An Ode To Rolly: A Tribute To A Man Loved and Revered By So Many

By DONALD BORJA SEVILLA

When some people you hold close to your heart leave this earth, their passing leaves an indelible mark in your memory that makes it difficult to forget. More so, when the day death took them away fell on a day you celebrate life as in the day comemmorating a loved one’s birth.

Two such men left this world, whose lives made an impact on mine and whose friendships I deeply cherish. Josef “Jojo” Enerio was a good friend and “brother” who died on the day we celebrated my youngest son’s birth, an angel who left us all too quickly. Rolly, whom I consider a “second father,” was a friend and mentor who passed away on my eldest daughter’ birthday. Given all these seemingly insignificant trivia, how can one ever forget.

Though death may keep us in mourning, it also leaves behind pleasant memories of the ones that left, for us to treasure and cherish. Life indeed is a marvel and the cycle of life and death only adds to its mystery.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

Rolando Butalid G., as he fondly writes his signature, was a dashing debonair in his heyday, who caught the fancy of many. A good looking, hunk of a man even in his old age, he was the proverbial jolly good fellow. Born to illustrious parentage on July 7, 1931, he was the epitome of a blue-bloodied Tagbilaranon who rose to become one of its prominent civic and political leaders. Politics and leadership ran in his veins as his father, the late Timoteo Butalid, was among Tagbilaran’s early leaders.

Married to my beautiful aunt, Enriqueta Borja, “Rolly” and “Equit” are blessed with four children: Dominic, Claire, Val and Tim who are equally successful in their own right. The eldest of three siblings, Rolly stood out to fulfill his role as family patriarch continuing his father’s legacy and even expanding it to become father of the province of Bohol when he served as its governor for a good six years.

As a young lawyer who graduated from the University of The Philippines-Diliman, he was honed to his craft in the nation’s capital where he took on the role of counsel and confidante to an equally prominent Boholano son of his generation, the industrialist Greg Concon, who started a steel mill outside the reach and influence of then “imperial” Manila. Both men struggled to keep the venture afloat amid the harsh realities of business and political influence back then and even to this day, their dreams have not faded away.

POLITICAL CAREER

In his early forties, Rolly became Mayor of the City of Tagbilaran, defeating the incumbent Mayor Venancio Inting by a hairline. He went on to become one of its prominent citizens having served as public servant for a good number of years. As Mayor, one of his notable achievements was the development and activation of the Cogon market after a fire gutted the Tagbilaran Public Market and rendered it useless. This spurred further business development of the area which we now see to this day.

Eventually he would become Governor of the Province of Bohol where he continued his vision for development. Having served as political leader during the tumultuous years of the martial law era, he was perceived close to the administration of then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and branded a “loyalist” which label cost him his political career in later years. But an honorable and upright leader, he belonged to a dying breed of politicians that served with honor and propriety, manifesting service above self and personal interest. This earned him the respect and admiration of many that even in his retirement years he was loved dearly and his counsel much sought after.

Unknown to many, in keeping with his low key, humble personality, he started the development of tourism in Bohol under his watch, with the entry of the Bohol Beach Club in Panglao and the perceived pioneer of Bohol tourism, Anos Fonacier, who recently passed away too. A landmark in Bohol agriculture, the Philippine Starch Corp. Plant, started operations during his term until the difficult economic realities brought about by globalization took its toll. Rolly was a visionary and during his time he understood the importance of development planning to pave the way for progress. Even until his death he continued to regale me with visions of a “soft industrial development” for the province and his frustrations in governance and the current brand of politics that need changing.

Not one eager to grab credit, he waltzed comfortably into the limelight of his political career, lending a patient ear to anyone who cares to seek his counsel.

CIVIC INVOLVEMENT

One of the pillars of the Jaycee movement in the province, he was a father and mentor to all aspiring believers of a creed of service. He lived his life with the tenets of the JC Creed, a firm believer that “faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life” and that “service to humanity is the best work of life.” Rolly was a Jaycee par excellence and was always in the forefront inspiring young people to join and spread the movement.

No stranger to other civic clubs in his lifetime, yet he was primarily known for being a Jaycee through and “true.” His lifelong love affair with the movement endeared him to many from across different places of the country and kept him full of life till his very last days. Imbued with a welcoming smile, Rolly was the effervescent poster boy of his era along with the likes of others who had gone off ahead.

To his Jaycee family he will sorely be missed.

All told, Rolly was a man who touched the lives of others in so many different ways. As a young boy of ten, I first saw him in a huddle with family members and friends in an Aunt’s home in Manila as they discussed politics which I now recall was one of the exploratory meetings in his bid for the mayorship of Tagbilaran City. The image stuck in my memory and unknowingly instilled in a young boy’s heart, a latent penchant for service.

Over time when I was thrust into the difficulties of adulthood and raising a family at a young age, Rolly was there to lend a helping hand, giving me a break with my entry into the business of government sales. Throughout my ups and downs, he was there to give his wise advices that gave me strength, acting like the father I had lost. Though I’m sure I’m not the only one he has lent an ear to, he has touched my life in a way I can never forget.

To those that have done us good without expectation, it is only fair that we repay the same. Not necessarily by any means material but in simply keeping their memories alive in us.

Uncle Rolly, “Gov”, the many hours of our conversations that covered a wide range of subjects from politics to petty, trivial things have left an indelible imprint in me. You taught me the value of respect for elders, for people older and wiser where power and wealth matter not. You taught me that living a life of honor and dignity matters and a lot more. With your words of wisdom and wit reverberating in my ears, I consign memories of you to my life’s treasure chest.

With deep sorrow I bid you farewell. So long my friend, “father,” and mentor. May God welcome you in His loving arms in the life hereafter!

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