I have been asked to speak
on behalf of those who were associated with Gerry at the Philippine Center
for Population and Development.
Perhaps we should start at the end. When Gerry resigned from PopCenter to go back to Stanford (that was in 1976), we gave him a silver bowl inscribed with a line taken from a Latin poem:
"Exegi monumentum aere perernnius......
(I have built a monument more lasting than bronze)
We knew it was a very apt
line. And we were more than a little pleased to have been able to
praise him without getting faint damns in return -- by using
a Roman poet to do the job. Typically, Gerry took the bowl and then
recited the whole poem from which the line was taken. Then the telling
put-down, gentled by his “Gotcha!” smile: "Are you sure you didn't
attribute it to the wrong poet?” To this day, almost 20 years later,
I'm still not sure. In any case, Gerry, I looked it up this morning.
The poem was written by Horace.
Flashback to another 19 years before that. We were together in college at Christ the King Seminary, in 1957. Once a month, we were allowed to show ourselves to the outside world on what was called “the monthly hike.” A group of us would plot our route to take us past the colegialas of St. Joseph or St. Paul or St. Mary's or Stella Maris, or even farther to St. Theresa's. Sometimes our route would go past the starlets and would-be stars at Sampaguita or LVN studios. To impress the colegialas and starlets, we would converse in Latin. Of course it wasn't conversation at all. We were reciting Latin poetry, taking turns throwing the lines and stanzas back and forth: “Arma virumque cano Trojae qui primus ab ors,” then someone would continue: "Italiam fato profugus Lavinaque venit," and so on. After a while, most of us would drop out. But Gerry would go on and on. He had memorized whole books of the epics, and he could go on to the lyric poems, even to the sexy poems of Ovid's "Ars Amatoria," which we weren't supposed to know about since it was on the index of forbidden books.
That incident showcases his formidable memory, which Bobby Alvarez refers to as an obscene memory: obscenely accurate, detailed and lasting - at times, revealing what one hoped could have been kept under wraps - and which could impress, amuse, or embarrass, depending on how you figured in it. But it also showed his thoroughness, how he would go beyond being satisfied, like many of us, with memorizing just enough to get by. And it showed, not incidentally, his passion for learning.
JOSE LUIS LEDESMA