Book 7: Tough and Tender


by James B. Reuter, S.J., Ateneo University

            Over the last fifty years, my chief job has been to discover talent in people, to develop the beautiful gifts that God has given to His children, to help the boy or girl to blossom, to bloom, to grow.  This is the job of the teacher, of the coach, of the director.  It is the most consoling work in the world.

            For some children, sometimes, I have been a stepping stone to God.

            Hopefully, I was one of the stepping stones for Larry Henares, and for his family.  His beautiful, courageous wife, Cecilia Lichauco, lost her leg during the war, when she was seventeen years old.  But I directed her, as an actress, in Cyrano de Bergerac, which starred her own sister, Luisa, as Roxanne.  Luisa is now Sister Marissa, of Maryknoll.  His daughter Juno was a strong performer in “Woman and God”, and went on to star for Repertory Philippines, and to became an executive of 20th Century Fox.  I was the priest at the wedding of his son, Ronnie.  I was Larry’s teacher.  I was his friend.  I am a family friend.

            In l938, at the age of 22, I came to the Philippines as a Jesuit scholastic.  I studied Philosophy at the Jesuit novitiate in Novaliches, and then in Baguio.  My first assignment as a teacher was at the Ateneo de Manila, on Padre Faura, in l941.  My first class was Sophomore A.B. At that time A.B. — Bachelor of Arts — was the prestige course in the Ateneo.  The heart of the faculty was Father Joe Mulry, S.J.

            Joe had been teaching both Freshmen and Sophomore, A.B.  The dean of the college, Father Vincent de Paul O’Bierne, S.J., decided that Joe should give up the Sophomores, and concentrate on the Freshmen.  I was scheduled to teach the Freshmen whom he had taught in the school year l940 – l941.  So I went to him — scared to death — for instructions on how to handle these boys.

            Old Joe Mulry said: “They are bright!  But they all have ants in their pants…  Get in there and learn as much as you can from them!”  I think that is the best advice that could ever be given to a young teacher.  Joe Mulry loved his students, and they loved him.  They really learned from him, and he learned from them.  The bridge is love.

            I met my class: all young, all of them bubbling with life, all of them really bright.  Aurelio Montinola Jr., who later went to Harvard and now heads Amon Trading.  Johnny Tan, who even then was beginning to work with Father Walter Hogan, S.J. on social justice.  Jose Yulo Jr. who now runs the Canlubang Sugar Estate.  Gregorio Anonas Jr., who  was captain of the Ateneo cheer leaders, and then almost died in the Death March.  Bert Misa, who became Director of Prisons, like his father.  Mariano Laurel, whose Daddy was President of the Philippines under the Japanese.  Jose Abreu Jr. of Meralco.  Mon Ylanan, who went to Fordham University and became the student director of the college radio station and editor-in-chief of the Fordham Year Book.  J.V. Cruz, writer, press secretary, Ambassador to the Court of Saint James — but while in my class he applied for entrance into the Society of Jesus, and was accepted!  Santiago A. Gaa, who became a Jesuit, and a novice master.  Ansberto Paredes, Judge of the Regional Trial Court.  Valeriano Lozada, who enjoyed everything and delighted in being the class clown.  Gus Gonzalez, who starred in the plays of Bert Avellana, in the Manila Opera House, during the long years of the war.  Ramon Cabrera, left halfback on the Ateneo football team of that year.  That team was unbeaten, untied, un-scored upon!  We won the NCAA championship from La Salle on December 7.  The war broke on December 8.  Cabrera went to Bataan, to Capas, to Fort Santiago, and then laid down his life because he would not give the names of those who were with him in the underground.  Those who were closest to him in the underground were — almost all of them — from my class.

            Even in that brilliant company,  Larry Henares was the best debater.  He went on to become an engineer, an economist, a businessman, an industrialist, dean of two graduate schools, President of the Philippine Chamber of Industries, a member of the cabinet of President Diosdado Macapagal, a newspaper columnist, and Consultant on National Affairs to President Fidel V. Ramos.

