[The following tribute to O.D. Corpuz was delivered by his fellow National Scientist Raul V. Fabella at the University of the Philippines’  memorial service on 1 April 2013.]


When I received the text about  OD’s passing, I was actually revisiting a 19th century poem that I had memorized and delivered as a grader. I pondered a bit on how OD’s mischievous mind would wrap itself around this poem about death and farewell by Alfred Tennyson. For OD was quintessentially an unconventional thinker. While a disdain for convention is common among people of his stature and accomplishment, he had more of it than most. Those who think they had finally figured out OD’s vast thought-space invariably get a jolt of surprise. He seemed to always pull mental rabbits out of a hat.

For a very long time, NAST (National Academy of Science and Technology) members and especially of the social science division had eyed and made many overtures to OD to make himself available. In fact, OD was elected to membership only in his graying years, decades after his worth to the Academy was recognized. Why? There was and is a small formality. A candidate must sign a piece of paper declaring his/her consent to the nomination and a priori his/her intention to abide by the conventions of the Academy. This is a minor hurdle for most people. But for OD, it was a big deal. His position was compelling and difficult to assail: NAST is honorific. If it deems my body of work meeting its standard,  then it should consider my candidacy with or without my consent. This position meant that OD never got on the ballot for membership for decades. Fortunately for NAST, OD finally consented to the inconvenience and he got the votes on first ballot. As he also did in the vote for the National Scientist.

On the lessons bequeathed to the Filipinos by the 300 years of Spanish colonization, OD had a startling summary in the form of an old Spanish adage: Que bonito es el hacer nada y el descanzar despuez!  (How wonderful it is to do nothing and then to rest afterwards). If you aren’t startled by the overwhelming irony, you are a stone. No doubt this was OD’s inimitable put-down of the cacique ethos as he saw it then and now. Don Jose Rizal of La Indolencia de los Filipinos who argued against genetic indolence among native Filipinos would have approved of the new twist.

OD loved to put confident ignorance up to ridicule. He was especially disdainful of people who insist on divorcing truth from facts. His mocking renditions of their positions are worth committing to memory, such as “I know the truth; don’t confuse me with facts.” Or “This is the conclusion. Now look for facts that support it.” He was particularly angered by the fact that some merchants of this dogma are entrusted with the nurture of young minds in and by the University.

Going back to Tennyson’s poem, I thought you might be interested in how, I thought, OD would have tweaked the poem to bid us, the living, a proper goodbye with a deep respect for our sensibilities, but without doing violence to his own (with apologies to Tennyson; the tweaks are italicized ):

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
when I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep,
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of starts and stops,
The flood may bear me far;
I hope to get to meet the Great Perhaps,
When I have crost the bar.

OD, the unconventional mind, wherever you are, we salute you!