering and Alpha Phi Beta in the College of Law. ‘I had the support of the College of Agriculture and the College of Forestry,’ Tony tells me. So, he won as President of the UP University Student Council. Other Sigma Rhoans won high positions in the universe of the UP studentry. They sought and won many a worthwhile position in campus. Excellence is also in numbers.

‘We showed our leadership beyond campus activities and organizations.’ He was elected President of the SCAP, the umbrella organization of all the Presidents of the Student Councils of Universities and Colleges of the Philippines. When you are good, you might as well be the best.

Unlike today, Tony Meer says, the contests between fraternities were confined to friendly rivalries. He longs for those days. ‘We did not allow them to become mere institutional rambles, descending into a rivalry and confrontation among competing thugs.’

Upsilonians all, Gerry Roxas, Baby Romulo, Ninoy Aquino, Carlos P Romulo, Ferdinand E Marcos were amazed at how the Sigma Rhoans had wrested control of UP campus politics from them. They learned that since the mountain couldn’t come to Tony Meer, he decided to conquer it.

We design our lives through the power of choices. – Richard Bach

Love challenges anyway.

(7) Lover of Giving

Roman Catholic that he is and will always be, and blessed with wealth, Tony Meer didn’t seem to have learned charity early. You know, charity – ‘Faith, hope, and charity; and the greatest of this is charity.’ It took some teaching.

The UP Continuing Legal Education and Research Center (now the UP Law Center) held a series of lectures, and he was invited as one of the speakers. His paper was ‘Piercing the Veil of Corporate Fiction.’ Vicente Abad Santos, Dean of the College of Law, had invited him. Afterwards, the Dean went to the office of the student with a treasurer’s check as Tony’s professional fee. When the student had signed the receipt of payment, the Dean turned the check upside down and said, in a soft voice, ‘Please endorse it back to the College of Law that needs it more than you do.’ How could anyone refuse a pleading like that? Years later, Tony Meer would write to Vicente Abad Santos: ‘Thank you again for teaching me a lesson which has enriched my life.’ Much earlier, he had learned to be ashamed of his selfishness, of his audacity to ask God to give him more in life, that he cried out in tears at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France: ‘Dear God, do not listen to me! Listen to the others here who have less in life and need you more.’

To his alma mater, Prince Tony Meer donated the kingly sum of P5 million for the UP College of Law ‘to continue its mission of providing the best legal education to our youth’ (Alfonso Reyno Jr, Chair, UP Law Alumni Association). This is the biggest single donation to the College from the private sector. Yes, if you are a teacher, teach; if you are a cheerer, cheer; if you are a giver, give.

Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you. – Richard Bach

Give love anyway.

(8) Lover of Family

How can I say Tony Meer loves his family when he left his first wife (and children) for another woman? I’m speaking of the after years. He was legally married to LourdesNena’ Garcia for 20 years, but in fact he had been married to his profession all the time. He was a workaholic. ‘I wanted so badly to be the best there was in the legal firmament,’ he says. He was; he is. ‘I won my cases only to lose my life and the happiness my family deserved.’ He wasn’t thinking family; he was thinking success. ‘I was too young then to know that success commanded a very high price.’ He became #1; he paid the price.

From Nena, he got the divorce he wanted, but not the peace of mind he desired. ‘I was bothered for my children’s sake,’ he says. So he consulted a very prominent child psychologist in New York. He was well-advised: ‘Do not fight for the love of your children.’ If you do, they will play one parent against another.’ They will grow up without growing up. ‘Your children will be lousy children.’ He followed the doctor’s advice. Tony’s advice today? ‘Live and learn. My only advice to my children, who are mostly married now, is to drink the elixir of togetherness.’ Tony, I’m only just learning that lesson myself with my family.

You have no birthday because you have always lived; you were never born, and never will die. You are not the child of the people you call mother and father, but their fellow adventurer on a bright journey to understand the things that are. – Richard Bach

Love your family anyway.

(9) Lover of Soldiers

‘The best accolade that a person can get is one that comes from his peers,’ Alfonso R Reyno Jr and Regina Padilla Geraldez of his own UP Law Alumni Association said of Tony Meer. That was 5 years ago. 5 days ago, as I wrote this part, Tony Meer had the best accolade he could get, as it was from an unexpected source, from someone who didn’t know him from Adam: Romulo Galicano, the #1 portrait painter in the Philippines today. Romulo was referring to one of the paintings of Tony Meer on display at the Shangri-La Plaza in the City of Mandaluyong, the one he refers to as Chesapeake (Tony does not title any of his paintings.) Romulo said it was the energy in that painting that caught his attention while he was passing by, and he told his companion he wanted to meet the painter. He said he was expecting someone who was about 40 years old. When finally painter and painter met, and Romulo was surprised to find Tony with wheelchair and white hair, already 85 years old. He was born 13 December 1923. Romulo was 63 himself, having been born 04 February 1945. ‘Romulo’s asking price for a portrait is now 3.5 million pesos,’ Tony told us during his 3 December 2008 art exhibit at Shangri-La. I noted that; I also noted that unsolicited praise is priceless.

