Gratitude Beyond Words

Response of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the musicale “Ageless Passion” which was sponsored by his family to celebrate his 75th birthday held on December 20, 2011 at the Meralco Theater, Pasig City.

May I request my wife Leni and the rest of my family, Len and Alex Yaptangco, Celine and Patrick Hannett, Noy and Tet Manalac, to join us on the stage.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I begin, may I request all of you to rise for a moment of silent prayer for the victims of the floods that ravaged Mindanao and for the eternal repose of the soul of Carolina Lapus Gozon who joined our Creator last night. She is the mother of my close friend and companero, Henry Gozon. Maraming salamat po.

In solidarity with the victims of the Mindanao floods, I would like to donate P100,000 to them through the Kapuso Foundation of the GMA Network. May I request Philip Yalong of the Kapuso Foundation to receive our check from my six granddaughters Patricia, Katrina, Victoria and Alexandra Hannett and Andrea and Nicole Manalac… Thank you Philip.

Your Excellency, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay; Your Excellency, Archbishop Luis Antonio C. Tagle; Your Excellencies, former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; Your Excellencies of the diplomatic corps; Your Honors, the members of the Cabinet, Congress, Supreme Court and the other courts, incumbent and retired; the honorable heads of the various constitutional commissions like the Ombudsman and the Commission of Elections, esteemed leaders of the business community, other distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen.

After such a gorgeous and uplifting musicale that soared beyond my expectation, what can I really say? How can I express my gratitude and appreciation? Certainly, mere words and platitudes cannot adequately explain what flows in my heart, in my consciousness and in my deepest soul. Inadequate as it may be, let me nonetheless say my little piece.

The People Behind Ageless Passion

At the outset, let me acknowledge the wonderful people who created this “Ageless Passion.” First, let me say thank you to my family, my children and my 10 grandchildren, the joy of my old age, and most especially to my wife of 50 years, Leni who inspired, labored and made possible this stupendous musical miracle.

Then, permit me to say “Thank you” to our producer, Donna May Lina Flavier and her staff at Ube Media for their dogged perseverance in putting together the cast and attending to all the details of producing the entire show; to our experienced and talented director Bart Guingona, for training, teaching and directing the musicale from its inception to its end; to Ryan Cayabyab for magically creating the seven original compositions of this musicale; with lyrics written by Jeff Agustin who used to work as a creative artist in my Chambers as Chief Justice and who is now on a scholarship finishing his Masters of Arts in Visual Culture at the University of Westminster, but who traveled from the United Kingdom to be with us tonight; to Jeffrey Solares for arranging the Cayabyab creations into masterpieces of the Manila Symphony Orchestra; to Maestro Arturo Molina, for flawlessly conducting the MSO; to talented Cris Villonco and the rest of the cast; to the ever reliable Supreme Court Choir and Asean Law Association Choir for their super choral presentations; to our eldest grandson Miguel Panganiban Sandejas, our narrator; to our granddaughters Patricia, Katrina, Victoria and Alexandra Hannett who three days ago flew in from their home in Greenwich, Connecticut; to our two Manalac granddaughters, Andrea and Nicole who together with our grandson Rafa Yaptangco displayed their dancing and acting prowess; to our only son Dr. Jose Artemio C. Panganiban III, Ph.D, for his passionate rendition of Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 2; Archie is a banker by profession, a director at the Citigroup in New York, and a pianist by avocation and inclination; to our youngest daughter Mabel Panganiban-Reagan, for flying from her home in New York City to deliver the Welcome Remarks that included the greeting of her two sons, Joey and Matt Reagan.

My eternal gratitude goes to His Excellency, Most Reverend Luis Antonio G. Tagle, the newly installed Archbishop of Manila, for his touching Invocation and Blessing. Salamat po at pinagbigyan ninyo ang aking kahilingan na isaawit ninyo ang inyong panalangin.

Apart from the direct program participants, my expression of gratitude would not be complete without mentioning Impresario and Businessman Eddie Yap for convincing Ryan Cayabyab to compose the seven original musicale pieces tonight which I dare say are of the same quality as the Broadway stand-outs “Sound of Music” and “Phantom of the Opera;” to my wedding inaanak Bert and Sylvia Lina, the sponsors and major funders of the Manila Symphony Orchestra.

Kapuso Network and Inquirer

May I say Maraming, Maraming Salamat Po to my dear friend Henry Gozon and the GMA Network for the comprehensive TV coverage of our musicale, which will be aired as a special telecast soon. Abangan po natin ang pagtatanghal nito sa paborito nating Kapuso Network, Channels 7 and 11.

May I also take this grand opportunity to say “Thank You” to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, to Marixi and Alex Prieto and to JV Rufino for publishing a brand new book in my honor, which just came off the press yesterday, titled “With Due Respect.” In between his graduate studies in Harvard, John Nery – my fellow columnist – synthesized the ideas and words in my weekly Inquirer columns during the last four years, 2007 to 2010, to produce a new tome; it is like sewing the threads of various ideas to create a new original tapestry, or like putting together fabrics of various hues to produce a fabulous new evening dress. The book will be formally launched soon.

