Having caught up to a certain degree with my reading – stacks of books are still awaiting my attention – I can report on the brilliant biography of Alfredo Siojo Lim by National Artist Nick Joaquin, and The Pope and Mussolini by distinguished American writer David D. Kertzer.
May Langit Din Ang Mahirap, (loosely translated as “There is Heaven Even for the Poor”), the title of Lim’s biography reads for the most part like a detective thriller as it recounts in exciting chapter after exciting chapter Lim’s sleuthing when he was a policeman and later, chief of police. He often worked with scant or no evidence at all, but his relentless investigations, guided only by his extraordinary intuitive faculties, inevitably sent the culprits behind bars.
What consistently surface in the book are Lim’s absolute unwavering integrity, ingenuity, devotion and dedication to duty, and not the least, his audacity, bravery, and courage as he hunted down the crooks and criminals without respite.
Countless times he did so at tremendous risk and peril to his life, exchanging gunshots at the closest range with the dregs of society. Observers came to the conclusion that the “S” in Lim’s name stood for “suerte” because he was invincible in the face of imminent and often, seemingly inescapable death.
Here is one happy instance that “S” meant luck. During Lim’s tenure as Mayor of Manila, he bought a whole booklet of sweepstake tickets. Forthwith, a ticket therein won the first prize of P5-million; other tickets won consolation prizes. What luck indeed the letter “S” carried!
The qualities Lim manifested in Joaquin’s masterpiece should duly inspire readers. How often criminals offered Lim huge bribes to fend off prosecution, and how Lim just as often refused the wherewithal!
Lim commissioned sculptor Edgardo Castrillo to build a Bonifacio monument; the vast structure now stands as one of Lim’s enduring legacies to Manileños.
Happily married and the father of six children, Lim sent all members of his family to the US, owing to the death threats and galling phone calls they constantly received – no thanks to Lim as vigilant keeper of the city’s law, order and peace.
Lonely yet undeterred, Lim fulfilled his duty even more vigorously and rigidly as Mayor of Manila.
How many of our government officials can match Lim’s extraordinarily unblemished and enormous service to the country in this era of corruption?
As intriguing in its fashion as Lim’s biography is Kertzer’s The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, the rise under Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. The author depicts Pope XI as very human, with bursts of temper, vacillating moods, inconsistent and contradictory manner of reasoning. Mussolini, for his part, was a megalomaniac, sententious, brimming with lust, his countless mistresses gyrating in and out of his various apartments.
His relationship with Pope XI blew hot and cold, with both of them anxious to keep their “friendship” cordial, Mussolini careful to be on the good side of the Vatican for the sake of the Italian Catholics: Pope XI similarly anxious and eager to be on the good side of the Facist Italians to keep the balance.
Fascism grew during Mussolini’s reign and even Pope XI nurtured tendencies toward it.
Hitler and Nazism inevitably impugned on Mussolini’s loyalties; forthwith, he sides with the Fuhrer, who ushers in WWII. Eventually, partisans catch up with Mussolini. They shoot him and his mistress, dumping their bodies with other cadavers in a truck.