A Man of Great Wisdom (The Late Judge Cajucom) – From the Hearts and Minds of His Grandchildren: In Memoriam
A man of great wisdom who led an inspiring and remarkable life” – This is how “Joan” CD, one of his grand-daughters, beautifully described the late Judge Norberto Cajucom fondly called by his grandchildren as “Lolo Berting” or simply “Lolo”, (although some of them call him “Tatay” and “GrandPa” as well). This was confirmed by the other grandchildren who believe their Lolo was such a kind and caring man. Oh, this is such a great and a sweet way of labeling a grandfather!
(For purposes of this blog, let’s use “Lolo Berting” for reference. For MUTC’s non-Filipino readers on the web, “Lolo” (or “Lola”) is a form of endearment to address a grandfather or grandmother, respectively, or to an elderly man/woman in the Philippines).
Lolo Berting was one of the 9 children of a humble family in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija, one of the rice granaries in the Philippines, which is about 30 minutes ride from Cabanatuan City. Bongabon used to be the 1st capital of Nueva Ecija because of its beauty, vibrancy and the many opportunities that it could offer for the Novo Ecijanos. Apart from rice plantations, Bongabon is considered as the “Onion Bowl of the Philippines” since most (65%) of onion production of the country (and even the onion requirements in South East Asia) came from Bongabon. This is the original home of Lolo Berting, his birthplace where he grew up and molded by his parents to be a man with honor and integrity.
Despite hailing from a large family heavily reliant on agricultural lands and farm plantations, Lolo Berting faced considerable obstacles in pursuing higher education. Nevertheless, these challenges did not deter him from pursuing his dreams. He embarked on the path of becoming a working student, leaving his hometown behind to explore opportunities in the city. Through unwavering dedication and relentless efforts, he ultimately achieved remarkable success.
During his academic years, from Elementary to High School, he consistently displayed exceptional performance as he ranked second in his class, earning the title of Salutatorian. His dedication and diligence continued throughout college and post-graduate studies, resulting in him graduating with honors, obtaining a Bachelor of Laws degree as a Cum Laude. Not only did he excel academically, but he also actively participated in various academic and extra-curricular activities. He held the esteemed position of Editor-in-Chief for the school publication, and his outstanding oratory and debating skills earned him the recognition as the best speaker and debater in the school. It was during this time that he first encountered his equally brilliant and Cum Laude lovely wife “Gloria”, who would later become a beloved grandmother. His legal aptitude was undeniable as he achieved an impressive 89% rating in the Bar Examinations, with an exceptional 99% score in Political Law. With unwavering enthusiasm and vigor, he embarked on his journey as a Lawyer, dedicating himself to the practice of law throughout the years
As a trial lawyer, he possessed a strong inclination for assisting the disadvantaged and safeguarding the rights of individuals who lacked the means to defend themselves against those more powerful. While specializing in human rights law did not bring him considerable wealth, his reputation as a trusted advocate drew clients who could not afford their own legal representation. Aware of his commitment and expertise, they sought his assistance with confidence, knowing he would tirelessly fight for their cases in court. In such situations, he could not turn away those in need. Grateful clients reciprocated their gratitude by offering tokens of appreciation, such as their agricultural produce. This period of his life proved challenging as he assumed the responsibility of leading a large family, yet he found contentment and happiness in his endeavors. To ensure financial stability, he took on an additional role as a law professor at a university (now called Araullo University-Phinma), expertly balancing his responsibilities as a lawyer, professor, husband, father, and son/brother. Despite having a family of his own, he remained devoted to his provincial family, providing support to his younger siblings in pursuing their education.
As a professor, he treated his students with respect and kindness but at the same time strict with those who came to class unprepared. One former student of his commented that he was oftentimes called to recite/speak in front of the class, one way of training future lawyers to be confident in themselves.
Although Lolo Berting had already reached one of his dreams, he did not rest on these laurels, but rather pursued higher goals in life. During this time, he was already starting to build a name of his own in their place in terms of his career trajectory, and was recognized by his compañeros y compañeras (how Filipino lawyers call among peers) in the legal profession. He even became a Councilor of the city for a time but did not pursue this tack in the political arena. He even became a part-time columnist in one of the local newspapers in their place.
A golden and a much-awaited opportunity knocked on his door, which he readily welcomed, and subsequently he was appointed as one of the Judges of the Province, earning him an honorable prefix title on his name. As a Judge and being a human rights advocate at the same time, Lolo Berting was kind and considerate yet fair-minded and equitable in his decisions using his brilliant legal thinking mind appropriately, making the legal teams from both sides of the fence feel good about the case findings and rulings. (Insert: I could only surmise that just like my husband, he could be the type who is meticulous and cautious in the use of words, thoughtfully crafting the findings and conclusions for the dispositive portion of his decisions). Lolo Berting sat on his “bench” with compassion, dedication and wisdom, working tirelessly to be excellent in his judicial craft. He was loved by people whom he had helped, visiting him once in a while when he was already in his senior years. One commenter on facebook stated: Judge Cajucom was one of the finest judges during those days. Farewell great Counselor!
