Remembering Renato `Tito Nato’ Montenegro

Husband, father, government official, lawyer, country gentleman, and man for all seasons.

BECAUSE MOM was born on a small island, it was an unbelievable treat when she brought us to spend summer holidays there.  There were only two small towns on the isle, everything else was coconut trees, small farms and wilderness.

Whenever we were there, we bonded with Mom’s gigantic extended family (as do all families in the Phiilippines).  In particular, there were uncles who brought us horseback riding, swimming on deserted beaches and hiking to hilltops where you could see forever.  The summers there were incredibly short, as it was time spent in paradise.

One uncle, not only hospitable, but amazing with even the basic rifle, and an accomplished horseman as well was Tito Nato.  Together with our other uncles Uncle Roger (Rogelio) and Uncle Apan (Gaspar), Mom’s 1st cousins were everything you wanted to be, alpha males who could do anything as gentlemen farmers, skilled as Rennaissance men in the Philippine milieu, and at home trading in cattle and copra as they were hunting and fishing on their own land.

But Tito Nato could talk about anything and everything under the sun, was a bottomless source of jokes, and unsurprisingly, could talk your ears off well into the night and until the wee hours of the morning.  Everywhere we went on the island, people would defer to him and consult him on a lot of issues.  He was a natural leader, and although we were a very junior nephew in his eyes, we felt as close to him as any male elder that we would always look up to.

Thanks to a funny anecdote from Tita Nannette his wife, I learned that on their honeymoon, he talked and talked non-stop from dusk till dawn, and part of the magic in their marriage was that he never ran out of stories to tell her day in and day out.

When I looked him up after one of our memorable visits to the island, I discovered part of his legend.  He took the bar examinations while suffering from a nasty bout of flu and still managed to end up among the topnotchers that year.  He was an executive in the civil service, but shunned being a sycophant to protect his career.  He nurtured an independent streak without which he might have gotten further in the corridors of power, but in the end he simply did not allow advancement to get in the way of his convictions or ideals.

Like many professionals, he believed that the greatest gift he could give to his children was a solid education on which to build livelihoods and families.  Best evidence of this was his sending his two sons and three daughters to university, all of them becoming professionals like him.

Because there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, and no topic he didn’t know about, I once called him A Man For All Seasons.  I think he liked this, and I like to think he remembered me for it.  It’s the thing about him I remember best last Feb on his death anniversary.

Your wife Tita Nannette, children Benedict, April, Ineng, Jhun and Olive and the rest of your family love you as much as they did when you were with them on Earth, and thank you forever for the gift of life and love !


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