Gary Lising, once upon a time



Ambassador  José Abeto  Zaide Ambassador José Abeto Zaide

Many years ago circa the 1980s, our daughter Ningning flipped through my 1964 Aegis yearbook and stopped at one page, pointing to a photo which seemed to say, “What, me, worry?”  Disbelieving, she asked, “Dad, Gary Lising was your classmate?!”

Diplomats are said to be honest men sent abroad to lie for their country; but I did not want to set a bad example for my children.  I had to tell nothing but the truth: “Yes, Gary Lising was my classmate,” I confessed.  But I had to soften the blow, adding that “… In the 105 years of the Ateneo, our batch 1964 had the highest IQ…But Gary brought it down to average!”

Truth to tell, our batch has the proud claim to have graduated a host of achievers.  One of us joined the Society of Jesus, Fr. Raul “Bobi” Nery.

Abiding by the classical motto “Mens sana, in corpore sano” (Of sound mind and sound body), Jojo  Buñag, Toting Bunye, Bombing Trinidad, Kaiku Licuanan, Baby Lopez, Abe Pascual, Bert Fenix, Erwin Gomez, Rant Castillo, Vic Limlingan, Gary Teves, Egay Velasco, Bubot Sebastian, etc., were all outstanding academically.  In sports, Felix Flores (the Olympian), Nonoy Reyes, Ding Camua, Lawrence Gonzales, and Blue Eagle captain Tony Guidotti won the NCAA basketball championship.

The numbers do not always square up with quality, when you weigh all the big names against Gary Lising:

Fr. Austin Dowd, SJ, famously said, “Gary Lising, you are funny peculiar, (not funny Ha! Ha!)”

Few know about Gary’s romance:  S. P. Lopez, our distinguished former secretary of foreign affairs (1963) and president of UP (1969-75), asked if Gary could maintain his daughter in the lifestyle she was accustomed to.  Without batting an eyelash, Gary reassured him, “Yes, Sir, I will move in!”

Fr. Nicholas Kunkel, SJ, our Dean of Studies, greeted him one morning, “Gary, I had a nightmare… I dreamt that you graduated!”

Nightmare came true.  Gary graduated and went to the USA. (Sabi ni Jun Urbano, aka Mr. Shooli, “Tuturuan ni Gary mag-ingles ang mga Amerikano).”

Gary did charity work.  He raised funds for Fr. John Gordon’s Challenge House (an ex-domo trial novitiate) by playing the lead role in “Will Svccess spoil Jvlivs Cesar,” and again as Cleopatra in “You and the Nile and the Music.”

Gary peaked as cheerleader at the height of Blue Eagles vs. Green Archers NCAA basketball rivalry: At half-time, he entered the Rizal Memorial Stadium hardcourt, alone…then he dropped on fours at center court. Jun Urbano aka Juan Tamad followed to center court… carried by four cheerleaders…who sat him down on Gary Lising.  There, cheerleaders helped sway both hands of Juan Tamad …in very slow motion…leading the Ateneo bleachers cheer the fabled fighting Fabilioh!

The Ateneo became what it is (or would never become the same again), after graduating Gary Lising. Because Gary made it real and live-able.

If Gary Lising woke up in heaven last Saturday (1 June), it means that God's favorite joke on earth finally caught up with Him. Friends and admirers pray that Gary rests in peace  --  but not before our funnyman has the celestial ceilings convulsing and the saints in stiches!

Gary is the only soul who can repeat the same jokes and start us laughing. Or is it because we don’t remember that we heard the same jokes from him before?  As a senior citizen, I cannot trust my fading memory to recall the Gary Lisingisms.  So I yield the floor to those who can better remember.

My deep condolences to the bereaved family, and especially to you, Bugsy  –   Anak ka ng tatay mo!  You have every reason to be proud of being Gary’s only son!