At the fifth class (1974) of the Career Executive Service Development Program (CESDP) at the Development Academy of the Philippines in Tagaytay City, our roster of facilitators (lecturers) included Jose (Ping) De Jesus, Carmencita (Carm) Abella, Fr. Gene Moran, Fr. Emeterio Barcelon, Emmanuel Soriano, O.D Corpuz and a Colonel who had retired from the Army.
De Jesus became Transportation secretary under two Aquino administrations. Abella later was Board Chairman of the Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Foundation. Father Moran (S.J.) was a motorcycle enthusiast. Father Barcelon hailed from Davao City. Soriano taught at the UP-Diliman. O.D. Corpuz was President of the Development Academy of the Philippines and also secretary of Education.
The Colonel was born in Pangasinan. Although he graduated from the Philippine Military Academy, he was gentle in speech and manners. There was no martial swagger in his gait.
One evening, after dinner at the DAP cafeteria, some members of the faculty and the CESDP participants lingered longer for coffee and small talk. The conversation swirled around language and diction, speech in oratory. Then the Colonel told a story.
From childhood, he said, until young adulthood he had suffered from a speech defect, stammering badly. Classmates made fun of his impediment. Neighbors mimicked his tortured tongue. Jokes continued until the family migrated to Manila.
He resolved to conquer his stammer. He wanted to do well in college. He was beginning to take an interest in girls. He tried many devices, from speaking with pebbles in his mouth as he spoke to reciting the Gettysburgh address aloud, away from the crowd. His speech had improved by the time he was admitted to the PMA.
One day, he received a surprise from his hometown. A civic group invited him to speak at a big gathering. He debated with himself about accepting the invitation. He relented at the end.
It was a long journey to his birthplace. He saw familiar faces. Old friends welcomed him with enthusiasm. The reception overwhelmed him.
On the big night, he delivered a good speech. He noticed many in the audience strained forward as if to catch every word he said. The ovation was thunderous.
Cocktails and native “pulutan” followed in a big garden. The congratulations were effusive. He excused himself later for some quiet and to suck in the fresh Pangasinan air. While seated on a bench nestled among the shrubs, he overheard two men talking to each other.
“Your guest gave a good speech,” the first voice said. “You made a good choice.”
“Curiosity was one reason we chose Filo,” the second voice chuckled. “Many of the officers wanted to find out whether Filo still stammered badly.”
A hush crept into the room after the Colonel’s story. No one spoke. When I looked around the room, I saw Fr. Barcelon wiping his tears.