My father, my hero

After a forum held at San Beda College last week, Assistant Vice Dean Jennifer Ramos turned to me and asked, “What would your dad’s position be regarding the impeachment trial had he been alive today?” I had to pause and remember how quiet and stoic Ka Blas was during the Senate impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada. After a brief pause, I responded: “He had always stood for stronger institutions. But as senator-judge, he would have kept his position to himself, until it’s time to cast a final vote.”

During that historic impeachment trial, quite a few people couldn’t understand my father’s decision to clam up whenever the case was being publicly discussed. Not once did he let his family in on the juicier behind-the-scenes stories that were shared without attribution by those in the know. Had he been alive today, and knowing the statesman that he was, my father would undoubtedly still be in listening mode, shunning media interviews but learning and studying all the issues by himself.

Two days ago, my father’s 85th birthday came and went. Friends and family members gathered by his grave at the Libingan ng mga Bayani to hear mass and also to share a modest breakfast. His beloved province of Bulacan continues to honor his memory with an annual holiday on his birthday. These momentous gestures of love and respect remind me about how abundant service to God and country would always be remembered, if not by all, then at least by those able to apprecaite the past.

Blas Fajardo Ople was a college dropout, and had worked as a stevedore at the North Harbor. He also earned a living as a deskman and writer. Like most newsmen in his time, my dad drank a lot and smoked a lot particularly in the prime years of his life. Always starved for knowledge, he feasted on books and all kinds of publications. He was a nationalist and a champion of labor rights. Though he may have been rough around the edges, his intellect was vast, deep, and therefore smooth and authentic. His life is the Filipino dream. Ka Blas converted every public office into a classroom, which was ironic because he had no diploma on his wall.

In his own words, then Senate President Ople tells us in a commencement speech delivered on March 26, 2000 at Fortress College, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, 8 secrets to his success:

“The first key to success, worldy or otherwise, is to set a goal for one’s self. Most of mankind get born and die without ever knowing what they really want.”

“The second key is to develop a positive outlook in life. Problems are often opportunities in disguise. As someone has said, pessimism is just a state of mind but optimism is a strategy for living.”

“The third key is to develop an active, rather than a passive, view of one’s environment. Successful men do not merely wait for things to happen to them. They take initiatives. They try to make things happen. They create their own challenges and opportunities.”

“The fourth key is to stand by one’s principles when life’s crises must be faced. The test of character, in the phrase of William James, is not in choosing the path of least resistance. This merely means that most times, the harder choice is the correct one.”

“The fifth key is to be absolutely dependable and trustworthy, so that your own colleagues know they can trust your integrity even in the most difficult moments. The trust of colleagues and subordinates is what can propel you to success.”

“The sixth key is a commitment to continuing personal and professional growth. Most people stop growing after leaving school. Education is for life.”

“The seventh and last key is to live a frugal and disciplined life, shunning all forms of waste, whether of time, talent, money or other resources. Life itself is a finite and most precious gift, and wasting it through frivolity and self-indulgence must be offensive to the giver of life.”

“Unfortunately or not, the advice will mean nothing until the principles of success are internalized in the convictions of a young man or woman setting out on that all-important journey. He or she will have to weigh the counsels of fear and hope contending inside the heart. In the end, we are most answerable to ourselves and not to any jury. And that is the eighth key to success. To thine own self be true.”

You probably can tell that my greatest hero is and will always be my father. I hear his voice in the pieces that he wrote, and feel his touch in the imprint of so many shared memories between father and daugther. I miss him terribly and that feeling of loss shall never wane.

May every OFW that the Blas F. Ople Center helps from hereon represent a flower planted in my father’s garden of memories. Belated happy birthday, Amang! (Send comments to Follow me on Twitter via Visit

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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