My dear kumpadre, Dr. Romy Echauz, passed away last week. It was something that caught me by surprise and brought tears to my eyes, having known about it after the funeral already as I have changed phone numbers. To those close to him, he will always be the esteemed banker and billionaire businessman, having founded one of the Philippines’ largest non-life insurance companies. But to me, he will always be a cherished mentor, benefactor and loving godfather to my twins whom he fondly called hijadas.
I met Dr. Echauz close to ten years ago when he introduced himself to say how he liked one article I’d written for our newspaper. A meeting over coffee ensued and from then on he called me his “associate,” something that flattered me coming from a man of his stature. Not only did he tap me for his professional projects, I was also privileged to be part of their extended family. Memorable were the countless vacations we spent in their sprawling retirement subdivision which Doc Echauz relentlessly promoted till his death. For the past several years, the kids also enjoyed attending the Feast of the Three Kings at the Casino Espanol in Manila courtesy of Ninong Romy.
He was old but never beaten. Up to last year, he reported to his penthouse office at the family building on Pedro Gil and religiously made his early morning walks along the length of Greenhills. I was amazed that he had no prohibitions when it came to food – a good meal would be a lunch of steamed live shrimps and everything else at Emerald Garden.He was a doting husband to his wife of 60 or more years Lourdes and I remember how he was so depressed by the death of one of their sons early on. He sent many scholars to school and sponsored community masses at the family chapel in Cavite. During his last days, he founded the Prayer Power Movement as an answer to the politico-economic ruin facing the country and also published two editions of his book on successful selling (where I was one of the editors). He could have been a national leader or politician but Doc Echauz opted to serve his fellowmen in a way that was most unassuming and noble.
I amusingly remember how, at one function, he bent on all fours to look for a ONE peso coin that dropped under the table. He was generous but at the same time a great example of how the old rich handle their money. During my trip to Japan last year, he gave me a modest allowance and only asked that I bring him a copy of the Asahi Shimbun as pasalubong. I never got the chance to give it to him. Somehow he told his secretary that he felt bad I didn’t have the time to see him anymore and give him an article he asked me to do. I feel so guilty of course. Here was somebody who immensely believed in my talent and never failed to encourage me to continue being a writer. He expected to live a hundred, I thought he’d live forever but death comes to us like a thief in the night, unrelenting.
So long Dr. Echauz…. yours was life truly richly meaningfully lived!Thank you for being a profound influence to my life and being an inspiration to countless others. Surely, now that God has seen you, he will congratulate you for a job well done.
The important thing, the thing that lies before me, the thing I have to do, if the brief remainder of my days is not to be maimed, marred and incomplete, is to absorb into my nature all that has been done to me, to make it part of me, to accept it without complaint, fear, or reluctance. – Oscar Wilde