By LEONOR MAGTOLIS BRIONES
"Nationalist to the last." This is how Rene A.V. Saguisag describes the late Sen. Lorenzo "Ka Tanny" Tanada, whose centennial we are celebrating on August 10, 2008.
The first time I met the late Sen. Lorenzo "Ka Tanny" Tanada was in the old Senate Building in Luneta. I went there for the first Council meeting of the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN) . He was the first Chairman. I was a then a member of the Kabataang Makabayan and represented the Youth Sector.
In those days, senators were like Olympians, more godlike than human. They towered over mere mortals in their erudition, eloquence and grandeur. They were like the Roman senators of old. For a graduate student in her twenties fresh from the province, the experience of meeting, talking and seeing a senator up close was awesome.
I was a callow and timid promdi taking up graduate studies in the then U.P. Institute of Public Administration. Dodong Nemenzo was my professor. It was he who brought me to Kabataang Makabayan and to Ka Tanny.
Dazzling is the only word which can be used to describe Ka Tanny's smile. And when he spoke, his listeners were all mesmerized. During assemblies and marches, young people were carried away by his brilliance and eloquence as he expounded nationalist tenets.
The Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN) was the broadest alliance of different sectors rallying to the cause of nationalism. The first Secretary General was Jose Maria Sison. Leading personalities included intellectual giants like Renato Constantino, Dodong and Princess Nemenzo, Merlin Magallona, and fiery labor leaders like Ignacio Lacsina and Juan Olalia..
As MAN Chairman, Ka Tanny steered the organization at a time when to be a "mere" nationalist was considered dangerous. At times, we would meet in the house of Renato and Letty Constantino
Those were heady days. I felt like a fish thrown into the waters of nationalism. We read and reread, and held DGs (discussion groups) in different houses. Nationalism was the first step on the road to radicalism and the young welcomed it joyously.
My MAN experience was a defining moment in my journey to full development as a nationalist and progressive. It completely changed my life and led me on the path which I have never abandoned. Many young people of that time started with MAN. Now they are national leaders in their own right.
Ka Tanny was part of the MAN experience for many young men and women. In the words of Arlene Babst, "He looked, in fact, like the youngest MAN (Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism, which he spearheaded) I have ever seen in my life."
From Senator to MAN
When Ka Tanny became senator in 1947, he had already built up a formidable reputation as professional, lawyer and public servant. He held the longest record of continuous service in the Senate, 24 years.
He received his law degree from the University of the Philippines, his Master's of Law from Harvard University, and his Doctor of Civil Law from the University of Santo Tomas, meritissimus.
His nationalist inclinations were enriched by his experience as running mate of Don Claro M. Recto in the Nationalist People's Party. His chairmanship of MAN was a result of nationalist positions which he espoused in the Senate, his relentless battles against graft and corruption and his advocacy of civil liberties as founding member of the Civil Liberties Union.
From MAN to nationalist hero
Ka Tanny is best remembered for his leadership role during the dark days of Martial Law.
Along with other luminaries, he fought the dictatorship. He was campaign manager of Lakas ng Bayan, a coalition of anti-dictatorship forces. Ka Tanny later led a protest march against the massive cheating during the 1978 election.
Ka Tanny continued his glorious journey during the Aquino administration with his heroic stand on the military bases. He was among those who headed the series of protests which led to the mothballing of the much maligned Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
Ka Tanny only stopped when his physical system finally gave up on him. He passed away in 1992.
Remembering Ka Tanny
How easily people forget! Eccelesiastes has said, "There is no rememberance of men of old, and those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow." How soon the country forgets! But those who were enraptured with his oratory in MAN, his courage in the face of Martial Law, and his endurance in the fight against the bases will not forget.
Nationalism was my first step in the journey towards full development. Ka Tanny was part of that journey. I too travelled the same road as his son Wigberto. Now I am with his grandson Erin. Thank you, Ka Tanny.