Forty years and still vibrant!
That’s “The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service” (TOWNS)!
When TOWNS was first launched in 1974, the awardees were named “Ten Outstanding Women in the New Society,” reflecting the Martial Law regime’s credo. Soon enough, the awardees re-baptized it to “The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service.” Quipped Senator Jovito R. Salonga: “The name does not matter. You’re outstanding in any society!”
Nine of us received the towering TOWNS trophy in rites held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in 1974: Aida Davila, Medina Delmendo, Perla Dizon Santos Ocampo, Boots Anson Roa, Flerida Ruth P. Romero, Rosa Rosal, Leticia R. Shahani, Editha Tan and Mona D. Valisno.
For this Ruby Anniversary – 5 of us have shown up – 3 have gone to heaven and the fourth, Boots Anson Rodrigo, is well, in seventh heaven with her King. As you can see before you, while there may be snow on the rooftop, there is fire in the hearth – in keeping with the “fiery” theme of this auspicious occasion. I note that our organizers observed the “age before beauty” order in this program. Hence, I speak before the beauteous Rosa Rosal, a far cry from the “vampire” she is reputed to be.
As the original TOWNS awardees, we have been requested to share with our younger sisters how we have “reinvented” ourselves, if at all, in our retirement years.
In my case, whenever I bump into a friend whom I have not seen in ages, her greeting to me is, “ What are you doing with yourself these days?” – the same question some of you have been asking me this afternoon.
Much as I find it distasteful, I am afraid I have to inflict on you a brief narration punctuated by the first person pronoun – in answer to your queries.
It was with a feeling of eager anticipation that I looked forward to my retirement from the Supreme Court in 1999, fifteen years ago. Imagine being liberated from the 8:00 – 12:00, 1:00 – open-ended schedule in government service. I promised myself that I was not about to tie myself down again to what a friend described, tongue-in-cheek, as “virtual slavery to the clock”.
So when I got invitations to resume my past life in the academic grove, I unhesitatingly declined. I resisted the temptation to teach again in the UP College of Law where I had taught for more than 20 years. The mere thought of going through two-and-a-half hours’ traffic to Diliman was daunting!
What I found irresistible, however, was the invitation from the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva to join their 7-man Administrative Tribunal composed of judges of different nationalities. I would be the first Asian and the first and only woman magistrate. It was like throwing the turtle into the water for the principal function of the Tribunal was to decide labor disputes between UN agencies and their respective employees. My LL.M. degree obtained from the Indiana University Law School was in Labor Law. With alacrity, I accepted the invitation. That meant having to shuttle between Manila and Geneva for the en banc sessions.
Almost simultaneously, I was honored with a similar invitation to join the counterpart Administrative Tribunal of the Asian Development Bank based in Manila. Since there was no conflict in schedules, I accepted the challenge, as it was an opportunity to broaden my horizons. What kept me on my toes was engaging in international arbitration work, which called for my attending meetings in various cities.
What a relief to finally settle down at home with the family and work on blueprints one could never find time for in one’s actively employed years. But when the Supreme Court calls, one has to respond – no ifs and buts about it. For instance, I was asked to join a 3-man panel to investigate alleged misconduct on the part of some Court of Appeals Justices. Then there was the aborted Truth Commission, which was one of the early projects President PNoy launched upon his assumption to office. A decision by the Supreme Court on its unconstitutionality brought about its early demise.
What have been the gleanings from my life’s journey?
Top of the list is to have a positive attitude to everything that life offers to you. You all know about the half-empty vs the half-full glass. I believe in an All-Knowing Deity who knows what one needs in this life for us to evolve to perfection and consequently places us in our present circumstances. Not for me the resentful, critical attitude that finds fault with everything and everybody. And for sure, you’ll never hear me say, “I’m already in the pre-departure area!”
“Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!”
At this age, let’s not dwell in the past. No regrets, no guilt feelings, no wistful thoughts on what-might-have beens! Nor should one worry and fret endlessly over the uncertain future. Live in the Eternal Now!
As Fr. Reuter says in his “Ten Commandments For Those Over Fifty Years And Above”, “Live in the here and now, not in the yesterdays and tomorrows.”
Finally, my TOWNS sisters, achievers all, remember that you have raised the bar exceedingly high in your respective fields of endeavor. Expectations are great for you to continue, or even top, your own record. You are leaving an enduring legacy for others to follow.
“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.”
This is a copy of the speech delivered by Retired Senior Associate Justice Flerida Ruth P. Romero at the Celebration of the Ruby Anniversary of “The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service,” at Dusit Thani Hotel on October 18, 2014.
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