Though the location had changed and the attire was appropriately casual, the scene was basically the same – people who gathered were familiar faces: bankers, market players and movers, business stalwarts, monetary authorities, and of course, some economic members of the fourth estate. His better half, Ms. Tess, was there, profuse in appreciation for the outpouring of support and respect for her main man.
For me, it felt like a déjà vu. Because, exactly a month ago, January 25, the same old faces dressed to the nines were gathered at the annual banking reception held at the Fort San Antonio Abad. On Monday, February 25, the 33rd anniversary of the 1st People Power that liberated the country from the shackles of the dictatorship, most of the guests at the yearly Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) event met again, this time around, to pay our last respects to BSP Governor Nestor “Nesting” A. Espenilla, Jr., who was fetched by his angels Saturday after courageously fighting tongue cancer for more than a year. He’s the first sitting chairman of the Monetary Board, the policy-making body of the BSP, to abruptly leave this way.
I confessed I was startled by the news of his departure. Engrossed in watching my favorite Korean telenovela, I totally disregarded, at the onset, the series of viber messages I had received. But, the viber notifications kept on buzzing. And so, I thought that there must be something so urgent that I had to forego what I had been glued to.
Reading the flurry of messages, I was floored, dumbfounded. I thought of him, Gov. Nesting, full of work enthusiasm. In fact, it embodied his keynote speech read for him by then BSP officer-in charge Deputy Governor for financial supervisory sector Chuchi Fonacier at the annual event. Despite his health battle, his zest for work remained: “No one is dropping the ball. As you can see, there is much work to be done… So much work,” he told the guests and his BSP colleagues back then.
To say that his professionalism and work ethics had been inspirationally infectious is an understatement. His only daughter, lawyer Jacky, could only recount this with total amazement. His being a workaholic did not escape even his doctors at the St. Luke’s Medical Center, where he incessantly badgered his doctors when he would be finally be discharged to attend to his work.
I personally witnessed how workaholic Gov. Nesting was. It seems like light years ago when I was covering the World Bank-International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington DC Back then, Gov. Nesting was the chief of staff/head executive assistant of BSP Gov. Gabriel “Gabby” C. Singson. I would bug him to remind Gov. Gabby to spare time for an interview. When President Duterte named Gov. Nesting as the successor of Gov. Amando M. Tetangco in 2017, it brought back poignant memories, one of which was a conversation I heard between him and Gov. Gabby. This was in the fall of 1995. Coming from Washington DC, the Philippine delegation went to New York. After dinner, we agreed to meet at the lobby of New York Palace for a walk, enjoyed the chilly weather, and shared a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. I was the designated taskmaster to round up the group. When I called his room, I was informed he was unable to join because he had to work. And from the background I heard the voice of Gov. Singson saying: “Nesting, we’re doing this… you may never know you may be the next governor.” How prophetic those words were!
I’ve heard, up to the very end, his mind was focused on his responsibilities, aware of the undergoing BSP reforms, in cadence with the recent amendments to its charter. His passion for work had put in awe his deputies. “Imagine, he was still able to rate my performance,” in between sobs Dep. Gov. Chuchi said. One could sense the great amount of respect and admiration she has for her late superior.
Indeed, this blue eagle was a blue-blooded public servant.
Gov. Nesting saw the entire proceedings of the January banking reception with the help of technology- live-streamed. I believe he, too, was watching the Monday’s expression of sympathy up there with the cherubim and seraphim on his side.
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