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4/27/2009 2:31:22 PM

They say that when the heart is full, the mouth could not speak. Especially when what fills the heart is grief, when an unspeakable sorrow burdens the heart, no words are adequate to express this grief.

At best, albeit with great disbelief, one could only surrender to the infinite will and wisdom of the Almighty, and running out of words to say, simply cry out: “God’s finger touched Louie last night, and he slept.”

As what Brod Consul General Ed De Vega did, when he roused me from my sleep last Wednesday morning with that email that screamed all the way from Barcelona, Spain, informing everyone in the Sigma Rho Fraternity that Luis C. Liwanag II, our beloved Louie, my kabatch, Undersecretary in the Department of Budget and Management, is dead at 61.

I am in the middle of a dreadful dream, I told myself. Or the recipient of a cruel prank.

How could Louie be dead, when it was not long ago when I saw him in the pink of health, his infectious laughter resonating at the EDSA Shangrila during the platinum fraternity ball of the Sigma Rho? He was with his son, and our brod, Lean, and we talked a lot about our sons whom we hoped would turn out to be better Sigma Rhoans than we have been or could ever be.

How could Louie venture into that undiscovered bourne from which no traveller would ever return, when he has yet to finish the second revision of a book he was writing which would have enlightened us about the management styles of the five presidents he had served? The chapters on Arroyo’s “experimental conjugal management” would have made for an interesting—and instructive—reading.

How could we lose this magnificent specimen of manhood who played low-handicap golf, drove a mean backhand volley at tennis, ran the full course of marathons and, without even trying, could beat Rene Saguisag in his prime at ballroom dancing?

How we wish we could divert that unalterable move of the Divine Finger so that, by the sheer force of our faith, we could tempt it to rouse Louie from that deep sleep of peace!

Here was a man who, it seemed to us, could not—would not—stop for death…because he was too engrossed in the business of living. And what a life it was! Louie was the crowning glory of the Sigma Rho in his generation. He convened the Inter-Fraternity Council to stem the violence and mayhem that often erupted as a result of juvenile exuberance on campus. To provide healthy aggressive outlets for the brawn, he spearheaded the Olympics of Fraternities. To channel the combative urges of the brain, he sponsored debates between student groups. His erstwhile mentor, our archon Mengdu Pauig of Cagayan, recalls that during his term as grand archon of the Sigma Rho, membership reached an all-time high, and members of the fraternity, inspired by his leadership, rose to supremacy by grabbing the helm of practically all other campus organizations often through strategies that combined both brain and brawn.

With all his accomplishments at a very young age, and the network he had built, he was being enticed to join politics. But Louie demurred, preferring to work silently in government.

So it was not by mere whimsy or fanciful notion that the then UP Law Dean Irene Cortes described Louie as “Mr. Management Man.” Dean Cortes saw how Louie managed the fraternity in a fashion no different from what a skillful CEO does with his organization. As grand archon of the Sigma Rho, Louie saw to it that its resources—its resident members, alumni and their vast network—were fully harnessed for effectual activities on- as well as off-campus.

Our brod and UP law dean Bart Carale had nothing but praises for Louie, thus: “Grand Archon Liwanag leaves behind him a Fraternity that will cherish a legacy of intellectual craftsmanship, political acumen and a warm and genial leadership.”

This warm and genial leadership, to say the least of Louie’s attributes, had been very much in evidence as Louie, starting from the administration of Ferdinand Marcos down to that of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, went the rounds of executive positions in the Public Estates Authority, Maritime Industry Authority, Light Railway Transit Authority, National Housing Authority, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and Malacañang as Senior Deputy Executive Secretary to Presidents Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo.

The general public will remember Louie very well in a TV footage and in news photos of him lazing at the swimming pool of President Fidel Ramos (who promoted him to his position as Senior Deputy Executive Secretary), together with El Tabaco himself, right after Ramos relinquished the presidency to his successor, former President Joseph Estrada. That intimate photo showed the trust and the camaraderie that Ramos placed in, and enjoyed with, Louie, who, despite his outer bonhomie and affable persona, was a competent, dedicated and serious public servant.

On Sundays, a smaller section of the public saw Louie in yet another light of his multi


Leo Beligan
4/27/2009 2:32:57 PM

On Sundays, a smaller section of the public saw Louie in yet another light of his multifaceted personality: as Luis C. Liwanag II, lay minister at the mass at the Malate Church—near where he grew up and went to school at UP Prep and La Salle—with his beautiful family.

A still smaller section of the congregation (exceedingly small, as a matter of record) were privy to the knowledge that Louie was an active member of the Opus Dei, a piety that Louie never flaunted up to his dying day.

And on a personal level that involved the members of his immediate family, he even kept the secret of his surgical operation at the UST Hospital away from his wife and children in order to shield them from needless grief and distress.

Louie was a beautiful soul whose life should teach us not to grieve in the face of death. Truly, he did not die of anything connected to his heart or pancreas or whatever; Louie died of having passionately lived a life of cheerful radiance, quiet steadfastness, dedication to duty, and familial devotion. He lives on through his wife Ena, children Lean, Trix and Louise, and his “sons” and fraternal comrades in the Sigma Rho led by Brod Rey Regalado.

We will miss his friendship, his infectious laughter. We will miss his leadership. We will miss the type of public service that only he could render.

Good night, Louie, and may your sleep rouse us up to observe the Four Vows of Sacrifice, Loyalty, Obedience and Service, and the Hierarchy of Loyalty to God, Country, Family, UP and the Sigma Rho. END

Leofina Jane Galleta
6/29/2009 10:21:52 PM

Haller angkel!

Agawel nak man bassit ita, hehehe!!! Intan makibertdey angkel, dita ayan ni Marengski, :-)


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