Tribute To Dodo Bustamante
This article from Michael O’Riordan’s column Outside Looking in was first published in the Dumaguete Metropost on the 12th of August, 2018
When a man dies, his shortcomings, his character defects are often conveniently set aside. and he is instead spoken of only in glowing terms. This will not be necessary for my friend Alfredo “Dodo” Bustamante who recently died. Dodo was a man of impeccable integrity whose life is a testament to a deep love for his family and country.
Born into an old, titled land family, Dodo grew up in Bacolod under privileged circumstances. As a young child, he played after school in the fields with children whose parents were working in his family land. But even then, Dodo recognized that his life differed significantly from theirs. Perhaps that was part of the reason why, after he had taken over running the estate and stabilized the finances, he began providing college education to their workers’ children.
This began a practice he would continue later in his life, when personally paying for the college education of hundreds of students in his beloved alma mater, De La Salle University in Manila. Green is De La Salle University’s color, and for many years, Dodo would be seen driving around Dumaguete in a green Isuzu Trooper.
Dodo’s life was dramatically transformed when his father prematurely died. As the oldest son, he was obliged to take over as head of the family, and the estate. He faced and successfully overcame many challenging obstacles. He put his life on hold so that his brothers could attend university, marry, and start their own families.
During all this Dodo, had no time for frivolity or social life. Fortunately, that changed over time, and he met the lovely Trinidad “Chining” Sagarbarria from Dumaguete. They married and had three children. Dodo went to work for the Philippine government in New York for a few years before returning to the country permanently to live in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental.
The only time I sensed some bitterness from Dodo was when discussing his brief entry into national politics. During the Marcos dictatorship, he ran for Congress in Bacolod. All indications showed he had comfortably won but then the voting ballots mysteriously changed, and his Marcos-endorsed opponent was awarded the seat.
It was not any sense of personal loss that upset Dodo. He always expressed to me his sadness for the plight of the ordinary people, with their limited opportunities, at the seemingly endless cycle of poverty they had to endure.
Dodo had believed that as congressman, he would be able to make a difference in their lives.
But he always did make a significant, positive difference throughout his life, although not in the political arena.
I first met Dodo Bustamante at Sans Rival in Robinsons Dumaguete. He was wearing a Rotary shirt, and was engaged in an animated conversation with friends.
As a fellow Rotarian, following our tradition, I went over and introduced myself. This was the beginning of a special friendship with a man I was privileged to call *my friend*. We disagreed on many topics, and regularly engaged in energetic debates on Saturday mornings while sipping coffee on the veranda of the home he shared with Chining along the Valencia road.
At first, I think his household staff were concerned that a fight was about to break out between us but they soon realized, Dodo and I were simply but vigorously proposing, then defending our viewpoints, while immensely enjoying ourselves.
I last saw Dodo at the Silliman University Medical Center in Dumaguete. It was there I met their three children of whom he was intensely proud. He regularly spoke about them in glowing terms, as his eyes sparkled with delight and fatherly pride. Chining was also at the hospital, loyal to the end, gently holding Dodo’s hand.
One area about which Dodo and I strongly disagreed in was religion and the afterlife. Unlike me, Dodo was a firm believer and a deeply-spiritual person.
Dodo, I hope your journey onward was gentle, peaceful, and that you are at present experiencing all that you had hoped for, all that you richly deserved from a life well-lived.
I will be one among many who will miss the sound of your laughter, the warmth of your smile. May your God bless you eternally, my gentle friend.