I say Maraming Salamat Po to the San Beda Law Alumni Association chaired by de campanilla lawyer and music lover, Ave Cruz of the famous ACCRA Law Office, for building a new Moot Court in San Beda College and naming it in my honor.

I also say Maraming Salamat Po to the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc. (PDRCI) for naming its new arbitration center, the first and only one in the country, as the Chief Justice Panganiban Arbitration Center. The project was made possible by Bert and Sylvia Lina who donated the funds for the interiors, furnishings and equipment of the Center, located adjacent to the new headquarters of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry at McKinley Hill in Fort Bonifacio.

Actually, I feel a little awkward that these wonderful projects, which were completed for my 75th birthday, are being named after me, a living person. But what can I really do, except to humbly say Maraming Salamat Po for the undeserved honor.

In gratitude for these outpouring of generosity, may I now meekly respond with my little donations to two worthy causes. First, as you may have noticed, I was a newsboy during my elementary and high school days. I was deeply touched when, upon learning I was among the topnotchers in the 1960 bar examinations, the newspaper dealer – from whom I got the papers I peddled – threw a party 50 years ago, for the newsboys of Cataluna Street, Sampaloc, Manila. To help educate my fellow newspaper hawkers, I would like to donate my one-year income as a columnist, to the Inquirer Newsboys Foundation.

When I mentioned my intended donation to Inquirer President Sandy Prieto-Romualdez, she was so moved that she immediately offered to double the amount, so twice the number of newsboys would get the opportunity to study and perhaps have a chance to be chief justice 50 years from now. Maraming Salamat Sandy.

Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity
May I also tell you of the incorporation of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity two months ago. Among those joining me in the board of trustees of this endeavor are retired Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr.; Business Legend Washington Sycip; and former Secretary of Education, former FEU President and current AIM President Edilberto C. de Jesus. The Foundation will seek to perpetuate and implement my core legal philosophy of “liberty and prosperity under the rule of law.”

I believe that the judiciary and the legal profession must not only safeguard the political liberty of our people but must also nurture their prosperity and economic well-being; I believe that justice and jobs, freedom and food, democracy and development, peace and progress, ethics and economics; nay, liberty and prosperity must go hand in hand, and that one is useless without the other.

The Foundation hopes to achieve its goals through various governance and educational endeavors, like the setting up of professorial chairs, scholarships, legal research, and new school curricula, the sponsorships of seminars in law schools, bar associations, civic circles, media groups and business organizations, and the establishment of a Center for Liberty and Prosperity.

To kick-off the fund raising, I am donating to the foundation, half of the entire retirement pay I received from the Supreme Court, in the sum of five million pesos. I am happy to note that some friends in the business community immediately saw merit in our endeavor and opened their generous hearts to support our Foundation.

To set the record straight and in answer to some queries, today is not the exact date of my birthday. My birthday was on December 7. However, today is the exact birth date of Chief Justice Davide. On December 20, 2005, he turned 70 and retired from the judiciary. I succeeded him on the following day as head of the judicial branch of our government. Happy birthday, Chief Justice Davide.

New Tires for a New Journey

Finally, may I say that after I retired from the Supreme Court, I thought that my professional career was over, and that I would spend the rest of my life pursuing my APOStolate, that is, caring for and tending our 10 wonderful grand children. Little did I know that retirement really meant a change of tires for new journey, a journey into the business community as independent director or adviser of some the finest and largest listed corporations in the country, including PLDT, Meralco, Petron, Metrobank, First Holdings, GMA7 Network, BPI, Jollibee, Metro Pacific Investment, Metro Pacific Tollways, Robinsons Land and Asian Terminals.

This new journey breathed new meaning and purpose into my seventies and impelled me to study, analyze and reflect on the challenges of new technologies, economics, businesses and biosciences. In the process, I had to renew my own skills and outlook, and to learn new knowledge like a freshman student again. I say Maraming Salamat Po to all the generous business leaders, who invited me to join their organizations. I met many of them for the first time after I had retired from the judiciary,

And so, I close this response with a reiteration of my gratitude to all of you in the audience. But I reserve my greatest thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ who guided me – like the farmer in our story and, yes, like all of us – throughout all the good news and bad news of my unworthy life on earth. To God be the glory. Merry Christmas to all of you. May our Lord Jesus bless you and keep you, now and throughout the New Year. Cheers and Mabuhay!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have said Maraming Salamat Po to everyone who made this program possible. But I would like to express my final thanks and appreciation to President Benigno Aquino III who was scheduled to be with us today but who had to fly on an emergency, on the call of a much higher state duty to flood-ravaged Mindanao.

However, ladies and gentlemen, we have in our midst an esteemed friend, who is consistently acclaimed by several national surveys as the most trusted public official of our country and whom I have requested to say a few words before we finally end this celebration.

Distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen, may I ask all of you to rise as I present the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, His Excellency, Jejomar C. Binay.

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