Page last updated at 04:00 UTC, Monday, 28 January 2019 PH
As Klaus Zeller himself wrote in his book “Crossing Many Borders to Reach Home” (Volume 2), “I had hit one of the major subjects of my teaching at this university and others: the necessity to develop one’s own country by technical training and using the trained people in the country. I did not yet fully realize at that time how far alienation had gone in the Philippines by American colonization. It went so far that most people could see quality and excellence only through American eyes and eventually in the USA and by Americans. Indigenous had become equivalent to bad quality. And instead of improving their own educational system, those who could afford, sent their children to the USA in order to get the stamp of excellence by obtaining a master’s or Ph.D. degree from an American university.”
What I liked most with Klaus was that he did not stop at just criticizing our patent defects. He did everything possible to help us, especially the youth, to develop the right virtues and values. He was the consummate mentor. He devoted hours and hours tutoring our students both individually and in small groups. With them he was unforgiving when he caught them with sloppy thinking. He hammered into them the importance of critical thinking and especially thinking out of the box. He preferred to teach small classes because of the closer relations he could establish with the students. He assured me time and again, as he wrote in his book that he was “grateful to my students. During the seven years I was teaching they were among my main companions and friends. They helped me to remain alert and simply sane in a surrounding which lacked the stimulants I was used to. They taught me a lot about the Philippines and about myself. What I appreciated most were their kindness, their good humor, their youthful optimism and their curiosity and eagerness to learn.” With the help of his wife Pinky, he put up a scholarship fund which enabled students coming from the underprivileged families to pursue graduate studies in political economy and international relations. Thanks to his financial support but more importantly the individual attention he paid to their personal growth, there is now a large pool of our graduates who are excelling in their careers in international relations, governance and politics. I refer to them as the disciples of Klaus Zeller.
To those who got to know him as he was nearing retirement, he served as a model of how to never stop using one’s God-given talents to promote the good of society. Although I would not refer to him as a workaholic since he knew how to spend time for leisure and rest, especially in the house that he and his wife Pinky built along the beaches of Matabungkay, he implemented to the hilt what I told him once jokingly that to retire means to “put on a new pair of tires” , to “re-tire”, and to go faster than ever before. After retiring from the diplomatic service, he found time to teach in several universities in Manila, including my own University of Asia and the Pacific. He continued to read voraciously especially in the fields of history, economics and political science. He found time to write his memoirs in two volumes which he entitled “Crossing Borders to Reach Home” in which he gave his students and fellow faculty members very valuable insights into contemporary socio-political history. He has contributed a great deal to make us Filipinos, especially the youth, to be more Eurocentric in our studies, cultural interests, and travel.
Although Klaus was not a Roman Catholic, he had a truly universal spirit. He reminded me of one point (525) in the spiritual classic, The Way, by St. Josemaria Escriva: “To be ‘Catholic’ means to love our country, and to let nobody surpass us in that love. And at the same time, it means to hold as our own the noble aspirations of all the other lands. How many glories of France are glories of mine! And the same way, many things that make Germans proud—and Italians, British, Americans and Asians and Africans—are also sources of pride to me. Catholic! A great heart, an open mind.” Indeed, Klaus had a great heart and an open mind!
I can only thank Pinky, his widow, for being instrumental in convincing Klaus to make the Philippines his final home after crossing so many borders. Those of us who had the fortune of knowing him at close range can refer to him as a “Filipino patriot from Germany.” In gratitude for the great love that he had for the Philippines and its people, we promise to often pray that he would be granted by the Good Lord the wish he expressed in a German Requiem that he translated in the part of the second volume of his book entitled “Autumn: Memory and Identity”: “O Lord, do teach me that there must be an end with me and that my life has a destination and that I have to go away.” Yes, Klaus, now that you have gone away, we pray that you are in your final destination, in the bosom of your Creator. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.