By Dr. R. Dante G. Juanta, OAM, JP
Philippine Honorary Consul General
Adelaide, South Australia
Benjamin was my only brother, the eldest of 5 siblings. He passed away on 25 June 2011 at the age of 80. He was He reached born on 13 January 1931. Coyang, as we 4 siblings addressed him being the eldest, was completely a family-oriented man. He was a devoted husband to Adriana, a doting patriarch to 5 children Arlene, Benjamin (Butch) Jr., Cynthia, Dina and Eric and their spouses and to 16 grandchildren. They all reside in Adelaide, South Australia.
Ben, as relatives and colleagues called him, was among the last of select students admitted in 1949 for the two-year course Elementary Teachers Certificate (ETC) in Philippine Normal School (PNS) before the latter was raised to college status (PNC) in the same year. To be a PNS student then was to him a badge of honor. The College was conferred its university status (PNU) in 1997.
My brother Ben made splendid mark in teaching. He became well known and was demonstration teacher in his school district in Pampanga. He wrote long range teaching plans in some school subjects. They were published in the teachers journal In The Grade School that later was renamed The Modern Teacher (In The Grade School).
After 7 years in teaching, his interests shifted to life insurance selling. He was recruited by a big insurance agency in Manila, learned the ropes quickly, became top in sales. Because of that, he was tapped as instructor to hundreds of aspiring insurance agents. He spent years at a time with 3 large insurance corporations - Great Pacific Life Insurance, Insular Life Insurance and Manila Bankers Life Insurance. Years before retirement, he was President of his own general life insurance agencies in MBL - BESCON Life Insurance agency and LIVING Life Insurance agency.
My brother took his family to Australia in 1989. While enjoying leisurely his retirement in Adelaide, he was invited to spend time again in the Philippines as Corporation Consultant to Puyat Family-owned Manila Bankers Life Insurance Corporation in Makati City. He visited MBL branches across the country, held business meetings and conducted conferences with Executives and Staffs.
In 1999, he published his book Selling Can Change Your Life for the Better (Manila, 1999). The book was launched at Makati by no less than the Philippine Government Insurance Commissioner himself, Mr. Edwin Malinis .
Coyang and I spent many a weekend in Adelaide as happened in Manila, exchanging family visits between his and mine. We enjoyed as always the taste of ice cold beer with pulutan (savories) prepared by our wives. We discussed current issues and events of the week, talked about our children and on bits and pieces about our siblings, about our work and the like. Everything truly marked the kind of closeness developed between my brother and me and the children over the years. What also amazed our wife and children were the long hours of conversation that we spent before, during and after the meal!
On one weekend at their house, Coyang handed me a typewritten sheet of paper. “I have been wanting to give this to you,” he said, “but I kept forgetting doing so.”
“Oh, boy,” I exclaimed, “this is a Tagalog translation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 “How Do I Love Thee”!
I asked what he wanted me to do with it. “Keep it”, he said. “It’s yours. I feel proud and so good at putting Elizabeth Browing’s famous poem in Tagalog!”, he exclaimed with a booming hearty laughter.
I kept the poem, placed it among my documents in my personal files, and treasured it for years.
PHOTO : With my only brother Ben
(Benjamin Galura Juanta 13 January 1931 - 25 June 2011)
My brother’s death anniversary on the 25th of June 2013 reminded me of the poem that he asked me to keep. I decided to get it published in PCHN. It is a fitting tribute to his life and works, his generosity to a number of people he helped and whose lives he touched.
In the next segment I shall give Coyang’s Tagalog translation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 “How Do I love Thee” aptly titled “GAANO KITA KAMAHAL?” © rdgjuanta June 2013
To be continued