The Manila Times
SEN. EDGARDO J. ANGARA
POINTERS FROM THE STATESMAN AND INTELLECTUAL
“TO BUILD INSTITUTIONS, YOU DON’T KNOCK DOWN FOUNDATIONS STARTED BY OTHERS. YOU BUILD ON THESE FOUNDATIONS IF THEY’RE GOOD.”
As he comes to the end of a remarkable 24 years in the Philippine Senate, the Honorable Edgardo Javier Angara finds himself in high spirits. One can actually liken him to a college kid who is ecstatic at the beginning of a basketball season, certain his team will finally win the elusive championship.
“I can feel it in the air—that vibrancy. The Philippines is definitely ready to take off,” exclaimed the 78-year-old solon.
For a man who has practically devoted his entire life to public service, it is both moving and inspiring to see that his love for country and faith in the Filipino passionately endures—even after four long decades in the often stormy political arena.
“We are literally at a crossroads now for economic and social development,” continued the patriot. “The momentum for growth is present, and it is really up to the leadership of this country to keep that momentum going.”
While The Sunday Times Magazine originally sought to celebrate the pending legacy of Edgardo J. Angara in this cover story—the graduating senator who is famously touted as the only statesman of this generation to have authored and implemented the most far-ranging reforms ( BizNews Asia)— what transpired during the interview was a timely series of pointers that every candidate in the upcoming elections would be fortunate to read and hopefully emulate.
Truly a public servant to his very core, the man whom another great senator, the late Honorable Blas Ople, declared as “a national living treasure” admirably takes every possible opportunity to help steer the country in the proper direction.
Angara continues to do so even when he deserves to take the limelight at this pinnacle of his storied political career, and take pride in the gratitude of countless Filipinos who have been given the right to education, healthcare and dignity in old age through his pivotal body of work.
Sense of service
The best starting point for a successful and meaningful career in government is to nurture a strong sense of service. For Sen. Angara, his earliest childhood recollection as the son of a town mayor—who also happened to be a practitioner along with his wife—was to wake up to crowds of people in the family’s living room and yard, all in need of help.
“My parents were both nurses and dentists,” related the sixth of a brood of ten children. “Since they were the first health professionals in Baler, they became the town’s doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists all combined into one.”
Instead of resenting the unusual set up of their home, the young Angara chose to embrace his parents’ chosen way of life, which was to serve as many men, women and children as they can in their beloved province.
“That was where all of us [his siblings] got a strong sense of service to people, so that all of us took up service-oriented professions. Three of my sisters had their first jobs in the field of social work, [another] three in health, and two—my sister Bella and I—went into law.”
Besides an altruistic attitude, another compelling ingredient in becoming an outstanding statesman is a genuine desire to be one.
“It was almost a precocious thought that from day one, I always knew I wanted to go into public service and be a leader of men. I don’t know how I got that notion so early on, but that’s also why I was obsessed with just one profession—law,” said one of the foremost Filipino luminaries of the field.
“Growing up, I had read and heard over and over that the great leaders of our country were great lawyers, so I also wanted to be one. I knew my path and I didn’t deviate at all from that direction.”
Angara, who secured his Bachelor of Laws at the University of the Philippines (UP) and Master of Law from the University of Michigan in the United States, eventually went on to become president of the Philippine Bar Association (1975), as well as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (1979). He would also become a founder of the ACCRA Law Offices (1972), which continues to be one of the top legal firms in the country today.
It was in 1971 that the young and brilliant lawyer finally felt he was equipped to go into elective service. By then, he had also gained valuable experience working for the revered Ponce-Enrile Siguion-Reyna Montecillo & Belo Law Offices.
“My first attempt at elective office came in the Constitutional Convention of 1971,” recalled Angara. “I was pretty young then, and I represented the first district of Quezon, which is one of the biggest provinces of Luzon. It is the about three-fourths the length of the island, and I represented half of that.”
An idealistic 36-year-old at the time, he confessed to The Sunday Times Magazine that he was turned off by his baptism of fire during the elections when he came across people who asked him for money.
“That was the source of my unhappiness; parang nawala yung idealism ko [my idealism waned],” he recalled. “I thought to myself, why are they doing this when the position of Con-Con delegate is non-salaried, non-patronage and supposedly non-partisan? So I said to myself at the end of my stint, ‘I’m going to be a good lawyer and still continue to serve,’ and that was when I organized ACCRA.”
As his career flourished in the field of law, more and more sectors of society took notice of Angara’s exceptional intellect and undeniable potential as a leader.
“I think [it was because of] my having acquired prominence as president of the