(PART 1 of 2)
“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” – Forest E. Witcraft
This kind of a column is very rare and unique as it is written to pay respects to somebody who will never read it. However, who knows that in the spiritual world where he is now, there might be that mysterious chance or miraculous e-mail, where this article is transmitted from earth to high heavens.
Nevertheless, I am writing this personal tribute to my dear Compadre, Benjamin “Ben” G. Maynigo, to express my deep love and respect for him and his family that he left behind.
Last Friday, Dec. 23, my compadre would have been 70 years exactly, but in God’s timetable, he passed away 20 days short. But short as it was, I believe he lived a full life with no regrets, as he always did his best to improve the world that he found it.
Ben’s growing up years was quite parallel with this writer — in a rural town in Pangasinan. I was born in Manaoag, Pangasinan while Ben was born in Rosales, Pangasinan, a town made famous in the literary world by another Ilocano writer-novelist, F. Sionil Jose, who authored the “Rosales Saga” novels. Coincidentally, Ben passed away on Dec. 3 while his kailian, Manong Frank Sionil Jose was celebrating his 92nd birthday on the same day!
I first met Pareng Ben in one of the early conferences of Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce (APACC) which he founded in the mid-80s, and he invited me to serve as a director from Los Angeles region. I found him to be a dreamer and a visionary who lived outside the box often. Through APACC, I meet many non-Filipinos, especially some minority groups that I still vividly remember like Fred Lane, descendant of a Native American Lummi chief from the Seattle area, Tom Holmes, an African-American leader in Los Angeles, and also pioneers in Filipino-American politics like David M. Valderrama who was the first Fil-Am delegate to the State Legislature of Maryland (his “seat” was also occupied by one of his daughters, Kris, decades later).
In the summer of 1987, as president of the PICPA-Southern California, I invited Ben as one of the speakers to our National Council of Filipino American CPAs convention which I chaired at the Disneyland Hotel, and he instantly had many friends and fans from our CPA organization. As the founder of APACC and a successful lawyer, Ben wowed the non-legal audience of predominantly CPAs and their friends expounding about the many benefits of going outside the Fil-Am community as he did in APACC.
I still cannot forget that this convention was one of the more successful ones, as our speakers were not just from the accounting profession, but also interesting and inspiring speakers like Ben and my long-time friend, Tritia Toyota, one of the pioneers of Asian American TV personalities in Los Angeles, who also co-founded our Asian American Journalist Association. Because of our non-CPA speakers, I still remember very well that the session after lunch was “cancelled” because of Ben speaking before lunch and Tritia delivering the luncheon keynote speech, and most of the delegates “refused” to go back to the seminar workshop to have more time for dialogue with these two VIP speakers and pictures with them (there were no iPhones and selfies then!). Looking back, that was my “fault” for inviting non-CPA speakers but at the same time, I was also happy about it.
In the political arena, he was also quite involved and also indirectly affected by the Martial Law regime of Marcos, as he was married to Tina Manglapus, the only daughter of the late Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul Manglapus. As the former Senator Manglapus was already in the U.S. as an exile, Pareng Ben and his family were forced to escape the Philippines through the backdoor from Mindanao to Sabah, Malaysia and eventually to the United States. Thereafter, the Movement for Free Philippines (MFP — could also mean Manglapus For President) was organized and had national following from many Fil-Ams. This political factor gave another reason for Ben and me to have more discussions as I also attended MFP meetings in Southern California when Senator Manglapus and/or Ben were visiting from the Washington D.C. area.
When Marcos fled the Philippines and was brought to Hawaii, and Cory Aquino became president, Raul Manglapus was again appointed as Secretary of Foreign Affairs while Ben refocused his AI-centered business and other interests that forced him to have an office in Manila where he stayed half of the time as his family did not leave their Virginia residence as they did not desire to settle down in the Philippines.
(To be continued next week)