Professor Lapuz, a voice extinguished

Jose David Lapuz, Knight Grand Cross of Rizal, was the last of that inexorable breed of orators. He had the voice for it; he was a baritone and had he chosen the opera instead of the academe he could have excelled in villainous roles like the Conti di Luna in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”.

Professor Lapuz loved to lecture, that was his passion and his life and I think he enjoyed hearing himself enunciate with care and clarity every word he uttered. He taught at the University of Santo Tomas and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He was no charlatan, he had a lot to say about international politics and, of course, Jose Rizal. He was a self-proclaimed “Rizalista de Vanguardia” and had the aphorism embroidered on that special barong tagalog worn by the Knights of Rizal. That was probably why he was accused of being vainglorious, an insult he brushed off. He took Rizal seriously, studied the hero’s works profoundly. Once, when he was a guest at a daily radio program (Krus na Daan) I used to have, he declared with authority that in the El Filibusterismo, Rizal was telling us how NOT to make a revolution.

He was sought-after as a lecturer and was invited by the Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom, the American Political Science Association (Washington D.C.), the International Studies Association in New York. He was a guest of various educational institutions and schools like the Eastern Washington University, East Carolina University, the Universities of London, Glasgow and Oxford. He lectured in the Humboldt Universität in Berlin. Before the USSR (Union of Socialist Soviet Republics) morphed into the Russian Federation, Professor Lapuz was invited by the USSR Institute of Studies in Moscow and by the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) State University.

I think all those invitations to lecture came when he was a commissioner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a position he held from 1999 to 2005. During that time, he was also a commissioner of the Committee on Social and Human Sciences and a member of the Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Poverty of the UNESCO.

In March 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made him a presidential consultant and a few months later, in November, he was appointed a commissioner and board member of the National Historical Institute (now National Historical Commission of the Philippines). In March 2017, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte appointed him Presidential Consultant for Education and International Organizations. Apparently, Pres. Duterte was his pupil in the Lyceum of the Philippines in the 1960’s. He was about to be appointed as head of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) but that did not materialize due to objections of some academic sectors. During that tempest in a teapot, Prof. Lapuz was accused of including plagiarized material in some chapters of his book on international politics. He readily admitted the deed and apologized profusely.

Jose David Lapuz took his undergrad in the University of the Philippines after which he was awarded a scholarship to the University of Glasgow in Scotland by the British Council. He had a Masters in International Politics and Foreign Policy from that university. In 1971, he was awarded the TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) for Political Science, the same award my husband (Antonio Araneta) won in 1969 for International Amity.

If memory serves, I met Prof. Lapuz during the Centennial of the Philippine Revolution, after one of the lectures held at the Manila Hotel. I think it was another Knight of Rizal who introduced us, the late Roger Quiambao. Prof Lapuz said he had met my grandmother, Filomena Francisco Guerrero when he was a young man. For some reason, he had to interview my uncle, Leon Guerrero, who was then the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs. We were all still living in my grandpa’s house on Donada Street, in Pasay. He said my grandma was such a gracious lady who made him feel at home, offered him a refreshment, while he waited for my uncle.
When we celebrated the centennial of my uncle, his son David asked me to invite Prof. Lapuz to say a few words. The professor began with that story about my grandmother being so kind and gracious, but he was not a man of a few words, he went on and on extolling the intellectual virtues of my uncle Leon. Cousin David was visibly worried, so I went to the lectern and stood beside the orator/professor without saying a word. He got the hint and with a smile acknowledged my presence and ended his eulogy.

My mother, Carmen Guerrero Cruz Nakpil, passed away on 30 July 2018; we invited Prof. Jose David Lapuz to give the eulogy. After all, they were fellow historians and whenever he was in town, Prof. Lapuz would attend the bi-monthly lunches I used to organize for my mother and her contemporaries. His eulogy was superlative, we gave him free rein and never regretted it. Mommy would have wanted it that way.