Remembrance, Remonstrance



A remembrance of things past,

a remonstrance of things present:

a remarkable life.

Happy Birthday! Antonio Meer y Malvar, 13 December 1923. You don’t know me, but never mind; already, I feel I know you from head to foot, from hand to heart. You see, I just finished reading your book. I see, you are worth more than your weight in gold. This is my little way of saying, ‘Thank you for living, loving and speaking for our country.’

On the 8th of December 2006, my old-gold friend Dr Tony Oposa obtained for me a copy of the memoirs of the extraordinary life of his exceptional friend Atty Antonio Malvar Meer, A Lawyer’s Fate & Faith (2003, self-published), a square book (roughly 9×9 inches), all 499 pages of it full-flavored with the life of the author and his beloved country. I didn’t see the author use my favorite word creative but this book tells me his mind is as his life shows us. Published with first-class book paper, it’s about 2 inches thick, and as heavy as a laptop computer, a device with which the author used to write his valedictory. Thoughts recalled in floods; words keyboarded, recorded, reviewed, selected, saved – now savored.

Above image I borrow from Joorro who captions it ‘Gray, My Last Work’ ( Last work? I wouldn’t mind; lasting work? I would mind. Gray, Joorro says, but there is light emanating from or through the objects, signifying to me enlightenment. Gray matter, signifying age, signifying wisdom. Don’t underestimate gray matter.

Egged on by his daughter Mardes to write it, author Tony Meer’s book is probably his last noble work, but it will not be his last thoughts. And I know it is gray matter.

In another sense, you can look at the legacy of Tony Meer, he of many-splendored deeds, he who is 83 today (as I revise this), the 13th of December, as gray as you like it, because at his prime, he was his country’s (the Philippines’) lawyer’s lawyer (in the words of Rolando P de la Cuesta, President of the Philippine Bar Association, in the ‘Foreword’ of Tony Meer’s autobiography), and with brilliance and as a knight in shining armor he defended the rich, who could afford the best – but he never defended the poor, who couldn’t even afford the worst. Not fair, you might say.

Ah, but he wasn’t Superman and able to do everything. In any case, during World War II, he was a warrior and a hero – a soldier, a guerrilla, a good son, a good friend, a good & brave leader & follower. He was a man for every man, and continues to be.

I shall now give you some excerpts from his exuberant autobiography:

The seers and soothsayers say that ‘thirteen’ is an unlucky number. … It marked that day, down to the last minute, when I was born to my loving parents. How lucky can I be? (page 5)

When General (Emilio) Aguinaldo, the first President of our Republic and concurrent Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces surrendered, General Miguel Malvar did not only assume command of the Army, but also by legal and natural right of succession, became the second President of the Republic of the Philippines. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has suggested that Congress enact a resolution correcting this historical omission. (6)

Miguel Malvar was Tony Meer’s grandfather. I hope GMA will be Malvar’s savior – and ours.

In an Ateneo homecoming, Father Horacio de la Costa told one alumnus (Tony Meer) bluntly:

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 service to our 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! (36)

Tony Meer says Fr Horacio ‘exemplified the best in a Filipino’ (37). And then Tony Meer went on to follow Fr Horacio’s advice anyway.

He did not come from a poor family. But when World War II came, he said:

(War was not) a luxury I could afford. (47)

He risked his love and his life and his family. The days turned to weeks, to months, to years – danger and daring. His heroism in World War II is the stuff of legends. He led a charmed life, a man of destiny, although he did not realize it then. Once, he survived a bullet that pierced the front of his helmet and exited at the back of the helmet – by all laws of physics, he should have died on the spot, his gray matter splattered. Not a scratch.

In the battle for Manila, at the Department of Finance where he had just said goodbye to his father who was Collector of Internal Revenue, Japanese planes targeted the building.

As we cowered in fear all lying flat on the floor, I suddenly heard somebody calmly praying to God in a clear and resonant voice. I saw an American Jesuit priest standing up, calmly reciting the Our Father and Hail Mary, holding on to his rosary … We followed his prayers in unison as peace and calm resided in our hearts. The danger ceased to have any meaning at all. We were resigned to the inevitability of our fate. Only God decides whether we live or die. How can you be afraid? (59)

After Independence Day, 4 July 1946, he said goodbye to his comrades in the 606 CIC Detachment of the 1st Cavalry Division, US Army and resumed his duties as an officer of the Philippine Army. From $433 a month, he now got P433. What did he do or say?

As a Filipino, I accepted the difference in pay without any hesitation, rancor or recrimination. Our devotion and love for our country has no price tag or conditionality. (95)

Don’t tell me that they don’t make men like that anymore.

Tony Meer’s charmed life extended to lawyering, and he became one of the very best in the country. In fact, it was a family affair to be:

I must say in all fairness that the success of Meer, Meer and Meer was not an accident. We took in more than three partners to make it one of the most respected law offices in town, bar none. (139)

About his country today, these are from the fertile mind of Tony Meer:

As a fledgling country exposed to the vagaries of a changing world, we face a tremendous challenge engendered by the need to change ourselves from the purely agricultural economy of a vassal colony, in order to industrialize and join the world market competition in the family of independent nations. (175)

We are proud that on an industry-to-industry basis, we contributed to the orderly development of the industries within Philippine jurisdiction. It is a chance in a lifetime that I cherish and remember. So will the industries, which we have served to the glory and honor of the Philippines and the upliftment of its economy. (179)

Is justice the answer to our problems?

Man-made justice is not the answer, and it will never be. No man is infallible, and no man is free from the foibles and weaknesses innate in the nature of man. (205)

Peace is the answer:

Man can live in peace with his neighbors. In fact, he must live as one; otherwise, Man will continue to be his worst enemy. (263)

‘I rest my case,’ he says. I say he can very well rest on his laurels. What will the rest of us, what will history say of Tony Meer?

History is on my side. Each one to his own way, but I choose to be free and live in an atmosphere of freedom although in my own country, I accept that freedom has been abused and regarded to be a license which it is not. I also criticize. I will die for my right to say my piece even when others overwhelmingly deny the validity of my ideas. The opposite is also true. I give them all the freedom to disagree with me. That is the soul and spirit of my entire life. (275-276)

Spent that way, such a life is not gray; I see it as red, white, blue & yellow; and I see 3 stars shining. And I’m glad.

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Explore posts in the same categories: A Lawyer's Fate & Faith, a man for every man, Ateneo, autobiography, Dr Tony Oposa, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, God, guerrilla, Hail Mary, heroes, Horacio de la Costa, Japanese soldiers, lawyer's lawyer, man's worst enemy, Our Father, remembrance, remonstrance, Rolando de la Cuesta, soldier, Tony Meer, World War II

One Comment on “Remembrance, Remonstrance”

  1. […] Through Tony O, I had met him and I had read his book and had been sufficiently awed (see my ‘Remembrance, Remonstrance,’ […]

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