Eulogy for Manoling de Leon by Randy David

15 August 2015

This morning, we sum up, applaud, and celebrate the life of a remarkable man, even as we sadly bid him goodbye.

Manoling had many friends everywhere. I met him rather late in his life, maybe only about 4 years ago. One of his lifelong friends, the late Minyong Ordoñez, a fellow writer in the Inquirer, introduced us. We met for lunch at a small café inside the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City, and talked about nearly everything until late afternoon. They were like dolphins that frolicked in deep waters, occasionally surfacing only to catch their breath.

These two gentlemen never ran out of topics to discuss. They were amazingly well read, witty, and well informed. It was a delight to meet people like them who saw the world in a different way. They presented themselves as retired marketing gurus, but it didn’t take long for me to see that they were really philosophers in the Socratic tradition who were in quest of truth and reason.

They seemed to have all the time to think, to question, and ponder the problems of the world, play with words, and compare perceptions with someone who drew most of his ideas from books rather than, as in their case, from life itself. Their intellectual curiosity was relentless, yet they carried this lightly and with a dash of irony. Later, they brought into our lunch encounters a third guru – JJ Calero, who appeared in better physical shape than the two. At one of our gatherings, the two looked really frail. Minyong, a motorcycle rider like myself, came to lunch on a wheelchair, while Manoling lugged a little trolley that contained his portable oxygen supply.

Minyong has since gone ahead. Now, Manoling has joined him, no doubt to resume their conversations up there. They will have to do without me for a while, as I think, being younger, I still have some unfinished business down here. But, to be honest, we all know that age has nothing to do with being able to live a meaningful life, or running out of time.

Looking back, I think this is precisely what Manoling managed to teach me in the brief time that we talked, e-mailed, and texted one another — That what is necessary in life is that a person be able to find his or her purpose on earth at the soonest possible time – because, for one who has found meaning in life, the time left is really irrelevant. And, for one who has found the secret to a purposeful life, as I think Manoling and Minyong have, death can hold no enduring terror.

It then becomes conceivable not only to live well, but also to die well. “To die well,” the poet Christian Wiman wrote in his book, My Bright Abyss, “is to accept not only our own terror and sadness but the terrible holes we leave in the lives of others…. To die well is to believe that there is some way of dying into life rather than simply away from it, some form of survival that love makes possible.”

I have no doubt whatsoever that this is what Manoling’s boundless love has done for all of us — for his dearest wife Chatina, for his children Dino, Carlo, Leah, and Guada, and their families, for his lovely grandchildren on whom he doted, and for his countless friends whose lives he touched –- that he managed to deposit in each of our hearts that spark of generosity that lit Manoling’s own life until the end.

Goodbye, dear friend, and thank you.

Randy David