From Cristina Morales

I remember being in awe of Lito, for his accomplishments preceded him. He was a professor of economics, a former undersecretary, an environmentalist, an activist. It was all too intimidating for a young person to handle.

When I finally met Lito, he was completely unexpected. he was simple, quite, very unassuming. I enjoyed listening to his quips and side comment at meetings. His favorite targets were the GMA administration (most obviously), mutant NGOs as even the formal literature would call them, and donors and funding agencies. It was immensely interesting to learn in such a manner.


I joined AER after I had completed the course work for my graduate degree in economics.  I felt I had been taught well, and I felt I had studied well, and I was eager to find out how reality would fit into my theories.  AER seemed like a good option.  It turned out to be a great option, and Lito was one of those that made it so.

I remember being in awe of Lito, for his accomplishments preceded him.  He was a professor of economics, a former undersecretary, an environmentalist, an activist.  It was all too intimidating for a young person to handle.

When I finally met Lito, he was completely unexpected.  he was simple, quite, very unassuming.  I enjoyed listening to his quips and side comment at meetings.  His favorite targets were the GMA administration (most obviously), mutant NGOs as even the formal literature would call them, and donors and funding agencies.  It was immensely interesting to learn in such a manner.

I stayed with AER for 3 and a half years as policy staff, and am now still a member of its management collective.  I learned much from AER, so much so that I regard Lito (along with the other members of the AER family) as my mentor, especially as a social activist.  What saddens me today is that I was never able to tell Lito this, and to thank him explicitly.  And I guess now, thanks to Lito (which is I guess very characteristic of him… to refuse praise for himself and direct it to others), I have been able to thank the my other mentors.

Of the many things I learned from Lito, the three most important I would like to share with you quickly.

The first is that "don't scare too easily."  As I have said, I was very young when I joined AER, and I was very easy to intimidate.  But Lito's courage, particularly intellectual courage, was inspiring.  I remember that sly grin that would cross his face when wanted to bash some assumption or assertion.  I'm sure you have all seen that grin as well.  This gave me courage to question things as well, and despite his academic stature, he listened and a lot of time he even seemed to believe me.

The second is "keep fighting."  This is not to say that Lito was old.  But we all know that he had spent a good part of his life fighting for the things that he truly believed in.  And while at times he lost faith and despaired whether he would ever see the fruits of his fight, he held fast and kept on working for social change.  Indefatigable is a good word for Lito.

The third and the most important for me is "always know your priorities."  When I asked Lito why he resigned from the undersecretary stint (I had no knowledge of the backstory, incidentally), he told me it was because he had to be with his children, with his family.

That struck me and that touched me.  Dedicated as he was to social change, he was even more dedicated to his family.  And he reminded me of this every time we saw each other.  Not once did he fail to say something about his children.  I've never met Lito's children, but I want you to know that your Dad was very, very, very proud of you all.  That to me, above all else, was Lito's best quality and his best legacy.

I called Lito "Gandalf" because of his resemblance to the onscreen character.  He didn't seem to mind.  And so Gandalf , may you rest now in the peace and love of our Creator.  We miss you.

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