I Walked with Heroes

I Walked with Heroes

I Walked with Heroes

I Walked with Heroes


Other lives may find their happiest moments infiltrated with tragedy, and their proudest touched with comedy. This had almost invariably been true of mine. My proudest hour found me, the newly elected president of the United Nations, perched atop three thick New York City telephone books given me in lieu of a cushion that I might see and be seen by the delegates below the podium.

A small man from a small country had been awarded the privilege of speaking for his country in the world's highest court--the first Asian to be given that honor. "The barefoot boy of diplomacy" had come a long way from the quiet provincial town of Camiling.

Camiling lies in the hilly farm section of the province of Tarlac on the island of Luzon. When my wife and I take our grandchildren there they are puzzled by the smallness of my birthplace. "Why are there no tall buildings?" they ask me. "Why are the houses only one story high? Where are the sidewalks and why are the roads full of dust?"

Then I try to explain how Camiling has changed since I was a little boy. It has grown, its population now is thirty thousand, and it has a modern market and a motion picture theater on the Plaza. The church has been remodeled, but the old convent and the brick building where I started public school still face on that pretty little park, and it is much the same as it was on that day, almost sixty years ago, when I found Clemente hanging there.

In those days of our lost innocence, mine and Camiling's, there wasn't a bathtub or a telephone or a piece of machinery in our town. Now as I look up, always nervously, when a jet plane darts over the hills I realize how we have changed since this century began--myself, my town, and my world.

It has been said each man lives many lives. The oddity of mine is in their complete diversity. Each might have been lived in a different country and a different age. Not one emerged from another or resembles another.

Each time the change has come with shocking swiftness and as a complete surprise. Not once did I ask for it, nor was I prepared in any way.

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