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The Road to Greatness

Survivor. Achiever. Great Mentor.

To many, he was one of those politicians who kept the ball rolling for the country. Author of the Labor Code, made possible the way for the country’s close ties with the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), and presided over the 60th General Assembly of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland, indeed Blas Fajardo Ople Jr. had proven to all that the once poor boy of Hagonoy, Bulacan would find his way to greatness despite the hardships he encountered in life.

Who would have thought that the once young boy, who sneaked frequently in their backyard to read his books, would grow up to be the government’s most enduring statesman making his way gracefully through the Magsaysay to Arroyo regime? Who is Blas Ople behind the endeavors he had received?

When asked about his secret formula for success, he simply replied – hardwork. True enough, Blas was inspired by the very example of his father who was a humble boat-repair man. This he showed through his exemplary work as the labor secretary of former president Marcos and foreign secretary of the Ramos administration.

“No one ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him; it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction," according to Charles Kendall Adams. To go beyond everyone’s expectations was what the former senator and Senate President lived up to. He continued his goal of giving quality public service to the people.

At a young age, he had manifested advanced mental aptitude. Though he often transferred to different public schools in his town due to poverty, he still managed to graduate as the valedictorian of their class. The war had also intervened with the smooth flow of his life and education. In spite of all of these, his classmates still found him to be different from the rest of them.

Gabriel Morales, Ople’s childhood friend would fondly recall an incident where his buddy chose to save his ‘treasure’ despite the chaos filling their town during the war. While everybody ran in order to save their lives, he went behind and carried his heavy burden which was his books.

“My books were as precious as my life,” the former foreign minister would say. Knowledge is power, this he proved true. He was a college dropout yet local officials such as Carlos P. Romulo and former president Marcos valued his opinions and advices.

In a letter to Ople in September 1983 by Romulo, the once United Nations General Secretary, “You have risen to where you are now without the academic training that all of us had undergone. You have made up your excessive training which is shown in your speeches and the extemporaneous discussions in the Cabinet. I put all this on record for whatever future use you may make when your services are required for leadership in our country.”

One must never really let his schooling interfere with his education as Adam Smith quoted. Most of Blas’ intelligence and smart decision-making can be rooted to the many experiences he encountered after going out of the four corners of the classroom. He first worked as a stevedore then a desk man for the Daily Mirror before finally becoming a columnist for the said newspaper.

I had my own failures and I can no longer boast of my transcript of records as the evidence of my mental aptitude. But, as the former senator made me discover, I can also be a self-made person relying not much on the content of my textbooks and researches as my guide to achievement. He was nobody to me when I was still in high school. Yet, the more I read about him, the more I saw the similarities we had in life.

I am also a transferee. Although, I can no longer attain that cum laude title, I still believe that the institution I am in now is not the only venue where success can be found. Opportunity knocks when you least expect it. It finds you even if you are afraid to see it.

A self-made man – this is Ka Blas. Imelda Marcos always told in her interviews that the said senator had no one but himself to thank for his prolonged stay in the government post. His sincerity and devotion to his work was overwhelming. Integrity and dedication – these marked Ople’s character. The fact that he was chosen to become a member of the drafters of the 1986 Constitution showed how even former president Aquino expressed great confidence in him.

It is truly difficult that a man despite having all the power and fame in the world would choose to remain as the man he was before without the glory and the honor. Ople was one of the few officials, who were never charged of malfeasance or misfeasance. Power is intoxicating yet this Bulakenyo never thought of becoming one of those traditional politicians.

“A public servant in a democratic society must learn to take criticism in stride. Throughout a long public life, however, I have found that much of the personal criticism of a public servant is rooted in peer envy and jealousy, as though they have to avenge their own failures and frustrations on a more successful colleague. In such cases, it is right to ignore the critics and let them stew in their own poisoned juices of envy and jealousy,” Ople remarked. And this message does not only apply to politics but to every situation we Filipinos have. We, due to our envy and discord, tend to pull down our fellow countrymen when they have reached the top thinking that ruining their reputation would make us greater than them. However, we must remember that destroying other people does not make us rise above them. It only makes us smaller and unworthy of other people’s respect.

An influential figure – the mere fact that Ople succeeded in having descendants who would propagate his principles and ideals made evident his ability to make people see his vision. This is my first time to know him better. And whether I would live up to be like him or not still remains to be seen. Yet, the truth that he had influenced my life in his own little way cannot be disregarded. He had taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life – to remain firm and strong for your ideals despite the fact that you are tested beyond your limits.

Blas Ople’s greatness continues. Not even the fangs of death can surmount an unconquerable soul.

-- And so does Conrado Macapulay's legacy, too.

Posted by: Raphaelle (I.N.J.)

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