Chino Roces, the newspaper publisher and freedom fighter, confessed to some discomfort accepting awards, afraid of doing them injustice in the future: As long as a human lives, he would say, he’s capable of anything. He thought it safest, thus, to accept them posthumously.
In fact, he risked being accused of taking the eccentricity to inconsiderate lengths the last time an award came his way while he was still living. Actually, he was then terminally ill, a precise reason he was willing to face up to the discomfort. That it involved the highest honor a Philippine president can bestow could not have been of any consequence to him; and that it was Corazon Aquino bestowing it could only have caused both him and her a major unpleasantness—he was, after all, her first champion.
But most assuredly it wasn’t out of any weird frivolities that Chino snapped at the hand that had just hung the Philippine Legion of Honor on him. He was deadly serious. He had become anxious about the prospects for the nation so early in Cory’s term, and his terminal state only deepened that anxiety, such that he decided to expend his residual energy pulling himself out of deathbed to take one last stand—against what he saw as an emergent cronyism around Cory.
Very soon afterward, he was eminently dead, safely worthy of all honors yet to come.
Honor-bestowers, the more serious among them, in any case, could have felt the same discomfort bestowing as Chino did accepting. I did. In fact my remembrance of Chino falls precisely in this context—and a topical context, too: It involves Anthony Tiu.
I happened to be on the panel of judges who voted Tiu one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons for 2011, an award he has been flaunting to reinforce his claim to credibility, around which a big and ugly cloud has formed. And he was right, I mean right that the award was the sort given as much for achievement as for character and promise, an award for credibility, if you like.
Specifically, his was an award for a project that has shown to have rid the food chain, to a promising extent, of patrons, middlemen, and all sorts of fixers, thus guaranteeing a fairer price for every amount of conscientious labor that has gone into the production, delivery, and marketing of farm products and consequently a fairer price, too, for the food we eat.
I recall allowing myself to be impressed by the practical and business as well as the social sense of the project; but I also recall raising with my fellow judges my own fear, a general one, about such choices as we were then making being betrayed in the end, and saying further that, if that in fact happened, I might have to apologize publicly for the poor choice.
Anthony Tiu seems to have proved himself specifically that. The undertaking for which he received his TOYP award seems forgotten. His thing now is a hybrid species called “agri-tourism.” I haven’t any clue about it, but my guess is that it’s an animal merely conjured to suit a setting—a monstrous estate he says he has just acquired with a garden copied from the celebrated royal one of England as well as some ponds, some crops, and a piggery.
Allegedly, the property belongs to the vice president. Accused of dummying for him, Tiu has been appearing, on summons, at a Senate inquiry—appearing in fact smug and defiant, declaring he needs no one to dummy for, being wealthy on his own; he pooh-poohs the continuous, sharp plunge of his company’s share price on the exchange, as if he didn’t care, as if he could well afford to be a stupid businessman (by his own brag, he has become a multimillionaire since I last saw him, at the awards, three years ago).
But the more he opens his mouth, the more he is caught in it; the more he tries to sound and look smart, the more he’s shown to be mistaken or to have actually misrepresented himself.
He affects to unravel sometimes. At a press conference he has arranged for himself, he drops tears for his children, who, he says, have been dragged along unnecessarily in his persecution. The all-too-sudden sea change of emotions gives him away, though.
Well, I can only say I’m sorry—for myself.