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The Brother Lolo of DLSL

The late Brother Rafael Donato with members of his President's Council at the Diokno Board Room.

Once, in Cebu with a group of fellow administrators attending a Catholic educators’ convention, we encountered a university president who we knew at the ground level near the reception desk of the hotel where we were billeted. “Have you seen the administrators from my university?” the President asked us, sounding more than just a bit irritated.

We had not.

“We arrived on different flights,” he explained, “and I have not seen anyone of them. I wanted to take them out to dinner sana. To hell with them!”

While we all frowned at the expletive, we really sympathized with him. Of course, we ourselves flew in on the same flight with our own President – the Brother Lolo – and checked in all at the same time.

We could not see the same thing happening to our delegation because, wherever the Brother Lolo went, we were like sisiw scampering after the mother hen. We would never think of going off on our own. If anything – at least, we laughed among ourselves – we stuck to the Brother Lolo as though we were leeches so that there was more chance of him sneaking off away from us!

That was not just for this convention. We were like that with the Brother Lolo wherever we went. He had so much stature. His was such a broad network that he was on first-name terms with not only fellow university presidents, but also politicians, business people, sister madres from an endless number of congregations – and many, I bet, had crushes on him – recording artists and even artistas. Because we were always right behind him, we were always properly introduced!

We so loved the Brother Lolo because he always made us proud, wherever we went. I think he also came to realize early that we here in Lipa, as long as you showed us that you knew how to take care of us, we would be yours for life!

However, while we all loved going with the Brother Lolo as a group to attend these three-day conventions, being designated as alalay for a day trip was an altogether different proposition. For the latter, we all scrounged for all sorts of excuses to be able to wriggle away from going along with him!

Eh kasi naman, for all the affection we had for the Brother Lolo, he had this idiosyncrasy that always left us pale without fail at some point during any day trip. He was not magugutomin!

Don’t get me wrong… The Brother Lolo was generous where he took us and with what he fed us. The problem was that his biological clock was just not in sync with those of the rest of us. Way past meal times when most of us would be tarak na ang mata sa gutom, the Brother Lolo would still be chill na chill, not a feather out of place and not at all looking like he even needed an ounce of nutrients to sustain him for the rest of the day.

With me, it is always the opposite. My body clock dictates that I ingest something in the way of food by 11:30 each morning; else I become the epitome of anti-social behavior. That was why, when I went on a trip with the Brother Lolo with a few fellow administrators to the National Museum this one time, putî na ang mga mata ko when – by 1:30 in the afternoon – we were still on the road and the Brother Lolo still had to give the driver instructions to go find somewhere for chow.

Brother Rafael with DLSL administrators outside the National Museum.

Thankfully, he soon did; albeit, may halô pang susot. “Iyang si Rex,” he said to the group, “palagî na lang gutom.” In my head, I retorted, “Aba’y oras na ngâ sa hapunan!” But of course, since I was too hungry to even speak, I could only smile lamely back at the Brother Lolo.

Then, there was this one time when I accompanied him as the sole alalay. I ate a late breakfast at the cafeteria of the university that we were visiting while the Brother Lolo went off on a meeting or something. When he came out, it was past twelve. I was half-expecting he would give the driver instructions to take us to a restaurant somewhere for lunch; instead, we were to go visit his sister’s shop in that mall along Shaw Boulevard.

It was past one in the afternoon when we got to the shop; and obviously his sister had already had lunch. She did offer to take us somewhere, but he shook his head. Hindî pa raw s’ya nagugutom. Were I the disrespectful sort, I would have volunteered, “Ako pô, kanina pa…”

So, while they talked about lamps and what-have-you – and I was more or less ignored – I pretended to do a little window shopping. In truth, I was reconnoitering the mall for a fast food joint. There were a few, but I was hesitant to go off too far at bakâ hanapin. I did find this biscuit stand close by and helped myself to three packs of Skyflakes. Inang! Parang may sakit…

By three, Brother Lolo finally allowed himself to be coaxed to merienda by his sister. We had dinuguan at puto and, because I was famished, kinapalan ko na ang mukhâ ko… I asked for a second serving…

Then, there was this one time when a big group of us administrators attended an affair at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium. The affair ended past five, and when we all gathered outside the arena, we got the surprise of our lives when the Brother Lolo suggested that we all walk the short distance to the Sheraton for a meal before driving back home.

There was a dozen or so of us, and we were all overjoyed that we were going to the Sheraton. The Brother Lolo seemed to know his way around the hotel, and took us to this fancy restaurant at the ground floor.

As it turned out – while most of us were thinking early dinner – Brother Lolo was, however, thinking late merienda. We held our breath as the waiter came to take our orders, but the Brother Lolo had his own ideas. “Masarap ang lugaw dito…” he began. “Ikaw,” he asked the person next to him, “lugaw?” Then, he pointed at the next, “Lugaw?” And the next… And the next… Until all of us had nodded to lugaw

We still laugh about that lugaw story to this very day!

However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, when the Brother Lolo wanted to splash the cash – boy! – he really knew how! There was this one time when we were told to dress up because we were going to another five-star hotel for a dinner treat – I cannot now recall if it was Christmas or the end of the school year.

At any rate, typically, I was famished by the time the Brother Lolo got around to ordering. When the first three courses came, I – of course – and the other male administrator in our party of six damned near ate ourselves to oblivion. But the courses kept coming… and coming… and coming… Until we learned later that the Brother Lolo had, in fact, ordered a 10-course special!

By the sixth course, it was – like – if the waiter came in with another one, I would have slain him with a balisong if I had one. As it happened, he came back four more times, nakupow! I was long past the point of not wanting to eat, but the Brother Lolo, thoroughly enjoying himself – and our labor – obligated us by repeatedly cajoling us with “Sayang naman…”

I think I still felt full one week after that meal!

I will have many more stories to tell of the Brother Lolo, but this one will suffice for tonight. I am not the only one who misses those days when there was an anecdote waiting to happen whenever the Brother Lolo called you to his side.

Another former boss inspired me to write these stories because – he warned – the memories all eventually end up eroded by time. I do so now, and the Brother Lolo, although he has moved on where the white light shines eternal, left me with so many more stories to write.

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