June 2, 2023

(Editors’ note: Registered nurse Charmaine Suanding Molintas-Likigan is pitching in this tribute to her uncle, the late Atty. Benedicto Carantes. Likigan is the daughter of former Benguet Gov. Rocky Molintas and current DOT Tourism Attaché Purificacion Molintas.)

It has been more than a decade since I was a Nursing student in Baguio.
At the time, my group was assigned for clinical duties at the Lepanto Hospital located within the mining camp at Paco, Mankayan, Benguet. It would take between two and a half to three hours drive north from Baguio taking the Halsema Highway or “Mountain Trail” as they call it to get there.
At the time, tito Benny was newly-retired Baguio City chief prosecutor and ninang Minda had also retired from Saint Louis University as a professor at the College of Commerce.
Just like many Baguio lawyers who exchange ideas in their professional field, my father, Rocky Molintas, would come in constant communication with fellow lawyers like titos Bong Mandapat, Rene Cortes, Ed Avila, Benny, and other associates at the Molintas Law Offices.
So, when such an opportunity comes around, my brother, Baron Ralph, and I would hang around listening to their oratorical skills, metaphorical languages, and the jokes that can rouse the dead in the high heavens with their boisterous laughter.
My dad was always known for his pro-labor stance and even while he was governor of Benguet, he would coach the government employees’ associations to seek more benefits that the provincial or municipal government could offer.
After his stint as governor, he was asked if he was willing to be a legal consultant for a mining firm which he gladly refused and instead offered it to tito Benny, who was ecstatic about this development but likewise saddened that he would need to stay in-camp, away from his derby classmates.
So, while I was doing my clinical duties at the Lepanto Hospital, I would drop by tito Benny and minang Minda’s cottage after my duty shift before heading on to our quarters.
It would keep me from feeling homesick knowing that I have them nearby. Or if I come home to Baguio for a night or two, I would bring them some loaves of raisin bread from Baguio Country Club to match their Benguet Arabica morning coffee ritual.
Although they had all the comforts of a home provided by Lepanto and provisions were plenty, they were far from the shimmering lights of the city.
But I knew that ninang Minda was at her happiest moment in her life, as she would brag about how beautiful the place was, away from the hustle and bustle of the city life. She was surprised to see a golf course in the midst of the Benguet mountains and could not imagine that Lepanto had a civic center with a theatre and an airstrip for its company plane.
Across the airstrip was an expansive view of Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, which used to be a trading hub during the Spanish era. And of course, I surmised that it was the only time she had tito Benny all to herself away from his buddies and vices.
Every afternoon, while ninang Minda would be filled with reading her Sydney Sheldon pocketbooks, tito Benny would be behind his typewriter doing his paper works and preparing for his next article for his column. He was the type of guy who would resist technology as everyone around him would know that he didn’t even know how to send a text message.
All that he can do is answer or make a call on his mobile phone. But because of this, I am awed by his excellent command of the English language.
He said, “The use of a typewriter challenges me to be more efficient and it forces me to think, which makes me avoid errors.”
Had he learned text messaging, it could have corrupted his spelling just as we omit vowels in words knowing that the characters in each message are limited by the mobile phone company.
I knew my tito to be straightforward with his ideas when he would talk about his political analysis and assessment of current events. He was a man who would discuss issues without fear or favor, regardless of any group, sect or party involved. I am sure that this has earned him respect or incurred ire for his column, which created a following across the four decades he held on to it.
During family gatherings or just plain tete-a-tete, he would talk about life and blurt out to us younger ones “never play with fire if you can’t handle the flame” or tell us “stand tall and make your own mark.”
At some point in time, my cousins, Marc and Mel, and Baron Ralph and I will learn to stand tall in our own way, hoping beyond the shadows of our famous parents too.
Thank you for this challenge, tito Benny. It keeps ringing in my ears. I wish you were here to see me through as I have made my resolve to do just what you said as I embark on a political career. No chickening out as you have cautioned us.
And till the very last, you still talked about chicken.