Leslie Bocobo: JPE’s true companion

I have a friend of long standing who, all these years, has spoken affectionately of Juan Ponce Enrile, who had been his boss, mentor and his father figure.

I have a friend of long standing who, all these years, has spoken affectionately of Juan Ponce Enrile, who had been his boss, mentor and his father figure. Leslie Bocobo is the grandson of his namesake, Dr. Jorge Bocobo, the scholar, traveler, lawyer, writer, journalist, religious leader, educator, political scientist and president of the University of the Philippines.

Leslie is very close to the Ponce Enrile family, especially Katrina. He related to me in a private online message, “My close association with the Ponce Enriles began back in 1982. I had just returned to San Francisco from a brief academic sojourn on the East Coast. While crossing a street towards Union Square, I heard a familiar voice call out my name. It was Katrina Ponce Enrile, a dear friend of mine since the ‘70s. She invited me for a barbeque in their condo up Pacific Heights. At the party was her brother Jackie (he was called Jackie then) and several other friends from Manila and the Bay Area.

LESLIE Bacobo and JPE.

“Jackie asked me if I would be interested to join him. This was the year he would join their company, the Eurasia Group of Companies now renamed JAKA (for Jackie and Katrina). From here began many years of close association with the family and employment with their company.”

Leslie’s first assignment was as the executive assistant to Jackie (better known as Jack today). “I became even closer to the siblings. Jackie had his set of friends while Katrina had hers. From the office here in Makati, we would visit JPE and Tita Cristina for dinner.

“I remember they had many visitors all the time so we did not want to interrupt. There I met many politicians and even friends of my own father. JPE always addressed me as hijo. He often gave me good advice on politics and life in general.”

After several years, Leslie found himself “gravitating towards Katrina’s group. I was friends with everyone in the organization. I was involved in all of JPE’s senatorial bids which also included Jackie’s senate run in 2013. I was with the family during EDSA 1 and the day JPE gave BBM the ‘missing Marcos diaries.’ I was the lone witness to this.

bocobo: “I would always catch him reading a book and reciting poetry.

“Katrina is daddy’s little girl. She has always looked after him long after she had her own kids to raise and care for. When he was incarcerated in Crame a few years back because of alleged plunder, we would visit him and she would always bring him his favorite food. But the father and daughter’s love for each other is an altogether a saga of its own.”

Leslie’s enduring special relationship with the Enriles began when, “One day, having no family of my own and being the perfect companion, I was asked by a family member if I would be willing to accompany JPE to his rest house up north in Sta. Ana, Cagayan. This would be every month. I happily said yes. So, each month we would take a 15-hour trip by land from Makati to Sta. Ana. We would stay there for at least a week or two.

No cigarettes or alcohol

“On our second week, JPE told me that we should head back to Manila because my family must be eagerly waiting for me already. I said I had no family waiting. So, we stayed for another week. Here I saw the informal side of JPE. He dined on pagkaing probinsya — seaweed, tugi, saluyot, okra, fish and native eel.  A disciplined man, no cigarettes or alcohol for him. Just fruits and vegetables. And a lot of laughter with his visitors. He said these were some contributory factors to his long and healthy life.”

JPE loves to read. Leslie shared, “I would always catch him reading a book and reciting poetry. His favorite is Omar Khayyam. He would always carry a pen that he used to underline important entries in the book. And then he would always treat me to a “lecture time” on what he just read, like a one-on-one session between a teacher and his pupil.”

JPE and Leslie listening to Rupyard Kipling.

Being a brilliant lawyer, JPE, according to Leslie, would always give sound legal advice to anyone who would ask for it. “One day he asked me to accompany him to Congress because Atty. Estelito Mendoza asked him if he could be Imee Marcos’ private counsel for the Ilocos Six hearings. I knew that this would be a time for reconciliation and healing of the scars of 1986. Imee could not have picked a better counsel who knew her father FM so well. After the hearing, on our way out, a sea of red was waving at us. I told him, ‘Sir please roll down your window, the Marcos loyalists want to see you and thank you for helping Imee.’”

A son from his bachelor days

At home, JPE loves to take walks around the garden, but for the most part of his day, “he would be reading and taking down notes. He would always write a summary of his day in his diary right after dinner.

Leslie concluded, “Today, as he turns 100, I have only a grateful heart to thank him. I will never forget the precious moments we have shared. One day, he said to his friends while pointing at me: ‘Heto ang anak ko sa pagkabinata ko (Here’s my son from my bachelor days)…’ Of course, he was only joking, but the impact was so huge pointing at me. This melted my heart, and I was teary-eyed.”