When a human being rises to the greatest heights of achievement possible in spite of in surmountable obstacles, this is greatness. When this level of accomplishment is matched with kindness and compassion, with surpassing generosity even at the sacrifice of personal material needs, this greatness is defined by spirituality and becomes the “Grandeur of the Human Spirit.”
This was Antonio Ramoneda Diego. Father, husband, friend, student, mentor, benefactor.
A measure of Tony’s humanity and greatness is the fact that he has raised a brood of eight children, two children-in-law, and two grandchildren, and yet none of these children are his and his wife’s biological issue. Yet, he has struggled, worked hard and honestly to raise them, still looking after them till the time of his death, being especially fond of the grandchildren.
As a husband, Tony was especially devoted to his wife Gelynn and loved her so much he could not face life without her. When she was stricken with cancer, he too deteriorated in health and overtook her in death. Gelynn is now very frail and may follow Tony soon. It seems she too cannot live without Tony.
When his house burned down, the proceeds of his retirement went up in smoke. It is a measure of his loving, caring character that his students gathered resources so that Tony could rebuild his house to provide a home for his family.
And when his wife needed medical care, his students returned in full measure the loving attention and generous instruction he had given them. He was as attentive, caring and generous to his students as he was with his own children.
Under Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo, Tony was a diligent student, loyal and generous as much as his resources would allow. He modeled Tatang in practically every aspect of living and his goal was to become exactly like Tatang.
When Tony became a master in his own right, he taught ceaselessly, sharing unstintingly of his knowledge. He studied and planned endlessly to be able to transmit his knowledge and skill to the increasing number of adherents to the Ilustrisimo system under him.
Tony contributed very much to the popularity and fame of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). He had given a foreign seminar only once, 30 years ago, and in spite of moving no further than the confines of Tondo district, the Luneta, and rarely beyond the City of Manila, he was able to contribute to the fame of the FMA, that icon of the Filipino, so that the FMA is the object of study of so many followers around the world.
Tony was a good friend, warm, generous, loyal and sincere. He had a gift of natural leadership and charisma. While prone to fits of temper, this was mostly directed at those who would offend his friends.
Tony’s material resources were never enough. Yet he maintained his dignity and honesty at his work as a stevedoring supervisor and later manager. Even when other FMA teachers were making a good living from student’s payments, Tony remained undemanding, accepting whatever amount was given him, never charging a fixed fee. When paid, he took care to share with those who helped him teach. Even when his house burned down, part of funds he received for reconstruction were shared as food for his neighboring fire victims.
Tony’s undemanding and gentle approach made him victim by many unscrupulous students who exploited his knowledge and generous nature. He would be hurt by their actions but then forgave easily.
The trials and tribulations of Tony’s life eventually wore him down, both physically and emotionally, but his spirit as a swordsman and teacher prevailed, always thinking of the future of his students in terms of their continuing learning.
A man’s character is measured by the sincere regard given him by others. With Tony, it is the love, affection and gratitude given by students all over the world to provide for those he has left behind because they know he loved them so much.
Tony is gone, and like all great men there is no replacing him. Once in several lifetimes, there are such men as him, but not very often. Faced with adversity, they triumph over obstacles to rise to the heights of greatness in their chosen field. Like the “Grand Old Man of the Sword,” Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo, his master, teacher and model, Antonio “Tony” Diego has achieved greatness.