            Larry was a compulsive reader, with a photographic memory.  In seven years at the Ateneo, he read one book a day.  He was strong both in science and in the arts, in mathematics as well as in English.  He as an actor — he delivered eleven precious lines in the first play I directed for the Ateneo: “Who Ride on White Horses.”

            I knew Larry when he was seventeen — vigorous, vibrant, joyous, with stars in his eyes.  All of the Ateneo boys, at that time, were idealistic.  So Larry saw me through rose colored glasses.  Years later, when his memory was mellowed by time, he wrote:

            “Long before he stood as a Colossus on the basketball court as coach of champions, and on the stage and television screen as pioneer director, Father Reuter was a great priest and a great teacher, unique among the Jesuits who are the most unique of priests and teachers.

            “He is the last of the great teachers who molded our generation.  Father Joseph Mulry, Father Henry Lee Irwin, Father Austin Dowd, and the  legendary Horacio de la Costa are no longer with us . . .

            “In class, Father Reuter read Shakespeare’s plays, acting all the roles, in voices ranging from falsetto to bass, jumping from one place to another, fencing with imaginary enemies, embracing imaginary friends.  All of a sudden, Shakespeare became alive for all of us.  Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth became instruments that searched men’s hearts and souls, baring the splendor and the meanness of the human spirit, the soaring heights to which it can ascend and the miry depths to which it can sink.

            “Father Reuter introduced us to Arch Oboler, pioneer radio script writer, and got us to compete in radio play contests in KZRH and in other stations.  We won every contest in sight.  Father Reuter would say: “Boys let us not compete with each other.  This week we will submit the script of Mon Ylanan.  Next week it will be Larry Henares . . .

            And I did win!  With a play acted out by Dick Puno, father of Dong.

            “Above all, he taught us to express ourselves clearly, logicall, truthfully, lovingly, with the grace of God, with beauty and simplicity of language. No one who ever learned from Father Reuter could ever write jargon….”

            There is a Latin axiom:  “Quidquid recipitur, secundum modum recipientis, recipitur”  (“Whatever is received is received according to the measure of the receiver.)”

            This means that whatever Larry learned in class, he already had — in embryo.  His mind and heart were ready for the classsics.  His soul enriched everything that he learned.

            In wartime U.P., the famous professor of science, Gokhali, said of two students, both of whom came from my class:  “In this class there are only two students worth teaching — Jose Abreu and Hilarion Henares, Jr.”

            Larry was exempted from attending classes in English and in Math at U.P., because of his mastery of the subjects.

            The Jesuits try to build in their students an all-around wholeness in their intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual development.  They stole this from the Greeks.  The Athenian, 300 years before Christ, was an orator, a philosopher, a sculptor, a playwright, an actor, a wrestler, a marathon runner, a military General, a poet, a romantic lover, a courageous hero in combat.

            This was the ideal that Larry set out to achieve.

            At Massachusetts Institute of Technology he was a member of the fencing team and a scholar on the Dean’s List.

            General Carlos P. Romulo said of him: “Others spend a lifetime climbing to the peak of one career.  Larry leaped from peak to peak in many fields — engineer, educator, nation’s economic czar, movie maker, writer, civic leader, public servant.”

            This little volume — the sixth of a series of essays — reveals the depth and the breadth of Larry’s soul, his natural spontaneous joy in telling a good story, his mastery of the subject he chooses to write about, his original insights, his love of all mankind.

            Larry lived up to his name as a Catholic gentleman when President Carlos P. Garcia conferred on him the highest award for “exemplary family life.”  He lives up to his name as an Atenean when he defends the Blessed Virgin Mary.

            He once said of himself:  “I am a child of God and of the Father Reuter.”

            That is an honor.  An incredible honor

James B. Reuter, S.J., April 15, 1994