Remembering SP Lopez on his 112th birth anniversary

    Time and again, Salvador P. Lopez —simply called SP by colleagues and  friends — is mentioned.

    We have read articles on him regarding causes he espoused and fought for and how he had touched other people’s lives.

    Last Saturday, May 27, relatives, fans, friends, as well as others close to him, marked his 112th birth anniversary.

    He was born on May 27, 1911 in Currimao, Ilocos Norte  to Bernabe P. Lopez and Segunda Sinang.

    Much has been written about him by those who knew him like Elmer A. Ordoñez, Oscar  L. Evangelista and the late F. Sionil Jose, and those he helped in their careers such as the late Ambassador Narciso Reyes.

    “As the eleventh President of the University (of the Philippines), he was to survive the ambuscade and steer clear the University through its most tumultuous years, keeping it intact despite the challenges of student activism and the declaration of martial law,” says Oscar L. Evangelista in an article in his book “Icons and Institutions”.

    He adds, “The true mark of a guerrillero is instinct, pure instinct. All you need to be a good guerrillero is a pair of good legs. Keep running, that’s all. General Romulo here was a good guerrillero who knew how to run away from danger. SP had a good pair of legs, but he was running in the opposite direction. Safe in the foreign service, why, he came in with all the enthusiasm and dedication of a loyal alumnus to serve the University.”

    As a veteran of Bataan and Corregidor, Evangelista further says, SP must have known that there was an ambuscade somewhere waiting for him but he still went ahead. The author was probably alluding to the perils of being UP president at a time when campus activism was growing.

    In accepting the challenges of the presidency of UP Diliman,  presiding when the First Quarter Storm took place, Lopez showed the guts and bravery of one who did not run away from a fight, just as he did when he was still a crusading journalist.

    As a newsman, he sought a better life for those suffering from grinding poverty and were involved in the agrarian unrest.

   I met him for the first and last time in the latter part of the 1970s in connection with a  research on his literary doctrine “art is a means to an end”, in contrast to poet Jose Garcia Villa’s “art is an end in itself”.

     I went to his UP Diliman office after his retirement from the university presidency but he was not there.

    His secretary advised me to see him at his home in Quezon City and was given directions how to find it.

     It was one summer day when shortly after lunch I called on him in his modest home, a bungalow.

    A house helper came out to ask what I wanted and I told her I wanted to meet and interview the famed  educator, diplomat, journalist and World  War II veteran.

    She went back to the house and I had the chance  to look around.

   SP’s abode was modest for one who had been  a university president, foreign affairs secretary, diplomat posted overseas for many years and a journalist before that.

    It stood on a rather spacious lot. An old Mercedes Benz car was inside the garage adjacent to the house. I was told it was a gift.

    The property gave the impression that the house occupants had a simple lifestyle. This was confirmed  as I was ushered into the house. SP’s first wife, Maria Luna-Lopez, was seated somewhere in the living room.

    She wrote “Sand in the Palm and Other Essays”.

    Though the living room was not big it looked spacious because of the absence of clutter.

    I was shown to a short flight of stairs that led to a basement library.  A kasambahay  followed carrying a tray with a cup of coffee and rice cakes.

   On one side of the room were numerous books, many of them Filipiniana.  I was seated when Lopez showed up, friendly and gracious.

    Finally, I was face to face with the guy admired for his convictions, stance on political issues and sympathy for the poor, which had won him respect from both the academe and the Fourth Estate.

     He passed on Oct. 18, 1993.

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