He paid back the compliment. ‘I’m just an amateur. The best painter we have today is Romy Galicano.’ Romulo Galicano won the 2005 William F Draper Grand Prize at the 12-15 May annual conference of the Portrait Society of America in Washington DC. His 30”x40” oil on canvas portrait entitled ‘Eddie’ (Eddie Chua) won over 2,000 entries from all over the world (gov.ph/news). Romulo says, ‘Our role as artists is to paint what we wanted to be seen, not what we see’ (romulogalicano.info). That’s Romy Galicano. I think Tony Meer paints first what he wants to see, then what he wants us to see.

Why is Tony Meer painting now, at the twilight of his life? My first answer is that US painter Grandma Moses began to paint when she was already 76 years old, and she became world famous for her so-called primitive paintings, as they were painted with a simple and clear style and the theme was always rural life. ‘Grandma Moses invented a unique style that proved enormously popular, and its influence may be seen in art and illustration to this day’ (Galerie St Etienne, gseart.com). Here’s Tony developing a Meer style.

From what I have seen of the solo art exhibits of Tony Meer, he has been looking for his style, and I think he has found it; the Shangri-La pieces impress me as impressionistic. I don’t like details; I like to look at a painting as a whole, the sum of its parts, as one idea, one feeling, or one impact. I believe Tony Meer is now painting like a master. This time, excellence is not in the details.

What you see accompanying this essay is a self-portrait. But in fact, Tony Meer is painting not only for himself but for his own heroes – the soldiers.

On 21 September 2003, in the presence and with the wholehearted support of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Handog sa Sundalo (Gift to the Soldiers) Foundation was launched, a movement for the soldiers and their families. This was Tony’s first step in a journey of a thousand more miles.

Last year, Tony Meer told me, ‘Frank, you are a good writer. Please write about the soldiers. Nobody writes about the soldiers.’ Nobody writes about their heroism. And what has he done? He has been learning to paint in the manner of the masters and has so far mounted 3 art exhibits – I have attended 2 of those. The 3rd was 03 December this year, at the Artistree Gall at Shangri-La Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong City.

At the opening of his latest exhibit, already many of the paintings had been bought. ‘I’m donating all the proceeds to the Soldiers,’ he said, with a pregnant pause, ‘not to the Generals.’ I had a long, hard laugh at that. ‘Because the Generals can take care of themselves.’ Of course.

If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem. – Richard Bach

Love others anyway.

(10) Lover of Justice

He had been prophetic. At the time of reckoning, when he was with the Fighting 5th CIC Detachment of the Philippine Army assigned in Central Luzon, he recommended to the authorities that the Huks be recognized and backpaid for their guerrilla activities, never mind that they had Communist leanings, provided they surrendered their arms – but nobody was listening. And so the Huks (now reincarnated as the NPA, New People’s Army) have remained a rebellious force in their own country.

The NPA have, with their sympathizers, ‘obdurately persisted in continuing in their belief, unmindful of the proven failure of the idea they inherited from Russia, an idea that has disturbed the conscience of mankind,’ Tony tells us. History tells us Communism outlived its usefulness only 1 lousy generation after it started.

‘In these troubled times,’ he says, ‘our Government has reached out to our brothers, who have sadly failed to learn the lessons of history.’ Tony, all I can say is some people, old and young, are poor students.

If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim. – Richard Bach

Love justice anyway.

(11) Lover of Jesuits

‘I loved the Jesuit way of life,’ Tony Meer says. He was a Jesuit at heart, at first. Having spent his high school years at the Ateneo de Manila, he remembers quite fondly quite a few of the Jesuits in the faculty. Of Fr Walter Hogan, he says ‘the history of the Philippine Labor Movement will not be complete without recognizing his role in organizing responsible unions to protect the rights of the laboring class.’ Fr Pacifico Ortiz encouraged him to seek solace not only in the Church but also in the firmament of thought. Tony Meer has reflected that the atheist is ‘an incorrigible egoist, who arrogantly and stupidly believes that he exists, because he is there, and that he does not feel that a Superior Being caused him to be,’ and that that is ‘the height of conceit! A dastardly lie!’

