By Ben Rosario
Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led the House of Representatives in extolling the late Speaker Prospero “Boy” Nograles’ contribution in creating a “wonderful world” for his countrymen.
Nograles’ remains were brought to the plenary session for the necrological service that saw former colleagues, both from the opposition and administraiton alike, praise his friendship and exceptional management of the Lower Chamber during his term as speaker of the 14th Congress from 2008 to 2010.
His wife, Rhodora Bendigo-Nograles and their children, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei, PBA Partylist Rep. Jericho Jonas and new lawyer Margarita, aired their appreciation for the honor bestowed upon the former House leader who died of respiratory illness at age 71. With them was Nograles’ favorite pet, a golden retriever named Anna.
The former House leader’s remains will be flown back to his birthplace, Davao City, and will be interred on Sunday, said Rep. Nograles.
The elder Nograles was remembered for his cheerfulness and for some, for his singing talent, especially when he sang his favorite, “What a Wonderful World”, mimicking the husky voice of American jazz great Louis Armstrong.
“I would like to thank Boy, today is, yes, Boy, what a wonderful world you helped create with your friendship, with your work and I believe that even us, your family, the House of Representatives and the secretariat will miss you,” said Arroyo.
In her eulogy, Arroyo chose not to discuss Nograles’ achievement as a House leader and legislator. She opted to remember her friendship with the former Davao City congressman.
Arroyo recalled that Nograles was “a friend of more than 50 years”, being the Ateneo de Manila college buddies of her husband, Mike and Henry Villarica, husband of Deputy Speaker and Bulacan Rep. Linabelle Villarica.
All three became lawyers, with Villarica and Nograles placing first and second in the bar examination of 1971 with an average grade of 92.4 percent and 90.95 percent, respectively.
Arroyo made the audience smile as she recalled a recent dinner she had with the Nograles couple and several friends.
The dinner topic shifted to how the beautiful Bibeth, Rhodora’s nickname, was won over by Nograles.
“And Bibeth answered, ‘it was a stolen kiss’,” recounted Arroyo.
Arroyo said that when she was still working with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and one of her jobs was to liaison with the legislative department, Nograles was among the congressmen who prodded her to seek a Senate seat in 1992.
When a small group of Philippine officials accompanied her to a meeting with then US President Barack Obama at the Oval Office, she said Nograles was among the chosen few to join them.
“In that meeting, Boy Nograles asked Pres. Obama the question that everybody else in the delegation was too polite to ask. He said, when everything was almost over in the meeting, he said: “Pres. Obama, what are you doing about the recession in the United States?”
Arroyo continued: “And Pres. Obama said, ‘You know so many hours have been spent in this room or in this couch talking about what we should do about that.”