[OPINION] Teddy Regala: A diamond in the rough

Francis Lim
[OPINION] Teddy Regala: A diamond in the rough
This piece was delivered during ACCRALAW’s necrological services for the late Teodoro D. Regala, Sr., one of the 5 founding partners of the firm

The following piece was delivered during ACCRALAW’s necrological services for the late Teodoro D. Regala, Sr., one of the five founding partners of the firm.

It was around 8 pm last Friday, May 31, when I got a text message from Teddy’s wife, Carminda, which said in part: “We were not accepting visitors but tonight, but we will welcome close friends like you to say a prayer by his bedside.” As I was in Alabang having dinner, I asked Carminda what time the visiting period would end, and she replied, “You can come anytime.” 

Without any hesitation, I excused myself from dinner, and off I went to St. Luke’s Hospital in BGC. After dropping by the hospital’s chapel on the 5th floor to pray for Teddy and his family, I went up to room 1214. I stood by Teddy’s bedside for a few minutes, stunned; I could not start a prayer but eventually did. 

I initially planned on leaving immediately after saying my prayers, as we had to wake up early the next day for a 7 am flight out of Manila.  But something in me was telling me to stay a little longer. So I sat on a sofa beside Teddy’s bed. During this period, which lasted for an hour or so, I noticed inner peace in him, manifested in the glow on his face. I even told Carminda and their son Teddy Boy, “Ted looks good.” During the whole time I was watching Teddy, I was telling myself: “Here is a great but very private man.” I also thought about what ACCRALAW and the Corporate and Special Projects Department (CSPD) could have been without him. I even drifted into thinking how temporary we are here on earth and  contemplated on life in general.

I left the hospital shortly after 11 pm. I learned from his son, Teddy Boy, that Teddy died at 12:40 am that Saturday. Teddy Boy informed me that I was the last non-family visitor of Teddy before he passed away. For this, I profusely thank Teddy, Minda, and the whole family. I will cherish those moments all my life.

There’s a thousand and one things that people who truly know Teddy can say about him. Foreign Affairs Secretary and former ACCRA alumni Teddy Boy Locsin, Ave Cruz, Boy Lazatin, Ebot Tan, and Rico de Guzman had already spoken about some of them. I’m sure the remaining speakers will mention more. I will spare you the inconvenience as it might take the whole night. But I can’t help but mention a few.

Four-hour job interview

My first encounter with Teddy was the one-on-one job interview with him in 1980. The interview started lunch time in a Makati restaurant and lasted around 4 hours, of course under the heavy influence of beer. During the interview, Teddy asked me questions about the arts, movies, actors and actresses, music, etc. Being a probinsyano, I was not able to answer a number of his questions. Frustrated, he  asked me to name any field outside of law, and we would ask questions to each other about my chosen field.

Thinking that Teddy was a nerd who only knew about the esoteric and finer things in life, and not things commonly known to ordinary mortals and the less cultured like me, I chose Philippine basketball. I distinctly remember asking Teddy to name at least 5 members of the RP Youth team that captured the 1972 Asian Youth crown. (I was referring to the likes of Atoy Co, Philip Cesar, Rey Franco, Mike Bilbao, Joy Dionisio, and Ramon Fernandez.) As I’d anticipated, he could not answer them. At that point, he blurted out, “Goddamn it, what a stupid set of questions. You’re so cheap.”

Those were the first of the countless “goddamn its” and “stupids” I would receive from Teddy.  I shouted back at him, “What’s the problem with you? You asked me to name any field outside of law and that was what I precisely did.” In other words, nag-aaway na kami that early.

I don’t know what Teddy saw in me during the interview, but before we parted ways that day, he said, “Francis, you can start whenever you want after your bar exams.” That was how I got hired into ACCRALAW.

Cardinal puff

The second memory I have of Teddy was the cardinal puff, a drinking game which has become part of ACCRALAW’s cherished tradition. I recall it was held on the very day the bar results were released in 1981, thereby depriving us of celebrating the day with our family. There were only 5 new hires for ACCRALAW at that time –  Reggie Angangco of the Villaraza and Angangco Law Offices (V&A) and former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), TV commentator and now UP Professor Kat Legarda, UE class valedictorian Maricel Onate, UST valedictorian Mon Samson, and myself. 

The cardinal puff started at 3 pm. Being the managing partner at the time, Teddy ordered all lawyers to drop their work and proceed to the penthouse of our old building in Legaspi Village. Teddy personally presided over the cardinal puff, saying it was mano-mano between him and each of us. 

The day did not stop with the cardinal puff. We went on to the Mandarin Hotel for dinner and he made us play charades until 6 am of the following day. Of course, the people around us were wondering what we were doing, what with Teddy’s loud voice and expletives whenever we committed mistakes. Kaya kayong mga bata, don’t ever think that we didn’t undergo the cardinal puff that we make you undergo:  we went through it – in a far tougher and more humiliating manner.

Sports

Further down memory lane, who can ever forget the basketball games between the Blue and Red teams? At times when he disagreed with the referee’s call, Teddy asked the referee to execute an affidavit to support his call. 

Who can ever forget the anniversary games with Teddy, Joe Concepcion, Frank Drilon, the late Raul Roco, and Rene Cayetano, Boy Lazatin, and Rolly Vinluan in their prime? There was a time when there were no rules for the games; anything goes, so to speak. 

