YESTERDAY would have been the 93rd birthday of Enrique Zobel, known to his generation as Enzo, to those closest to him as “EZ,” and to his townmates as “Señor.” Baptized Enrique Emilio Jacobo, he was the only son of Jacobo Zobel and Angela Olgado, and oldest nephew of Mercedes McMicking and Alfonso Zobel (father of Jaime and grandfather to Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala).
I had the distinct privilege of working for and with EZ as executive assistant starting in 1988 when former Assemblyman Renato Cayetano brought me to Enzo Building on Buendia Ave. to meet him, till 1997 when I formally quit his employ to join Coca-Cola. But I continued collaborating with him from 1997 till his death in May of 2004, which meant that for 16 years (or 1/3 of my current lifespan) EZ was a major influence.
Which is not surprising because EZ was a major influence – or at least left a lasting impression – on so many lives that he touched, however briefly.
I can think of the friends I brought over to his house or office or hacienda to meet him, from UP schoolmates to listeners of my public affairs program on DWWW 774 KHz and even to executives of Coca-Cola who paid him a visit on his farm after a round of golf at Calatagan. Each one left with a distinct impression of EZ, whether they met him before or after the accident that left him a quadriplegic for life. Each one left with an anecdote or two about the encounter, and so you can imagine the anecdotes I’ve stored in my memory bank over those 16 years.
There are two non-controversial (haha) anecdotes among the many that came flooding to me as I marked his birthday yesterday and both were experiences in Hawaii. The first had to do with EZ being invited by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to talk about the “Marcos Gold;” during the last year or so of Ferdinand Marcos he had spoken to EZ often about what he wanted to do with his money and that’s what Senators Juan Flavier and Aquilino Pimentel Jr. wanted to ask him about.
The Committee was going to fly to Hawaii to take his deposition; because I was his EA at that time and helped put together the documents he asked me to join him at the meeting so I could help refresh his memory.
By that time I was no longer his employee so I had to take a leave from Coke for the trip to Honolulu. When my immediate superior found out why I was going to Hawaii she first tried to dissuade me. When that failed she asked me to “stay away from politics,” and I promised to do so.
When the meeting happened, the senators would propound a question to EZ and on a number of occasions he would ask me to help him remember. So I would whisper into his ear and he would answer. After this happened a couple of times, Sen. Flavier moved that I be put under oath as well –and that’s why I have a photograph of myself swearing to tell the truth and nothing but – a photo that found its way to my boss in Manila! Of course, she wasn’t too happy about that.
On the way home to Manila I decided to buy four huge gold nugget bars of chocolate at the airport as a remembrance of that event.
On another occasion, EZ told me we were going to go out and watch a movie, which turned out to be the Sixth Sense. But the reason why I remember that movie so much was because of what happened BEFORE we actually got into the cinema.
When we got to Kahala Mall for the showing, EZ told me to walk around for a while because the movie wasn’t screening yet. So off I went to Borders Bookstore, from where I could see him in his wheelchair together with his assistant Evelyn. Once in a while I would check in with him and would be told that we still had time. Which puzzled me because the movie was showing in two cinemas; why couldn’t we enter one which had an earlier showing?
This was the reason: he had availed of a senior citizens discount for a specific show time!
Imagine the stories in my head. Imagine the stories that people like DFA Sec. Teddyboy Locsin could tell; or those that the late Jerry Barican or Eddie Lichauco could have told, or those that his town mates like Pepe Caisip and his childhood friend “Tulo” could have regaled us with.
I was truly fortunate to have had that chance to meet the man and work with him up close and to this day I know I am better off for it. Because of the lessons and the laughter, and yes even the love.
He loved his family, his people and his country. And believe me if you knew him you’d know that one was not a priority over the other. Which was what made EZ the deeply interesting man that he was.