Now that Recto is dead, his death has revealed what life tended to conceal – the man’s true proportions as a spiritual giant.
A Titan walked here, in our midst, and suddenly we find him gone.
Recto was himself the one Filipino Olympian soul. Even in familiar moments, one sensed unfailingly the man’s exceptional stature, his moral height and depth. Intellectually, his reach was as extensive as it was profound. He could, at will, roam with his mind the cultural and intellectual worlds of antiquity, to savor their essences and to pluck from their gardens some over-ripe fruit of wisdom. Plutarch, that peerless chronicler of Greek and Roman heroes, had he met Recto in these wanderings, would have gladly seized upon the Filipino as a worthy subject for his art.
Yet, Recto was in no sense an antiquarian. His was a marvelously modern mind attuned to the great events and issues of our time. World issues not only in the political and economic realms, but also in the philosophical, literary and artistic, fascinated and engaged his mind.
Nor was he always too busy with the present and the past to speculate on the future. Even his enemies grant that here was a man who looked ahead. Men who admired him but were too timid to follow his thoughts to their logical end, which is action, always said, as though apologizing for themselves, “Recto is ahead of his time.” And in a certain tragic sense, he was.
To the classical spirit, to the man of thought and action, one must therefore add a third dimension – that of a prophet.
As if to reproach some of our own countrymen who prate about “internationalism,” professing to scorn Filipino nationalism as narrow and outmoded, Recto, this man of truly cosmopolitan intellect, boldly and proudly identified himself as a Filipino, nay, an Asian nationalist.
He was a master of the Spanish and English languages, besides being acquainted with Latin, French and German: all these languages giving him access to the most vital heritage of Western civilization. Yet he took pride in his own native tongue, and adored its one great poet, Francisco Balagtas; and we know he would have devoted a good portion of his last years, had he lived longer, to the propagation of the national language.