Lolo Berting may not be known in the higher echelons of human rights community, but he was a person who advocated what real human right is all about, which he applied during the course of his profession. He lived his life to the fullest, being in this world for almost 93 years was a blessing (he was supposedly 93 yrs. old this June, and he would be grateful to God for this, for sure). Even if he was no longer in perfect health, he was still practicing law for some cases which he couldn’t say no. He loved the law, he loved his profession, and he loved to be with people. (Insert: I had some moments with Tatay Judge -it’s good to call him that. One time during one of our visits to them, while we were conversing after a delish lunch, Tatay handed me a book, Philippine Constitution, and requested me to read certain pages of it in front of him. He was critically listening as I was reading it, little did I know that at that time he was working on a case on a private property being expropriated by Government for public use). Unbelievably, he was already in his 80s at that time, but he still had that passion, the care and the love for the law – till the very end.
As a father to his own children, he and Nanay Gloria were glad to have successful 11 children (both personal and professional lives) who were able to complete their studies and land in decent jobs. He loved seeing them, anxiously and patiently waiting for their visits and most of all he loved seeing his 29 grandchildren growing up.
Lolo Berting may not be a perfect person (no one in this world is, but we can be perfect if we want to – God wants us to be one – or we can strive to be better persons for a start- just a reminder), he had some flaws too. But to one of his daughters, “Lenore”, his father made her who she is and what she has now, successful and happy with a very supportive family. Absolutely, Lolo Berting contributed much to his children’s own success stories – that’s his legacy left behind to his children. His belief in the value of quality education, professional integrity and most of all his great wisdom will always be remembered in the hearts and minds not only to his children but to his grandchildren as well.
Allysa, Cameron, and Milko who have lived with their Lolo Berting during his senior and ailing years shared some of their fond moments with him:
- Allysa – I don’t have much moments with Lolo during those days when he was still physically fit and strong since I wasn’t even born then. But I remember when I was 4 years old (prep-years), I was performing a declamation piece in school, I was surprised to see him among the audience, watching my performance and applauding for me. That was something! My most recent memory about him, he usually asked me about my Dad who is based in NYC, how he’s doing and all – and the funny part of it, he would joke about telling my Dad to send some of his dollars to him! Heheh (Alyssa is a consistent top honor student in their school).
- Cameron – What I always remember about Lolo is that he was a very generous and caring person. During our younger years, Lolo and Lola would always have something for me and my sister. The last time I saw Lolo was during the birthday of Lola. When we visited their place, we immediately went to the room of Lola, and Lolo was also there. We were served with food and while we were eating, Lolo came to us and asked us how we’re doing and the many things he wanted to know about us. That’s how I realized how he truly cared for us. Even though he was having a hard time to speak, he still managed to say a lot of things just to make sure we’re okay. Even though we have spent only a small amount of time together, I know that Lolo was a wonderful human being. I am so blessed to have him as my Lolo. One funny trivia about Lolo: Whenever Lolo saw my sister Lian, he would tease her to change her name to “Liberty” because she was born on Independence Day! hahah (Cameron is now in College and is a University Scholar in their school).
- Milko – When I was still young (4 or 5 years old perhaps), I used to imitate the massage therapist who went to the house to reflex certain areas on Lolo’s legs and toes. When the therapist was no longer around, I repeated what he did to Tatay massaging his legs, just like a professional masseur! Lolo appreciated what I did and I thought I was good at it! There was a time, he would also ask me on a daily basis: “Mayabang ka ba”? (Are you a boastful (or arrogant) person”?) Sometimes, I would give him a positive and there are times a negative response (although there were times that I simply nodded my head for Yes, and shook my head for No) because in reality at that time, I didn’t know what the term means? Tatay and Nanay were amused at my innocence. They would laugh at it. But I was happy at that time, I thought I answered them correctly even though my answers for the same question vary everyday! Lol. (Milko is in college now doing very good in school while accompanying his Lolo and Lola in their home since childhood days).
To Joan CD, their grandpa’s role as a judge was perceived as a divine gift from God, endowing him with the wisdom to discern “between right and wrong”. This wisdom guided him throughout his life, leading him to embody an inspiring and extraordinary existence. “It’s surreal to think that Lolo Berting will no longer be here. Our Christmas reunions wouldn’t feel complete without the head of the clan. He may not be physically present anymore but one thing is definite: Lolo Berting’s legacy of love & blessings will live on in the lives he has touched and his many descendants.”
Lolo Berting will definitely be dearly missed by Nanay Gloria, his loving wife, his children, grandchildren and family.
Eternal rest grant unto the soul of Lolo Berting (Tatay), O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May the angels and saints in heaven welcome him into God’s Kingdom. May he rest in peace. Amen.