USec. Francis (Day 48)by Rey Laguda
(This is the 48th day of 50-day journey of DepEd Undersecretary Rey Laguda as being serialized here with his permission, culled from his Facebook account - Blogger/owner)
Our story for the last six years in DepEd cannot be fully told without talking about a dear colleague and friend, Francis Varela. We would not be where we are today, if not for all that he had done while in DepEd. I would like to post, as my tribute to him, what I read during last year's Flag Ceremony on the Monday after his passing.
Many things have been said about Francis. Many people have shared and continue to share stories of friendship, of working together, acquaintance, and admiration.
Pero sino ba si Usec. Francis para sa atin dito sa DepED? Walang bagay siya na pinalalampas - kaya nga maraming nagrereklamo eh. Subalit ito ay dahil sa gusto niyang makasiguro. Gusto niyang buo ang loob niya kapag nagrekomenda siya o kaya kapag i-di-disapprove niya ang dokumento. He was very deliberate, calculating and analytical. Kaya naman kapag may inakyat na dokumento si Usec., basta may initials na FMV, kalmado na ako.
Sino si Usec. Francis sa DepED? Kinatatakutan siya… sa badminton tournament. Noong bago po kami sa DepEd, matunog ang pagkalat ng tsismis na lalaro raw siya sa badminton tournament. At dahil hindi siya naglaro, nag-champion ang team namin. Walang katotohanan sa balita na tinambakan ko siya nang trabaho para hinidi makalaro. Pero isang tingin pa lang, mukhang magaling. Meron pang pa-pitik-pitik ng kamay.
Sino si Usec. sa DepED? Hinahangaan siya sa malayo. Rock star at matinee idol ang dating niya. Kapag meron siyang sinimulan, alam mong buhos na buhos siya. Alam mong hindi niya titigilan ang isang problema hangga’t hindi maayos. Parang isang sining na hindi titigilan hangga’t mabuo at maging tunay na pagsasalamin ng kathang isip.
Siya ang palaging nagyayaya sa’kin sa kung anu-ano. Kinukulit niya akong mag-dive. Pero dalawang beses lang kami natuloy: sa Dapitan at sa Apo Island. Ibang klase siyang mag-dive. Divers are taught to be thorough and methodical. These are crucial for one’s safety as you go underwater and into a world that is as foreign as it can get. But there is a sense of calm when one gets underwater. He is a relaxed diver. Even if currents are swift, he drifts and is the lurker-type. He will watch from a distance and then zoom in if there is anything of interest.
He re-introduced me to whiskey. I could never get into brandy or cognac, pero laban ako sa whiskey, Francis. Noong minsang bumisita ka sa bahay ko, napuna mo na wala akong scotch glass kaya kinabukasan bumili kami nang misis ko sakaling bumalik ka ulit. Hindi ko man alam na last time na pala
We would also talk a lot about education finance reform. He would share so many views and ideas about how to enliven the bureaucracy, how to help the schools perform better by empowering principals, how important having an FMIS is for an institution as big as ours. We would talk about algorithms, how to efficiently allocate classrooms based on the need and capacities of schools, and how to provide checks and balances.
We would talk about fighting corruption and more importantly, building a culture of competence, honesty, and integrity where good people are given their time to shine and stand up and be the norm rather than the exception. Mas matuwid pa siya kaysa sa daan.
He would ask me for updates on computerization budgets and delivery. He would ask me about our EBEIS and the programming and the logic behind our systems.
And yes, we would argue too. Yes, we would sit down and discuss for hours, even to the point of already standing in the steps on our way home only to be delayed for another hour because we were caught up in discussion. But we would always end with him giving his nod as we walked away and went our own ways.
We all grieve and mourn for his loss. We are shocked and caught by surprise with his sudden passing. I try to remind myself constantly about his voice and how he sounds like. I half expect to see him in a corridor or along the stairs. Or even follow his car on the way to work. But it will never be and so we grieve.
Wala ka na Usec. Nawalan ako ng haligi at matatakbuhan. Nawalan ako ng kaibigan. But knowing you, hindi ka papayag na manatili kaming ganito.
But as much as we grieve, we must also rejoice. Because his death is not the end of our relationship with him and all that he has done. Let us honor his life by continuing the work that he has started. Let us find our own passion and reignite ourselves so that we may continue our shared dreams and vision for a better DepED, a better Philippines.
Francis, I’ve always seen you as someone who has that sense of mission with the intent of “conquering” a certain challenge or obstacle that is in the way. Once you succeed, you just shrug your shoulder and say to yourself: “conquered.”
Francis, in your death, we conquer by continuing the legacy. Sa pagkamatay mo, may hamon kaming isabuhay ang iyong hangarin. Death is not the final word and it will never be.
Sabi nga ni Cardinal Chito Tagle: “sa ating pagkawala at kawalan, magpahanap tayo at magtiwalang mahahanap. At kapag tayo’y nahanap, hayaan nating mamangha tayo at maging bukas sa kung anuman ang hinaharap.”
To end, I want to share a poem that captures the essence of hope and why we should continue our work:
Where is thy sting, O Death!
Grave! Where thy victory?
The clod may sleep in dust beneath,
The spirit will be free!
Both Man and Time have power
O'er suffering, dying men;
But Death arrives, and in that hour
The soul is freed again.
'Tis comforting to think,
When sufferings tire us most,
In the rough stream the bark will sink,
And suff'ring's power is lost.
Then, Death! Where is thy sting?
And where thy victory, Grave?
O'er your dark bourn the soul will spring
To Him who loves to save.
- by John Bowring
Maraming maraming salamat sa mga kasamahan ko sa DepEd. Ipinakita natin ang pakikiramay, pagmamahal, at pakikiisa ng DepEd family. You showed the DepEd way.
Taking on his work for the last ten months gave me a glimpse of his world. It has given me the chance to get to know him better and to believe he is with us as we journey in our pursuit for a better nation for our children.