December 7, 2022

(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Oct. 18, 2020.)

Belated birthday greetings to former Baguio City mayor and congressman Morris Domogan. As I remember, he was born on the 10th month of the year, on the 10th day of the month.
According to Chinese folklore, people born on that day are destined for success.
But like actress Sharon Cuneta sings, now considering retirement from showbiz, “The good times never last.”
Anyway, we wish our kumpadre continuous good health and many more happy returns of the day.


In my time, the schoolyear always opened in the month of June, although October would mark the end of the first semester and the beginning of the second sem, which was why graduation rites were held in March, and although not often, also in October.
Today, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the schoolyear begins in October, once upon a time a month of prayer and church visits, in the hope that the heavens will grant their wish to at least obtain a passing grade or a grade of 3.
In Diliman, then and now, students taking their final exams, would wax poetic, “I think I shall never see, a grade so lovely as a 3.”
The Church of the Risen Lord would be filled with UPSCANS, begging the Almighty that coming back to Diliman in the next sem would be truly an early Christmas blessing.
Among local university students, the Cathedral and the Pink Sisters Convent are where they trek to, not wanting to disappoint parents paying hard-earned money for their college tuition.
But why is the convent still closed up to this time?


We once had a boarder whose mom would come around in the months of March or October, on her son’s promise that he will graduate in either month.
Looking like she came straight from the beauty parlor, her hair coiffed in a pompadour, wearing a new printed red dress, her two-inch heels clicking in the road, and her face beaming with joy, alas, only to go home later in tears because her supposed graduating son would not dare show his face, gone into hiding after losing his allowance and the last installment of his tuition in a card game, able to survive only because New Lucban was a “sayote plantation” in the ‘60s and ‘70s.


Allow me, however, to tell you a story of a school dropout, who was also a neighbor.
After passing the Bar in 1972, I went into Law practice with my nephew Bembo Afable and Manny Mayo, a common friend, as partners.
Laugh all you want, but our very first case was a tourist from Manila apprehended for alleged drug use. Our fee was P5,000, a fortune in those days.
When Bembo was appointed provincial attorney and Manny became EPZA counsel, I was left to handle the case. The client still had a balance of P3,000 after paying us an advance of P2,000, and it was agreed that I will get the remaining amount, which I got following the client’s acquittal.
I was on my way, so I thought.


At about the same time, my neighbor was starting his banana cue business with a pushcart as his base of operations.
Four years later, he bought himself a car, while I was still borrowing my mom’s jeep.
And while residing in a family-owned apartment after I got married, my neighbor was constructing his own house, in a lot he bought from a relative.
One time, while my mom’s jeep was in the shop for repairs, waiting for a taxi to bring me to City Hall, my neighbor passed me by in his brand-new Toyota limo.
“Hop in, attorney,” he said, “I will drop you wherever you are going,” “Thank you for the ride,” I managed to blurt out. “But where are you heading?” “To John Hay,” he answered, “to play a round of golf with your politician friends.”
“Attorney, do you play golf,” he queried, “No,” I replied, “The game is too rich to my liking.” Looking up to the sky, I asked myself how can the heavens be so unfair?
I didn’t envy his car or his golf, what I really envied was his pride that he had a daughter studying in U.P. Diliman, and a son taking up Law at Ateneo.
At that very moment, I toyed with the idea at selling drugs, if only to put myself back together, and keep intact my self-respect.
Today, at 78 going on 80, I am no longer thinking about it. Thank God, I am too old for the business.