Thursday, September 25, 2008

For a friend who passed away

For my first-ever post on this blog, am reproducing below a piece i wrote for my friend Ramon "Monching" Aragon who passed in the early hours of September 16, 2008 in Bangkok. He was a co-op trainer for the National Confederation of Co-operatives (NATCCO) of the Philippines for 18 years. He was 48 years old when he died. His body was brought back to the Philippines on September 18, and he was buried on September 21 in Paranaque City, Metro Manila. He was a very dear friend of mine (he's the second from the right in the picture, that's me to his right).

Monching—a Man for Others

When I was first told that my friend (and everybody’s friend) Ramon “Monching” H. Aragon had passed away earlier that fateful Tuesday, my mind sought to find the right words to capture what Monching was in his life and what he meant to the many people that he had left behind—family, friends, co-workers, co-operators. My mind raced back to events and activities that Monching and I both attended when I was still a NATCCO staff, and other co-op events where we still met even after I had left NATCCO, and also to our daily interaction as co-workers, and later our interaction still whenever I would visit NATCCO and he would be there. And knowing if he were in the spacious NATCCO Building wasn’t a hard thing to do with his booming voice reverberating around the structure. “Seeing” in my mind Monching in those past events, I realized that one of the best descriptions that can be given to Monching is that he was a “man for others.” In his own way, he was a dependable ally to us his co-workers and friends whenever we needed a listening ear, a helping hand, a solid advice. Even at times that he was busy, or maybe even sleeping while sitting in front of his desk [during office hours, yes, that’s Monching—always sleepy whenever he sat down], he would be there for us if we needed him—for his advice on some co-op matter, his technical expertise on the computer, his opinion on some pressing office issue. Of course, being Monching, we “disturb” him (especially when he is sleeping—during office hours) and we get a dose of his trademark ribbing and profanities before or even while he’s helping us. Monching wouldn’t be Monching without his never-ending profanities that weren’t really offensive but actually quite endeared him to his friends. For that was Monching, down-to-earth, walang arte (no frivolities), what-you-see-is-what-you-get, take-it-or-leave-it. He was a simple guy. His only vice, it seemed, was the itch to have the latest techie gadgets, be it a celphone, PDA, camera, computer, etc. But he never bragged (well, not too much) about his latest acquisitions. He even let us borrow them if truly needed. Oh, he had another vice--music. He loved music—from the Carpenters to the latest hits. But music never seemed to like him back, and we never gave him the mike during videoke sessions. Wait a minute, I almost forgot, he had yet another vice—eating. He loved good food, and we his friends enjoyed sharing good food with him, with matching kwentuhan (small talk) (but we were always careful to cover our food when he talked because we joked that he always made a “shower” while talking).

Monching and his jokes

Monching was a man for others. He was there with his witty jokes if we needed cheering up. And even if we didn’t need cheering up (and we didn’t want him around, heheh), he would still be there, with his jokes. Most funny, others not-too-funny but which still made us smile because he always delivered his jokes with facial expressions and hand gestures that conveyed warmth, more of like big brother cheering us up. And Monching, the big brother, would always remember something in each one of his friends that would be his take-off point in making his funny pangungulit (persistent teasing) to us (like he would always ask me if I’ve already seen my house cat that I lost years ago, which, he surmised, had committed suicide or something). Of course, there was always his FPJ-style pose that was always patok (a hit) (FPJ was Fernando Poe Jr., considered the "Action King" of Philippine movies, who had also recently passed away). But Monching was never pikon (easily hurt) (except maybe when we gave him the “shower” joke). Whatever ribbing he got back from us in return, he would take it with a happy disposition. I remember in one workshop where Monching was one of the participants who were asked to describe their real selves, he admitted that he was always the happy-go-lucky type. And his friends couldn’t agree more.

Serious moments

It’s hard to remember moments where Monching was in a serious mood. He was a jolly person, and he always liked others to be happy, too. In fact, I can remember only two moments that he would be in a serious mood—one, if his friends would engage him in a conversation about corrupt government officials whom he absolutely hated and always wanted to feed to the crocodiles, and, two—if he’s talking about co-operatives. Yes, Monching was THE dedicated co-op trainer. It seemed that he was happiest when he was conducting a seminar or training somewhere, whether for a small or big group. And he was among the most knowledgeable, skilled, and dedicated co-op trainers in the Philippine co-op movement. Like he was born into co-ops and meant to be a conveyor of the good news about co-ops. Which could actually be the case as his younger years were already spent around a co-op in his San Dionisio, Paranaque community—Monching was a batang ko-op (a child of the co-op). Growing up and taking up civil engineering in Adamson University in Manila, he was soon back to his co-op roots through his work in NATCCO starting around 1990, and that’s where I met him (I came in a year earlier to NATCCO). We worked together in the training department—he as a trainer, I as a distance education course writer.

Monching the co-op trainer/educator

When Monching was conducting a training, everybody listened. Not only because his booming voice actually commanded attention but also because one could feel that what he was relaying about co-ops came from his heart. Not too long ago, the Philippine co-op movement lost to a fatal illness Ms Alma T. Gabud, another NATCCO staff, who, like Monching, breathed and lived co-operatives. Alma was another excellent co-op trainer, and, in many events, she and Monching were a training team. Monching lost his life doing what he liked doing most—amid a training conduct, on foreign shores even. With the loss of Monching, and before him, Alma, both great trainers, the co-op movement in the Philippines and even in Asia have lost staunch workers and allies in its development. But the innumerable co-op leaders, staff, and members that Monching had trained, inspired, and transformed will be his legacy to the movement that he loved very much. And for sure, he will always be one of the inspirations for his co-workers and friends in NATCCO and its partner-agencies not only for their continued efforts for the movement but also for their personal lives that he touched with his commitment, his pakikisama (camaraderie), his antics, his laughter. We are truly blessed to have known this man for others—Monching.

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