Junie 2001

Last Christmas when Junie phoned for an astrological reading of his year to come, I warned him that he was likely to get sick again if he didn’t take a long break asap from what otherwise promised to be a year full of stress, the kind that cancer feeds on. He said hindi puwede, he had commitments that could not be put off, work that he could not delegate, but yes, he would take care, he would try not to take on too much at a time, he would ask for help, he would relax and meditate a lot.

The last time I saw him was two months later, towards the end of February, when he was home for a couple of days on his way to, or was it on his way back from, Japan for a conference. He dropped off a 5-page resume of his environmental advocacy work, 1971-2000, for editing. He looked great, walking tall as always, a little grayer in the hair, a little more lined in the face, a little slimmer in the waist, but still sexy, and still obsessed with sustainable development. For a change, he asked me at once how much I wanted for the job. For a change, before I had seen how much work it would need, I said I would do it for nothing.

In June I heard the bad news via email from Patty A; she had seen him in London, the cancer had recurred. “He sounded fine, still full of dreams. He is trying to put things in order, wants to merge PIAF and the Maximo Kalaw Foundation, get an active working board to run it. But he looked very weak and had lost a lot of weight. He’s been to Madrid for treatment in an alternative clinic, now he’s back in New York after recovering some strength from the treatment. He will see how his health fares before making any decisions on chemotherapy. Hopefully he is recovering. I shall let him know you asked.”

In July Junie phoned from New York, asking me to look at a draft manuscript that he would send by email, and would a month be time enough for editing? When he called again the next day, I said it would make a nice slim volume to go with his first book Exploring Soul  & Society, but I would need the help of Jorge Arago (with whom I edited the first one) and Junie exclaimed, naku, kung si Jorge it might take a year! Why, I had to ask, how much time are the doctors giving you? A year to a year and a half at most. And at least? Six months or so. Aray. A lot of pain? Yes. Aray. In a month then, I promised.

Junie was not a writer, but he was a thinker and a seeker who kept up with the latest in spiritual and political discourse. Not only did he have his own ideas about how to effectively and appropriately address the critical problems of our times, particularly the problem of extricating the great majority of humans from poverty, he had first-hand experience of and insights on the obstacles in the way of change. He had much to say, and over the years he had learned to write, high-brow activist stuff, visions of an alternative wholistic future, written in the developmental jargon of the UN, for the powers-that-be who could / would lead the world to sustainable new highs.

Junie had been hoping to make it to Johannesburg, South Africa on September 2002 for the UN Summit for Sustainable Development. In the manuscript titled Making Sustainability Work / Ten Years after the Rio Earth Summit – A Personal Assessment, he goes over the ground covered since Rio ’92, tracking the initiatives of governments and business groups as well as NGOs and people’s organizations over the last decade, distilling lessons learned that will help us in the struggle ahead for a sustainable future as one human family and one earth community. Writing it he prepared for Johannesburg – he meant to be there, if not in body then in word and in spirit. Immortal Junie.


On the most fundamental level, as I see it, sustainable development depends on how any one person fulfills the critical obligations that spell the difference between a life lived according to the new paradigm I’ve tried to flesh out in this slim volume and a life lived, wittingly or unwittingly, in opposition to it.


Whether as producer or consumer, as one who contributes to the build-up or clean-up of waste, or in the choice of lifestyle that goes with one’s personality, income, and ambitions, one cannot avoid micro interior “summits” and the meaningful participation in it of the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of the individual and governance by the soul.


I have often reflected on how to be in the postmodern world with integrity, responsibility, and accountability. As I wrote in the introduction to my book Exploring Soul and Society (1997), I have used a framework for wholeness called Kabuoan – a framework that affirms for Filipinos their multi-level identity, a coherent ecology of values, and a transformative process of change in the inner and outer dimensions of personal and social life.


Soul-work has acquired a certain currency or vogue. It is a sign of the growing reaction to crass materialism and consumption, what now is called “Affluenza,” a product of our market-oriented and -driven development activities and our search for meaning in our lives, communities, and species.


All of the cosmological and spiritual systems that I have come across taught their truth in a system of interrelated parts and different levels of wholeness – as above, so below – so that it was unthinkable to imagine a sustainable global system without sustainable local and national sub-systems.


Sustainable development requires the nurturing of relationships though they be located in diametrically opposed perspectives, or across the great divide that we are prone to see between such as private and public, ecology and economy, people and nature, autonomy and codependency. It requires the preservation of sacred relationship values as material and form evolve. It is concerned with practical concerns, such as how to keep community values as we move from small village dwellings to condominiums in mega-cities.


Change begins with the Self. It seems to me that there is not much else over which we exercise near-total control apart from our own selves, which thus suggests the proper locus for authentic change.


I felt that to be without duplicity in the way I think, feel, and act must needs be the essence of the integrity of my being if I were to continue to have the freedom to move on to the truth of the next moment in my life’s journey. I found such a state to be essential in doing advocacy work, for it enables one to say what one feels without fear or without being beholden to anyone except to the truth.


  1. Lena Bramble

    Found out a year ago that Junie died. I am an old friend and would like to know more about all the things he did. Been trying to find his book while I was visiting in the Philippines but very disappointed that no bookstore carried his book. Pls let me know where I can pick one up. I will be in Manila the middle of April and would like to be able to get his book this time.

    Was junie laid to rest in the Philippines or New york?



  2. hi lena :) junie was cremated in new york and his ashes brought home to the philippines. sorry i don’t think his books are available anymore, and i’ve lost touch with his staff, but the last time i heard from them they were planning a website of the maximo kalaw foundation.

  3. Lena Bramble

    Thank you for your response. Just discovered your reply. Still trying to get his book. Where is he buried? He was a good friend and I would like very much to visit his gravesite.

    Thanks again Angela. Please email me Lena@bramble.us for any info. I am planing to be in the Philippines sometime March 2011.