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The secret of Larry Jocson’s Longevity

(Article published in the Dec 05, 2007 issue of Manila Standard Today)  

It is not clear to me now which one is correct:  “The child is the father of the man” as proclaimed by William Wordsworth in his “My heart leaps up when I behold” or “The child is father to the man” as derided by Gerard Manley Hopkins in his Poem No. 68.  Regardless, what is certain is that Lauro J. Jocson’s Moments proves the substance  behind the form.  What we see in the man Larry, now enjoying his retirement after 48 active years in banking, has its roots in the boy Lauro who was molded by nuns in the days of his youth.

      Moments is not an autobiography.  It is instead, as Larry admits in the Acknowledgment, a compilation of, in addition to some articles he had previously written, his home work, seatwork, and selected journal entries, all crafted in the course of his participating in a writing workshop conducted by Monina Allarey Mercado.  He attended the workshop a year after he had retired from the Prudential Bank in December 2005 with the rank of Senior Vice President.  Larry had a purpose for taking that workshop: he said he wanted to acquire the tools (apparently for some unarticulated reason he did not think, contra factum, that he already possessed sufficient dexterity with them) to write the book that in him was waiting to be written.  For that reason, we see in Moments snippets of his life, the greater number, on account of his seniority, dealing with his childhood.   These glimpses of his early years, unknown to most of us whose interaction with him was mostly at the trust industry, throw light on the whys and wherefores of some features, we have noticed in Larry.


       For instance, I had always wondered how come Larry not only survived but in fact became a mainstay of the trust industry from its turbulent days in the 70s all the way to today.  In the early 70s, a major shift was happening in the trust departments of banks.  Primarily due to the pioneering efforts of the trust department of Far East Bank and Trust Company, trust units of other banks began transforming themselves from being charged only with the task of managing the apartments leased out by selected clients and taking care of the foreclosed real properties of their commercial banking departments.  They were all turning into investment savvy groups ready and able to give investment advice as well as manage stocks and bonds for others.  Trust officers were thus required to be more than just caretakers of bricks and mortar; they had to be able managers of the financial assets of portfolios of retirement funds for employees, sinking funds for corporate debt issues, and even the private wealth of families, mostly of the owners of the banks themselves.

        This development changed the face of the guards at the Trust Officers Association of the Philippines (TOAP).  From an organization composed mostly of mature lawyers (steeped in the art of court collection and unemotional in unlawful detainer cases), it became more and more an association of young and aggressive MBAs and Economics majors.  But Larry, a graduate of the Ateneo Law School and a member of the Philippine Bar since 1957, remained year after year a member of the TOAP Board, long after his compañeros-trust officers had been replaced by a corps of stock market specialists and money market players.  It seemed, for some strange reason, the young turks not only just tolerated an old guard; they in fact welcomed him as one of their own.

          How come? I often asked myself.

The answer I found in the pages of Moments.  Larry was the eldest of three children of Atty. Nicanor Jocson and Beatriz Jose.  The sitting arrangement at meal time says it all: “My father naturally sat at the head of the table, a place I understood to be reserved for the head of the family.  I sat on his left, being the first seat on the long side of the table.  Opposite me sat my mother.  To her right sat my younger brother Ernesto.  My sister Lourdes was next.  My cousin Ramona who came to live with us when her parents died, sat beside Lourdes.”  From his youth, it appears, Larry had a privileged place in the assembly.  He must have acquired early in the game a way of handling people younger than him. But the birth order factor is not a sufficient explanation.

The place factor must supplement it.  The family lived, until Larry was 4, in Leaño Street in Tañong, Malabon, then a town of Rizal.  In Leaño, the asphalt was limited to the center of the road where motor vehicles passed.  Pedestrians walked on the hardened soil on either side.  Then, they moved south, to Tondo, at the corner of Moriones and Sande Streets.  In Tondo, the asphalt covered the whole width of the street.  The change of address, of course, had a significance, besides the asphalt on the ground.  It meant a change in horizon, not just visual but also, more important, phycological. In Tondo, Larry learnt about the world and its people, about Mang Jose, probably half-Chinese half-Filipino, from whom “one can buy canned goods, candy,  cigarettes, the favorite then being Piedmont, and postage stamps for two centavos”; about Adiong, the neighborhood toughie, who considering Larry’s father part of his protectorate, drew an imaginary line on the ground beyond which some tennis player in their club who made a threat on his father’s life could not pass; about a man who, past midnight of Christmas walked alone on the street going northward, a Christmas tree on his shoulders, frequently looking back for some means of easier transport that never came. On Moriones Street, funeral processions passed by to or from the Sto. Niño Church; on Sande ran the tranvia, a pre-war type of public transport gliding over tracks guided by a steel rod that rose from the roof of the car to the electric line above.

To venue is to be added, formal molding, the nurture factor.  He first went to the Infant Jesus Academy, a school run by Belgian nuns located, like other schools, beside the church.  Then, to St. James Academy in Malabon, this time run by the Maryknoll sisters, whose name, when Larry played within its grounds, was Malabon Normal School.  Then, the Jesuits of the Ateneo took over.  But it was too late, they could not undo the work of the nuns.  They were unable to teach Larry how to behave when alone in an  apartment with his girl friend.  Thus, it had to take a “family operation” by the Querubins of Ilocos to get him to propose, much later, to his wife Erny in 1959. 

But what must have made Larry most durable was the when the time of his youth.  The crucial time, he described thus:  “Once I caught my mother staring in space.  She had stopped eating.  When I asked why, I was then nine years old, she said, “Baka magka Guerra.” I said with conviction, “Hindi, magkakaguerra, Nanay” to which she said, “Sana”….  But World War II did break out.  And the rest is history.    The boy who could handle those times could handle anything time can hurl at the man.

If indeed the ancients are correct, that a man’s persona is the result of the special alchemy of elements in him, the blend of birth order, venue, education, and happenstance explains,  in part, the staying power of Larry. 

The rest of the explanation is a young girl named Bea.  To his first grandchild he wrote, “We call you Bea although you’re Beatrice/We love you so much, this we say/with pride and ease/and this love we know will never cease.”