Fr Fenton Fitzpatrick, his proctor and boxing coach, invited him to the cloister and regaled him with stories of ‘how beautiful the experience was’ when he became a Jesuit. He described how his own father knelt down and kissed his ring after his ordination. ‘I will never forget how thrilled I was,’ Tony Meer says, ‘and how I was filled with envy.’ Fr J Vincent de Paul O’Beine, confessor, convinced him to apply as a novice at the Jesuit Seminary in Novaliches. While his mother disapproved, he stubbornly went on. He passed the interview with Fr Anthony V Keane, Dean of Discipline. He passed the interview with Fr McCullough, Dean of Studies. Then came Fr Mudd, Student Counselor. ‘You, playboy? You want to be one of us?’ But the good Father could not reject this dutiful Son because he had all the qualifications. He advised him to enjoy his summer vacation in the fullest degree and then to come back to him. After that summer, that Boy went back to that Father and said, ‘Father, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’ The good Father said, ‘I am glad for you that you have arrived at that decision. I do not want you to end up as a bad Jesuit.’ Tony Meer did not become a bad Jesuit.

I want to be very close to someone I respect and admire and have somebody who feels the same way about me. – Richard Bach

Love your school anyway.

(12) Lover of Faith and Reason

‘My devotion and faith in God,’ Tony Meer says, ‘(ultimately results) in my self-imposed duty to remain steadfast as a Christian Soldier forever and ever until death crosses my path. Amen.’ Christian Soldier, Faith and Reason.

As a Roman Catholic, ‘I DECRY ABORTION,’ he says. ‘I AM PRO-LIFE. Murder is not my cup of tea.’ At the same time, the lawyer that he is, he argues that the Philippines is overpopulated at 90 million; he is concerned that the Roman Catholic Church is unconcerned about too many mouths to feed with so little food. He decries what he perceives is the Church’s sole stand being the rhythm method, which ‘is not successful in abating the dramatic population growth,’ which is not working against ‘accidental birthhood.’ He wants the Church to say something like, ‘Yes, we need to control the human population.’

With that position, Tony Meer is treading on holey ground, but he’s not afraid. ‘I have never backed out from a just cause,’ he says.

He has won many a battle for his country. He has faith that the Filipino youth will find reason to emulate him not in the sinning but in the winning.

Strong beliefs win strong men, and then makes them stronger. – Richard Bach

Love your faith anyway.

(13) Lover of Bruising

My final analysis is that Tony Meer has always loved a fight, probably as much as Manny Pacquiao loves the ring. His journey is his reward. I suspect they both love the fighting as well as the flag flying, delighting in the bruising as well as basking in the euphoria of victory. After ignominiously defeating Oscar de la Hoya in the ‘Dream Match’ last Sunday Manila, 7 December, Manny must have felt as if he were the heavyweight champion of the world; in those days, after every conquest, Tony must have felt as if he were the heavyweight champion of the world in love. I don’t see any difference.

Who are you?’ asks David Diaz, the one whom Manny Pacquiao knocked down last June. ‘You’re unbelievable! You’re too fast. Are you human?’ (Beth Celis, sports.inquirer.net). Where does Manny draw his strength? Same as Tony: from the heart. From the spirit, fighting spirit. ‘God’s blessing,’ says Beth. Which is a gift. Which is the heart.

Yes, Tony Meer is a true blue bantam as he is a true blue Atenean (high school). Our national hero, Jose Rizal, was a bantam and an Atenean too (high school). And both left the Ateneo to learn more of the outside world. The difference? Jose had girl friends; Tony had sweethearts.

He was a swimmer, footballer, boxer – and a champion in all. No wonder. His mother was athletic. She was Bowling Champion of the Philippine Columbian Club. She played basketball. It was the mother who taught his young boy to fight and, more importantly, to win. She would tell him, softly, ‘Go back and make sure you win the fight.’ And so, he now says, ‘No wonder that with my mother’s fighting courage, my ambition in life as a young boy was to be the Bantamweight Boxing Champion of the World.’ Conquering a boxer much bigger than he is, Manny ‘PacMan’ Pacquiao is now bigger than boxing; towering over the bullies of this world, Tony Meer is taller than himself.

And no,True love stories never have endings.’ – Richard Bach

Today, Tony Meer is fighting the best battle of his life: To fight for something bigger than himself while he can, to leave the world much better than he found it.

‘There is no problem so big it cannot be run away from.’
‘You’re quoting Snoopy the dog, I believe?’
‘I’ll quote the truth wherever I find it, thank you.’
– Richard Bach

He is not running away from anything anymore. He hopes you too will not. Now.

Love your bruising anyway! 

Popular posts from this blog

GABRIELA is scandalized by Asingan Bikini Open

"O Naraniag A Bulan." How an old folk song can help choose new Senators!

What Federalism? Precisely, That Is The Question!