Toast delivered by retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN during the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Atty Avelino V. Cruz and Mrs Helen Cruz on May 22, 2015 held at the San Beda College, Mendiola, Manila
Friends, Bedans and Countrymen, please lend me your ears. Pardon me for not greeting individually the many important guests, including Senate President Franklin M. Drilon. Sad to say he is not a Bedan. He finished his law course only from the second best law school in the country, and not from San Beda. But he and his lovely wife Mila are already included in my greeting of “Friends.”
With that clarification, let me say that I have always wanted to be a Bedan since I was enrolled over 60 years ago at the Mapa High School, which is housed in a tiny building opposite San Beda here in Mendiola. Papunta na po ako sa San Beda buhat sa aming maliit na apartment sa Cataluna Street sa Sampaloc, Maynila. Kaya lang nadapa po ako nuong nasa tapat ako ng Far Eastern University. Inakay po ako ni Dean Jovito R. Salonga ng FEU Institute of Law, kaya nga sa FEU na lang ako nagtapos ng abogasya.
But my dream of being a Bedan was fulfilled when I was Chief Justice and was invited as the guest speaker during the reunion of the San Beda Law Alumni Association, where Ave proclaimed me their honorary member. So, I became an “import” Chief Justice alumnus. My dream now for San Beda is to have its own “native” and home grown Chief Justice. You see, San Beda is the producer of several bar topnotchers, from the current one, to the youngest, to the topnotcher with the highest grade in history, Justice Florenz Regalado. But it has never produced its own Chief Justice. Actually that is is fault of Ave, as I will explain later.
Levity aside, I have known Ave for over 50 years now. I have tracked his rise from being the youngest bar topnotcher in history at age 20, to obtaining his Master of Laws from the University of Michigan at age 24, to being general counsel of the Mobil Philippines at 28, to becoming a founding partner of the best law firm at the ACCRA Law Tower in Fort Bonifacio at the soft age of 31. He is one of only two Asean lawyers invited to membership in the American Law Institute, the other being Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon of Singapore.
Formidable may have been his accomplishments in the legal profession, but let me tell you he really did not want to be a lawyer. He wanted to be a music composer and master pianist like his father, until his sagacious mother ordered him to take up law. But he did not completely give up on music. He distinguished himself as a part time pianist and composer of the hymns of ACCRA, the San Beda College and the Asean Law Association, as well as of passionate love songs to win the reluctant heart of Helen Canave.
Ave could have been one of the youngest and longest-serving Chief Justices of our country had he accepted the offer of President Cory Aquino to join the Supreme Court in 1986. But he chose to stay with then Prime Minister Salvador Laurel as the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic. But that was short-lived because our 1987 Constitution instituted the presidential system of government and abolished the positions of prime minister and deputy prime minister.
Had Ave agreed to join the Supreme Court in 1986, he would have been ripe for the highest judicial post after Chief Justice Andres Narvasa retired in 1998. And there would have been no Chief Justices Hilario Davide Jr., Artemio V. Panganiban and Reynato S. Puno because he would have reigned until he reached 70 years on December 17, 2010 when all three of us would have retired.
In thanksgiving for giving me the chance to lead our judiciary, I campaigned robustly for him to become President of the Asean Law Association, which he attained last February. As ALA President, he now lords over six Asean Chief Justices who are his vice presidents.
But his greatest achievement is not in law, or in music, or in public service. Not even in ALA. In my humble opinion, his greatest achievement is convincing Helen to become his wife 50 years ago, and persuading her to repeat her sweet “Yes” annually during the last 50 years.
And corollarily, the greatest achievement of Helen is in being able to withstand Ave’s snoring at night, and in never having to say sorry for saying “yes” to him annually for the last 50 years. But greater than that greatest achievement is Helen’s mastery over Ave on the golf course where she always beats him to a point where a thoroughly-humiliated Ave now refuses to play with her and just contents himself golfing with incompetents like me and Ed Reyes, whom he gloriously beats… once in a while.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I ask you to rise and lift your glasses as we toast to a great and loving couple, Helen and Ave. May they have another 50 years of blessed togetherness. And may they celebrate tonight by adding a new member of the Cruz family who will greet the world nine months from now. Cheers!!!