Over the weekend, I have been receiving very heartwarming feedback from readers who have perused my latest book “MIRA and Other Essays.” “Inspiring…. touching….. highly informative…. real life drama…..” After much delay at the printer, the book came out, fortuitously on Mothers’ Day. And rightly so. Two outstanding mothers are featured in the book – my mother, Sofia V. Rivera, a former movie actress turned teacher, and my wife Mira, a pediatrician and mother of my three wonderful adult children – Trisha (married to Joy Rojas), Dondi and Frannie.
The book, my third, is a biographical collection of notes, articles, speeches, lectures, Facebook posts, written by me or about me , my family, associates and my work. It is also about people who in one way or the other, touched my life. It is part romance, part drama, part action, part humor.
It is also about other people and institutions who somehow influenced or changed the course of my life – the Kiwanis Club of Muntinlupa Rizal, and three Presidents – President Cory Aquino, President Fidel Valdez Ramos and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
I started with an entry in the diary of my mother on the day I was born, followed by my homage first to my father, Dr. Alfredo M. Bunye, then to my mother, Sofia V. Rivera (nee Gloria Imperial), my growing up years in the New Bilibid Prison Reservation, my high school principal, my unforgettable college classmates, my ROTC summer cadre training where I met for the first time my future wife, Miraflor T. Oca, my first job as a news reporter, my job at the Ayala group which was interrupted by an unplanned 30 year detour into the public service (Muntinlupa City, Metropolitan Manila Authority, Congress, Malacañang, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) and finally my homecoming to the Bank of the Philippine Islands.
The exception to the sequence is the article on my wife, Mira, who will always be first (and only) in my heart.
“MIRA and Other Essays” came out close in the heals of my second book “From Leyte to Bessang Pass.” The book was supposed to have come out on or before August 15, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific. COVID-19 delayed its release to November.
Former Chief Justice Art Panganiban, himself a prolific writer, praised the “truthful, objective and easy-read historical account, free of victors’ braggadocio.”
My fellow BPI Director Becky Fernando said: “Easy to read, very interesting unlike other historical books. I dread reading war stories but I am surprised I did not stop till I finished your book.” Another BPI colleague, Jay Luzuriaga, said: I shall share this with my two children, who are 32 and 28-years-old, respectively, to keep historical accounts of the Second World War in our country alive in the minds and hearts of our much younger generations.”
My former AIM classmate, General Manuel Mariano, suggested that “From Leyte to Bessang Pass” be adopted as recommended supplementary reading in the Philippine Military Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy.
Former Press Secretary Tomas “Buddy” Gomez III described the book as “a must read.” “Gripping,” said writer Belinda Olivarez-Cunanan.
For others, the book evoked fond memories of their own fathers who served gallantly during the war. Dr. Bert Fenix, former roommate at the Ateneo Bellarmine Hall in the 60’s, told me about the gallant father he never met – Major Alberto Obra Fenix, Sr. The elder Fenix was posthumously awarded the Bronze Cross for gallantry in action in Bataan. Conrado “Sluggo” Rigor Jr. reminisced about his father, Colonel Conrado B. Rigor Sr., who led three all Filipino battalions of the 121st infantry, USAFIP-NL, in significant battles in Bessang Pass.
My Hawaii-based brother, Yong, recalled the narration of Major Galang of the US Army who arrived in the Philippines before the return of MacArthur in October 1944. My father, who was then superintendent of the New Bilibid Prison, “hired” Galang as a prison guard. Using one of the towers at the NBP, Galang transmitted intelligence information to the allies.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Albert recalled how she, while ambassador to Australia, personally awarded 3,800 of the 5,000 Australians who participated in the liberation campaign.
My very first book – Central Banking for Every Juan and Maria – came out in 2012. I was then serving as a member of the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. I wrote the book as my own personal contribution to BSP’s advocacy – financial inclusion through financial literacy and education. I explained to the layman how actions and policies of the Bangko Sentral can affect their everyday lives. Former Monetary Board Member Vince Valdepeñas described the book: “Very colorful, informative and readable. This is truly central banking at grassroots. Every educated Filipino should read your book.” The reception to the book came to me as a pleasant surprise. The first print of the book sold out just two months after launch.
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