MacArthur, Mang Arthur 2017
I was out of high school in 1977 when the movie about Gen. Douglas “The Great American Ceasar” MacArthur was shown in Pines Theatre where my late father Mang Arthur (forgive the pun) worked. It starred Gregory Peck. Lucky for him, his family name is not also his first name, otherwise he would be….ha ha.
But back to the movie we are! The film was about the famous, or infamous for some Americans, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. He was the military commander of the Allied Forces during World War II but after a heavy beating from the Japanese Army, he is forced to withdraw to Australia. Here he makes his vow “I shall return.” Back in the country through the shores of Leyte with Carlos P. Romulo and President Sergio Osmeña, the President says, “You see, General, my people are going to laugh if I fell in deep water. I cannot swim!” The General says, “That’s not so bad, Mr. President. Everyone’s about to see that I can't walk on water.” He then goes into the frontline himself with his Ray Ban aviator sunglasses. Exposed to enemy fire, a soldier warns him, “General, sir! Excuse me, sir, but we just killed a Jap sniper here not five minutes ago!” He answers, “Fine, son! That’s the best thing to do with 'em!” He was a colorful leader who treated his soldiers right unlike that coward DRDA officer who transferred a traffic cop to Apayao because his car was apprehended for violating the Coding Ordinance of the city.
Another movie of the same genre seen at Pines was “Patton” which is about The Tank squadron commander counterpart in the European Theater of Operation, Gen. George S. Patton. Like MacArthur, Patton did not tolerate cowardice, and in one scene where he saw a young soldier, nervous, trembling, and refusing to go back to the battlefield, he slapped him in the face, pulled his firearm and declared, “I will shoot you myself,” but the proverbial cooler heads prevailed. Both generals were willing to sacrifice thousands to gain victory, courageous in the face of enemy fire, and both failed as leaders due to an inability to understand politics that surrounded the war.
After the war, he was given command of the forces in Korea where Fidel V. Ramos also served and Ninoy Aquino was covering as a newspaperman. He was stripped of his command by President Harry Truman for insubordination and visiting his alma mater West Point he poignantly reminisced “Duty, Honor, Country.” Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be. They are your rallying points. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure over love of ease. In this way, they will teach you to be an officer and a gentleman. Today marks my final roll call with you. I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps. I bid you farewell.”
Thus came the lines “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” So the old soldier died, but never faded away. My late father died on the 6th day of January, yet the memories continue to linger in my heart and mind never fading away. MacArthur wrote and Mang Arthur wished “A Father’s Prayer for his son” which I pray for John Paul, Anton, John Tristan, and Lorenzo:
“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee – and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here, let him learn to stand up in the storm; here, let him team compassion for those who fall.
Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goals will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past. And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously.
Give him humility, so that he may always remember, the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain." Sigh!