WILLIAM ESPOSO (AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR): FAREWELL, BRAVEHEART!
[President Aquino receives a copy of the book Surviving Chronic Kidney Disease: The Billy Esposo Kidney Diaries from author William ‘Billy’ Esposo during the book launching at the Powerbooks, Ayala Center, Makati City in August 2012. Also in photo are Vice President Jejomar Binay, Mey Ann Esposo and Powerbooks’ Socorro Ramos. Esposo died of heart failure at the Makati Medical Center last Sunday]
MANILA, APRIL 8, 2013 (PHILSTAR) PEOPLE By Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - “Great nations are built pebble upon pebble, stone upon stone, and brick upon brick by the collective efforts of its citizens. There are no great leaders where there are no great followers.” — Billy Esposo
Billy MacGregor Esposo had always had to fight to live — to live in freedom and democracy, to live with principle, and simply — TO LIVE. He had cheated death more than once, with President Cory Aquino by his side during one particular close call.
When he found out that Billy had lost his final battle at 12:08 a.m., Sunday, Cory’s only son, President Benigno Aquino III, rushed to his side and comforted his family till the sun rose.
Billy fought in EDSA, he was in the ring with his compatriots whenever the nation had to slug it out to survive, and soar. Till the week before he died, he was roaring mad about Sabah.
“Just last month, the Sultanate of Sulu, in their never-ending dream to regain Sabah, preyed upon Filipinos. Scores have died and many more could still perish — and for what? What disappoints the most is how some otherwise known sober-minded Filipinos failed to see through the selfish political agenda being played in this latest Sabah caper and were ready to put our national security at risk by suggesting that the Philippine government must rescue the Sultanate’s armed men in Malaysia after they committed a crime there. The far-superior Malaysian armed forces would have blown us out of the sea and sky if ever we attempted that and these lost souls want to be regarded as patriots? Patriots save a country, not sink it,” he wrote from his hospital bed in his ultimate column, As I Wreck This Chair, published in the Philippine STAR on Easter Sunday.
I met Billy through the late Betty Go-Belmonte in the early ‘80s. She was my editor in STAR! magazine and Billy at the time was head of a major ad agency. I was then assistant editor of STAR! Monthly magazine, which she edited. They called each other “Partner” because Tita Betty’s real name was “Billie Mary.”
In 1985, he and Tita Betty’s son Isaac Belmonte, who was publisher of STAR! Magazine recruited me for a writing assignment that would forever change my life — as writer of the Cory Aquino Media Bureau in the snap presidential elections of 1986.
“Our little group stared down Marcos propaganda machine!” Billy would always proudly recall. After Mrs. Aquino won the Presidency, he made sure I continued to work in the Presidential Press Office, where I stayed till 1992.
When told he needed a new kidney (he had a kidney transplant in 2002) to survive, Billy was courageous and relentless in his battle. But just as he had had to fight for many things, Billy, too, had been and was the recipient of big miracles.
His book Surviving Chronic Kidney Disease: The Billy Esposo Kidney Diaries, launched last year with President Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay in attendance, is the diary of a man’s conquest of fear and adversity and God’s benevolence. It is one of Billy’s many legacies, because it is a book of hope clothed in humor and faith.
“Through my many medical crises,” he wrote in his book, “I often wondered why several of my religious friends and kin keep saying that our physical sufferings are excellent opportunities to be one with God, to be God’s instrument. To be one with Christ in his sufferings, that I can appreciate. To be God’s instrument especially when you’ve lost much of your physical capabilities — I failed to appreciate and internalize that.”
Then one day, after another medical crisis, he got a text message from his friend Ray Asprer, head of the Focolare in Manila, which gave him the insight on “how our ailments can become part of our sanctification.”
“In good health, you Billy were able to push a lot of people to move on the various causes that you’ve constantly advocated,” Ray told him. “In sickness, you’ve pushed a lot of people to love.”
Last Sunday, Billy fought his last battle on earth, but God won the battle in heaven. He died in his sleep, painlessly.
Billy’s heart matched his big frame. According to his sister Dorothy, one of Billy’s last acts was to sign a document giving the townhouse his late driver’s family occupied to them — lock, stock and barrel.
Billy, your memory will always be a heavyweight in the midst of flaky characters on earth. Your fighting words, etched on newsprint, will be a giant reminder of your cause — that nation building is a task for both leaders and followers, and that conquer selfish interests we must.
“I’ve always placed a premium on sharing values — especially those that are founded on the highest ideals. We can all sound good posturing as patriots but are we truly desirable when the plum that inspires us merely fattens our wallets or promotes political interest?” he wrote in his last column.
I call Billy “Braveheart” as I say farewell because he was always so proud of his Scottish roots.
Once, he wrote so profoundly about the legendary William Wallace, the 13th century Scottish warrior immortalized in the 1995 movie, Braveheart (starring and directed by Mel Gibson.)
He valued his Scottish roots so much he asked his sister Dorothy to dress him up in a barong with a tartan diagonally over it, pinned down by the MacGregor Family Crest.
Godspeed, Billy. Your brave heart will always beat in those who love our country as much as you did.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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