The Law of the Sea

Arturo M. Tolentino: I wish people will remember me for The Law of the Sea

Why many want to be in show-biz

Two recent deaths, not including that of Atty. Arbet Sta Ana Yongco, tend to show how media help shape the preferences of our people. I am referring to our loss of Dr. Arturo Tolentino, the former senate president, and Rio Diaz-Cojuangco, the bubbly tv personality.

The life of Tolentino, Turing to many, is legendary. He was a bar topnotcher (If my memory is accurate, the order of the top three was Catral, Tolentino and Padilla.) But, as the story came to me, Tolentino, while reviewing for the bar exams, was, at the same time, conducting review sessions among classmates and other candidates.

The Philippine Legislature witnessed the brilliance of Turing. His thoughts, flowing from a careful analysis of ideas and events, were always sought for. There was nary a statute passed in his time which did not get the polish from his scholarship and the imprimatur of his profound perceptions.

Among the most lasting work of his genius are his contributions in the writing of our civil code. Because this law governs our daily affairs on family relations, property and contact to name a few, in effect, Tolentino lives amongst us.

Rio Diaz-Cojuangco, lived a different life from Turing. On her own, she became a rightful successor to her own sister Gloria, the former Miss Universe. Blessed with a lovely face and lasting smile, she was equanimity personified, the best proof which was her congenial way of dealing with her dreadful infirmity. Better still, to the testimony of many, she was also intellectually gifted. Her social conscience involved her with activities that brought her very close to the bosoms of the less privileged. That she married a scion of one of the Philippines' wealthiest families afforded her the privilege to be a seeming inexhaustible source of benevolence.

The sad fact is that within a brief span between them, Turing and Rio crossed the great barrier. From television screens, I learned of their passing away. But, the airtime allotted to each showed contrasting preferences. So much more was devoted to Rio while Turing had abbreviated exposure. Perhaps in deference to the age of Sen. Tolentino, the television obituary was consciously made brief and the coverage of his interment, subdued.

The limited tv exposure on the kind of vigil Turing's remains had did not reflect the immensity of his contribution to our race. I'm sure there were lengthy recollections on how much he had given to our nation but the token coverage by our news networks gave very little indication of Tolentino's statesmanship.

In contrast, the two competing television giants made a fateful, almost eternal vigil of Rio. Was it the impression of the tv moguls that she, rather than Tolentino, gave the more far-reaching service to our people that she deserved a more extensive coverage? The account was, to use a sporting language, blow by blow. Every step of the way from her death to her ashes' interment was carefully recorded by video cameras and beamed to a grieving nation. Nightly, the tv channels gave us vivid glimpses of such vigil in her adoptive Negros town.

In short, my impression was that both ABS-CBN and GMA placed Rio Diaz-Cojuangco on a higher pedestal than Dr. Arturo Tolentino. As gauged by the amount of exposure they gave both the star quality of Rio was superior to the heirloom we have inherited from Tolentino. If a child viewing such a discrepancy of attention would prefer to be in show-biz than be a senator, would we blame him?