Tribute to a grandfather

By Seth Cledera IN a time where the names of politicians are almost everywhere for credit purposes, I would like to pay tribute to a man, as well as to everyone unmerited who have done so much for our province and our country yet they did not mind credit nor seek fame, glory, and money. Today, the 3rd of June, my family remembers our grandfather, Dr. Jose Porteza Cledera, who passed away a year ago. I am proud to say that although he is not recognized and he is not known by many in today’s time, he has done so much more than most of our leaders and politicians today; and he did these in his simple and practical ways, unlike how others use money to run things nowadays. I would love to introduce him to you and his un-credited works as a local artist which we have come to pass almost regularly (especially for Lagonoyons), if you only care to read. A physician by profession, my grandfather is also a painter, a sculptor, a carpenter, and a taxidermist, who utilized his skills and talents for others. Some of his notable works or designs (hands-on, may be with or without assistance}, are to wit: the deer statue, the eastern tower (tuntunan), and the doors of the Sts. Philip and James the Apostles Parish; the fish pond and the 2005 star and Christmas tree, which won silver medal in the Bayanihan Christmasterpiece Landmark competition sponsored by Unilever, in the old and demolished plaza; the stage in the social hall (now Lagonoy Covered Court); as well as, the Grotto and the bust of Felix Fuentebella in Abo Farm, among many other more. He was also the project director of the Interscholastic Village in Pili, Camarines Sur (1969), now much known as the Freedom Sports Complex, where the DepEd Division of Cam Sur is situated. Moreover, he is adept at making floats, fish ponds, and worldly crafts. My grandfather also used to hunt and usually collected his game to preserve them (taxidermy). He donated most of these to the schools in our town. However none have survived, having been reportedly destroyed by storms. Meanwhile, as a painter, his legacy remains in our ancestral home. His paintings, mostly his wife, family, and life experiences as subject, adorn and give life to the more than 60-year old Cledera residence, which he also designed and led to build. Who is “Peping”? Peping, as his family, friends and colleagues call him, graduated Valedictorian from Jose Panganiban Elementary School in Camarines Norte, and finished First Honors (equivalent to Valedictorian) in Ateneo de Naga. Taking Medicine in the University of Santo Tomas, he graduated bene emeritus and is top 14 in the medical board exam. As a civilian practicing medicine and in various capacities in the government, he dedicated his life to public service. He was an Executive Assistant to the Governor of Camarines Sur from 1969 to 1971, and from 1976 to 1980. In 1976, his political career flourished when he was elected Provincial Board Member, serving up to 1986. Before that he also served as a technical assistant of the congressional staff of Partido (1954-1956) and the office of Vice President Palaez (1967-1970). Aside from chairmanships relative to being a provincial kagawad, Peping also took various positions and leaderships of different national, regional and local organizations. Some of these notably were: Director, Family Planning Association of the Philippines Cam Sur Chapter (1972-1986); Director, Boy Scouts of the Philippines Cam Sur Chapter (1976-1978); National Director, National Civil Service Assembly of the Philippines (1976-1978); and National Director, Young Men’s Christian Association of the Philippines (1976-1978). In Partido district, he was incorporator and the first Vice President of the Camarines Sur Electric Cooperative IV (1978-1980); and was once the Director of the Partido Development Administration (1995-1997). In his beloved hometown, Lagonoy, he served as acting mayor (1978); Chairman, People’s Economic Council (1989-1992); Vice Chairman, Municipal Development Council (1966-1969); and President, Lagonoy Credit Cooperative Union. As if fate intertwining his passion for politics and medicine, he was also chosen as one of the country’s first delegates to the International Seminar in Family Planning sponsored by the United Nations held at different Asian countries in 1971; and to the International Conference and Seminar on Family Planning, Demography, Parasite Control, and Nutrition held at Bangkok, Thailand in 1984, with all expenses paid by the Japanese Organization on International Cooperation (JICA). To sum it up, most of his adult years were filled with numerous seminars, workshops, programs and other activities he attended or that he facilitated which mostly focused on governance, family health, population, and electrification, among others. In his older age, somewhere in the 1990s and beyond the year 2000, he continued to give valuable knowledge to the district as a consultant of the congressional staff of Representative Arnulfo Fuentebella and the Partido Development Administration. He was also member of the board of trustees of then Partido State College, and member of the board of councilors of Philippine Science High School. More recently, he was a 6-year member of the Board of Regents of the then newly formed Partido State University (2001-2007). Although he does not boast and seems to not care, his greatest achievement perhaps is his family. Even if he is not vocal about it, he is proud of his children of which four are physicians, one dentist, one fine arts graduate, and a physical therapist. Presently, he has three grandchildren who are already doctors, with another three graduating this June, all from his Alma Mater, the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. My grandfather was not perfect. As human as we are, he also had his flaws and misgivings. However, I will always remember the example he set for me and our family: which is to give meaning to life by maximizing it -that excellence is not always about the awards, the fame, and the glory, but it is doing good and doing well in everything. We love him and miss him dearly.