Red is somebody you would like to be with in tough times.
Tough times like the day before payday and you barely have any cash for a taxi ride home and a meal of kebabs.
Tough times like when you've resigned from a high paying Makati law firm job and all you have to re-build a career in law with is a two year old computer.
Tough times like when you have no money to meet the payroll of your office and the only chance you have is an advance from a client who doesn't seem to trust you.
Tough times like the biggest deal of your law office is about to fail because a document could not be produced and your only chance was that the lawyer from the other side would loosen up and waive it.
Tough times like when your law partner has not been showing up for work and clients are following up on pending matters.
I first shared those times with Red as a fellow associate in the Picazo Buyco Tan Fider & Santos Law Firm, and then as a partner in our Guerrero & Aceron Law Offices. He is the "G" in AGALAW. But those times only looked tough in hindsight. When we were living those moments I never felt desperate, because Red knew how to carry himself in those occasions. He fought those times with guts and humor. Atty. Mario Lorenzo, a partner in Picazo, even called him the most affable associate in the office. Red was quick with a joke or two to cheer us all up. It was typical of Red to never show signs of surrender. Red never gave up. He lived up to his name, Guerrero, a warrior of the highest order.
Thus, in 1996, we managed to live payday after payday in those days that we were both fresh out of law school and working for a big law firm in Makati. We shared taxi rides and meals of kebabs at two o'clock in the morning.
In December 2003, we decided to put up our own law firm. I agreed that Guerrero should be the first name, because he was better than me in many things. He had more fighting spirit, his money skills were far superior and he wrote pleadings like they were mathematical equations. Our office was not immune to the difficulties of a start-up, but at one point, we had five associates and more than enough computers and clients.
In 2005, we clinched a major deal, the sale of Cagayan de Oro Colleges to Philippine Investments Management, Inc. (PHINMA and Bacnotan Consolidated Inc. (BCI). We had to finance the initial talks between the parties with our own money, including the trips back and forth Cagayan de Oro for almost half a year and we were running out of budget. When our clients were about to sign the Share Purchase Agreement in February 2005, each of us even had to put up our last thousand pesos to pay for the lunch with the clients. And then Red thought of the idea to request for an advance from the leader of the sellers who looked like he was half hearted about the deal. But Red asked him, and miracle of miracles, we got our advance that helped us finish the transaction.
In the same deal, we were caught in a bind as a document couldn't be produced. The night before the closing of the deal, I was negotiating with the other lawyers alone, and I told Red the lawyers from the other side insisted that we produce the document that we couldn’t produce. Red told me to put him on the speakerphone. And he scolded the other lawyers, dished out some expletives and again miracle of miracles, it worked as the other lawyers loosened up, waived the production of the document and recommended the transaction to proceed. We consummated the transaction shortly, got paid, and we didn't have to work for almost half a year after that.
In the final few months, Red didn't tell us he was battling lung cancer. I figured it was simply not Red’s style to be the object of sympathy. Red probably did not want to tell us because he believed that one day he would be back to tell us he had beaten cancer and would be ready to get to work.
The sad part is during that time I was not aware of his situation, I still nagged him about work that was not being done. Yet Red continued to send text messages assuring me that he would deliver. True enough, a week before he died he completed his tasks amidst chemotherapy, shortness of breadth, and all.
Sometime August 2004, after our office had completed the difficult but lucrative task of training Fernando Poe, Jr.’s pollwatchers for the presidential elections, I remember him sharing an insight about lions in the wild and lions in cages. He observed that lions in the wild are not sure about their next meal. Meanwhile, lions in cages are fed regularly. Lions in the wild are always in danger of other animals and the elements, while caged lions are protected from all of that. Thus, because they had to fight to survive lions in the wild are fiercer, their senses more alert, and their minds are always at work.
He said he saw himself as one of those lions in the wild. He enjoyed sailing through the good times but he knows he’s one to thrive in tough times.
But there is probably one more reason why he loved being a lion in the wild. It may also be because in tough times God’s love is most present. In the clutches of failure, destitution and loneliness, God proves to us his existence and love despite it all. Red lavished in the thrill of this love.
In the years that I knew Red, he never showed that he was religious. It could be that, like some of us sometimes, he was foolish not to acknowledge God’s hand in his life.
But Christine, his wife, told me that in the last weeks of his life, Red became religious, he prayed the novena and went to mass regularly.
It’s reassuring to learn that during the difficult moments in his illness he finally acknowledged and embraced God’s love that nurtured him all these years, tough, happy times, and all.
Red never lost hope of recovery for God and his family showered him with all their love. And the hardest days of his life became his most meaningful days in this earth.
I saw Red in his deathbed two nights before he died. He was badly beaten by his disease, but his face was not the face of desperation and defeat, but that of peace, love and reverence for what was to come. It is only in surrendering himself to the great Being that he completed his mission to be a warrior of the highest order.
I certainly will not miss tough times. But I will certainly miss, Redendor N. Guerrero, his guts and sense of humor, a warrior of the highest order. I have been blessed to have met him. Salamat pare. May you rest in peace.
December 8, 2007
Feast of the Immaculate Conception