Reuben, Robert, and Death

Reuben, Robert, and Death

Amidst the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic, to some death “comes like a thief in the night.” Photo shows vials of the Covid-19 vaccine which would hopefully protect people from the deadly virus. (Photo: Maharlika TV)

And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?

— British historian Thomas Babington Macaulay

I WASN’T aware until I read in the news that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Department of Energy (DoE) had manifested grief over the passing of former PCG commander and Philippine National Oil Corporation (PNOC) chair and CEO Vice Admiral Reuben Lista early Tuesday. He was 74.

I never really knew the good admiral, except on occasions when I met him at their favorite watering hole in Malate, Manila known as Café de Malate (CDM), owned by the not-so-real-friend and Filipino version of Hugh Hefner, Bobby Velasco.

On the chances I met with Admiral Lista, they were just mere greeting of saying “hi” and “hello,” but the truth of the matter is that I saw the former PCG commander a wee bit high-hat like some British diplomat who looked upon persons like me—who didn’t have the cash to enjoy the pleasures of Bobby’s CDM—as pushovers and ‘have nots’. At one time, I mistook calling him ‘commodore’ and he retorted with a sharp look in the eye, saying he was an admiral and not an officer lower in rank.

I’m sorry to talk about the admiral this way but I stand by my words as what I narrate are true experiences when I used to visit Bobby Velasco’s place with some of my better friends like Geo, Jerry, Joey, Percy, and many others, including former Manila vice mayor Danny Lacuna.

In any event, I respect PCG commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr.’s remark that Adm. Lista would always be remembered for his leadership in the Philippine maritime industry, particularly his dedicated public service as a former Coast Guard chief who rose from the ranks.

Still, let me end with a quotation from the celebrated Chinese philosopher Xun Kuang: “The petty man is eager to make boasts, yet desires that others should believe in him. He enthusiastically engages in deception, yet wants others to have affection for him. He conducts himself like an animal, yet wants others to think well of him.”

THERE’S always a feeling of nostalgia when I talk about friends passing away. In truth, death is something that sparks fear and apprehension, satisfaction and completion and most of all happiness tinged sadness.

This is how I feel hearing about the passing of former press undersecretary Robert ‘Bobby’ Capco. I never really got deeply acquainted with him but the several occasions we brushed elbows—during a number of Fridays at the National Press Club (NPC) known as Celebrity Night and when he was one of the ‘bosses’ of the Journal Group of Publications (or Philippine Journalists Incorporated, PJI)–I honestly feel I got to know him more than anyone as he at times got under my skin.

I remember his unarming smile, the sparkle in his eye when he cracked a joke or two and that indomitable attempt to please anyone he met.

I believe him when he said he was not one of those appointed by the government as part of management when PJI was still under sequestration that did any irregularity or anomaly. I believe he was guided then by his instincts as a true journalist would be part of those running the publishers of Times Journal, People’s Journal, People’s Barong Taliba, People’s Journal Tonight, and Women’s Journal.

So, in ending, let me bid my friend and colleague Bobby, au revoir—for we certainly will meet again in the afterlife and in another plane—I hope . . .

DEATH is the unconquerable foe that has taken over the likes of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Postulates or theorems by minds like Einstein or Stephen Hawking can never be proved upon this subject. So what does the Good Book say about it?

One of Jesus’ most significant miracles recorded in the Bible was the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead (John 11). There are other instances of people who had been raised from the dead, but unlike those mentioned before in the Bible, Lazarus had been dead for an entire period of four days.

When Lazarus died, Jesus said, “‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep” (John 11:11-13).

The Bible compares death to sleep more than fifty times. After death we are asleep, we are unconscious; we are not aware of the passing of time or of what is going on around us. That is what death is like as well. It says that “for the living knows that they will die; but the dead know nothing . . . their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished” (Ecclesiastes 9:5 and also Psalm 146:4; 115:17).

It makes sense that after Lazarus was raised from the dead, he doesn’t share what he saw or experienced. He didn’t have anything to tell, except that once he was dead, and now he is alive! He didn’t experience hell or heaven. He was simply ‘sleeping’ in his tomb. Peter on the Day of Pentecost said the same of King David. “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day . . . For David did not ascend into the heavens . . .” (Acts 2:29, 34).

In ending, let me quote the great English novelist George Eliot (whose real name is Mary Ann Evans): “Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.”


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