I’M lucky I’m still alive but I’ve already heard my eulogy!”

I’M lucky I’m still alive but I’ve already heard my eulogy!”

So spoke Atty. Manuel B. Zamora Jr., founder and now chairman emeritus of Nickel Asia Corporation and its Palawan-based operating company Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation, during the Grand Alumni Homecoming of the Leonides S. Virata Memorial School (LSVMS) operating within the mining firm’s townsite in Barangay Rio Tuba, municipality of Bataraza.

The homecoming turned out to be an emotional one not only for MBZ (one of his two nicknames, Manny being the other one) but for the assembled alumni and guests as well. A journalist told me she became too emotional during a part of the event that she had to excuse herself from the venue by faking a call on her cellphone.

The LSVMS - named after MBZ’s mentor, partner and friend - was first established in the late 1980s when MBZ realized the need to provide an educational facility for the children of RTN’s employees and of the bigger community. Two years later, it became a “La Salle Supervised School” under the aegis of De La Salle Bacolod, and remained so for the next thirty plus years. Out of LSVMS have come hundreds of professionals including doctors and engineers, a lawyer and numerous teachers — and the event last January 19 was its annual grand homecoming.

But since MBZ was in attendance, a special surprise number was set up. And this was where selected individuals stepped up to the microphone to express their unique reason to thank the school’s founder.

One such was Lyra Male Juanaze, who was diagnosed seven years ago with cancer. A student of LSVMS at that time, she had to quit schooling, but she received support for her treatment because her parents were loyal employees of Rio Tuba. She took the microphone to tell MBZ (with son Dennis seated next to him) that though she was not an RTN employee she was now 23, treasurer of her LGU unit and all she wanted for her birthday was a hug.

When both father and son stood up to grant her wish, there was no dry eye in the room.

Lyra was just one of several speakers, and her profuse expression of thanks was representative of the air of gratefulness that enveloped the school gym which had been converted into an elegant venue for the day. And because the day actually began with the inauguration of a 50-iMac computer laboratory for the high school department - complementing the already existing 50-iMac computer laboratory for the elementary school department - one can only imagine how many more “advanced eulogies” Manny Zamora will be hearing every time he returns to Rio Tuba over the next few years - expressions of thanks from those whose lives he has helped change for the better, whether due to helping provide medical care or, better yet, through the provision of top-class educational training.

Come to think of it, if we all began collecting experiences that resulted in us being eulogized while still alive, wouldn’t that make life far more wonderful - for us and for those whose lives we touch?

(Condolence to the Henry Sy, Sr. family. As I posted on Facebook, the elder Sy was once described to me by Enrique Zobel as “the only Chinese-Filipino businessman I would do business with on a mere handshake.” Both EZ and Mr. Sy would meet for lunch or dinner around the Christmas season, without fail. And once when he was already wheelchair-bound and I was already working for Coca-Cola, EZ asked me to join him for this in a Greenhills restaurant. And when we were all finally seated, me with EZ and Henry Sy, Sr. with two of his children, you could just imagine how awed I was by even just being there!).

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