I distinctly recall one end of the rope in a tug-of-war game being tied to a coconut tree. It caused the team led by the late Senator Raul Roco to walk out of the games (former NAPOLCOM chief and ACCRALAW alumnus Ed Escueta, who is here, will deny this to death to this day). I remember answers being given to trivia questions even before they were asked (Mike Toledo, who is here with fellow ACCRA alumni Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea and DFA Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, may know who the culprit was). I recall the late former DOJ Undersecretary Al Llorente (who was one year my senior) tearfully resigning as head of the Sports Committee for having been unable to control Teddy, Raul Roco, and the other partners. But surprise, surprise for a young lawyer like me, all things automatically went back to normal the minute the awarding ceremonies were over. 

I soon realized that all these things were deliberately done – to prepare the ACCRA lawyers for the worst of times even as we were enjoying the best of times. The credit I give to our beloved Teddy who, without doubt, was the most unruly and uncontrollable among all the partners. Eventually, he said to me, “Francis, we have to make each and every ACCRA lawyer tough and strong  because ‘a chain is only as strong as its weakest link’.” That was Teddy.

Lastly, Teddy had a betting group in ACCRALAW, which Boy Lazatin described as Teddy’s “3 Stooges” or “3 Stupids”: Chito Vera Cruz, Rio Manibog, and myself. The group was sometimes joined by younger partners like Judy Hao, Lito Bautista, and Mel Velarde. We bet on almost anything under the sun: golf, tennis, NBA, election results, and at times the Oscars. We would argue over the formulation of the rules, and over lunches and during partners’ meetings, we would argue over what was agreed upon and the interpretation of our rules. As a result, upon advice of Ave Cruz, we resorted to having witnesses, a record keeper, and an arbiter. Mon Samson graciously did us the favor.

Invariably, I had side bets with Teddy on top of our group bets, and that’s how we endeared ourselves to each other. One time when Teddy saw my wife Edy after I’d beat him on a side bet in tennis, he said, “Edy, you must be giving tips to Francis.” I also remember, one Sunday, Teddy and I were arguing over the phone about a rule. Edy asked me how much was at stake. I replied P200. Edy retorted that we guys must have been nuts, unnecessarily stressing ourselves on a Sunday over P200.

But for us, money was not the issue; it was immaterial and irrelevant, as we litigators say. It was the bragging rights that mattered more. For Chito, Rio, and me, it gave us special joy to see Teddy being very much alive and back to his old, vibrant self.

Last year, Teddy told me that Tiger Woods was done and would never win another major in golf, namely, the PGA Tour, Masters, British Open, and the US Open. I openly disagreed with him; of course, this was deliberate on my part to bait him into a bet. Lo and behold: He eventually uttered one of his familiar phrases, “Wanna bet?” Being the  naughty me, I retorted, “Of course, I put my money where my mouth is.” What followed were protracted and stressful negotiations. The result was that I bet with Teddy that Tiger would win a major within two years from the 2018 Masters. Guess how much we bet after these stressful negotiations? A measly P500.

As the golf aficionados here know, it took only one year for Tiger Woods to win the Masters. Ted, let me remind you that I still have a receivable from you. I won’t collect it from your estate, though. I want you to pay it personally to me. But unlike in the past when you would go to my room to pay me, you can take as much time as you wish. Please don’t show up to me to pay. Do me that favor, Teddy please!  If you can’t wait to pay, I authorize Chito and Rio to receive it on my behalf.

As some of us here may know, the French Open for tennis and the NBA basketball championship are ongoing. For the first time in many years, we lost interest in betting because of Teddy’s absence, as Judy Hao had correctly observed. Now, Ted, your 3 Stooges have the final say. Goddamn it, Regala, why did you leave us in the midst of the NBA championship and the French Open? You stupid, you could have won a lot of money from your 3 Stooges!”  

On a more serious note, though, our loss of interest just demonstrates the kind of influence that Teddy had on our lives. But don’t worry Ted, we will resume the betting soon in your memory; more importantly, we will not lose interest in making ACCRALAW a stronger and better firm, because we know this was your passion in life.

The real Teddy Regala

Teddy appeared rough on the surface, but was soft on the inside. He is a legend in ACCRALAW for his fairness, integrity and generosity, even offering his residence  as collateral to enable an ACCRA partner to buy his own house.

I’ve mentioned several times the countless swears and shouting matches that many of us in this room have experienced from Teddy. All of us can attest – before God and men – that Teddy uttered these words not out of disdain or hatred for us. On the contrary, they were terms of endearment as many of us have observed. These words did not reflect the true Teddy Regala that we all know.

In the fairly recent past, we, the ACCRA family, were witnesses to the fact that even as he was aging and his health was failing, Teddy generously spent his remaining days attending our anniversary games, Christmas parties, partners’ meetings, the weekly CSPD and monthly firm meetings, and despedida lunches or dinners for our resigning and retiring lawyers.  

Indeed, if there is an idiomatic expression “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” our Teddy was the exact opposite. If I may be allowed to create my own idiomatic expression, “Teddy is a shepherd in wolf’s clothing.” He patiently guided his flock in more ways than one. As the late Ed Angara had once said of him, Teddy was always ready and willing to share his knowledge and lend a helping hand. In the words of Joe Concepcion: He was a true and committed friend. No hesitation, no reservation, no ifs and buts. Using the combined description of Rolly Vinluan and Boy Lazatin:  Behind the bluster, belligerent, competitive, and combative Teddy Regala was a truly caring, kind-hearted, and compassionate man. 

In a nutshell, this man we call Teodoro D. Regala, Sr., Teddy, Ted or simply “TDR” was truly a diamond in the rough.

Ted, rest in peace as you so richly deserve. We are comforted by the thought that you will continue to watch over us, as you have so generously done even long after you retired from ACCRALAW.

Till we meet again Teddy, hopefully and prayerfully, not sooner but a lot later. – Rappler.com

Francis Lim is a Senior Partner of ACCRALAW and the incumbent president of the Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines.

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