My grandmother Escolastica who was the midwife at my birth felt I was going to amount to something and so named me Diosdado (God-given). Before my teens, I sensed a desire to rise above our life of abject poverty. All members of my family agreed with my grandmother that I would attain distinction. I identified most with my grandmother. A pious woman, she was my first model. In later years, the Pampango philanthropist who financed my last two years in law school, Honorio Ventura, who entered public service a wealthy man but left it no longer rich because of his selflessness and impeccable integrity and honesty, became my other model.
Like my brothers and sister, I went to the local schools, and when I became a lawyer, I helped my brother Angel and sister Lourdes finish their law studies, our eldest brother Israel having died during World War II.
I graduated valedictorian in the Lubao Elementary School, graduated with second highest rating in the Pampanga High School, graduated in law in the University of Santo Tomas and pursued and earned the postgraduate degree of Doctor of Civil Law and Ph. D. in Economics in the same university.
My elementary school teacher, Hugo Gutierrez, Sr. influenced me by making me participate in elocution contests. My grandmother Escolastica instilled in me total faith in God and despite our poverty went out of her way to render service to others. She taught me what became my lifelong creed: "Always do what is right and do your best, and God will take care of the rest."
Employed in the Bureau of Lands at P30 monthly, I was a self-supporting student when I took up my associate in Arts (preparatory law) course in the University of the Philippines. Advised by a physician to work or study only because I was undernourished, after my AA studies I stopped schooling for one year to recover my failed health. I then took up law at the Philippine Law School, trying to support myself from being editor of a vernacular magazine at P15 a month but decided to stop studying altogether after finishing two years of the 4-year law course. Fortunately, the Pampangan philanthropist Ventura offered to finance the last two years of the law course at his Alma Mater, the University of Santo Tomas, where I finished law in 1936 and topped the bar examinations that year to become a lawyer.
The total faith in God that my devout Catholic grandmother infused in me sustained me through any hardship during my career, recalling always what she used to tell us her grandchildren: "God will always show a way" out of any difficulty. Because of this faith, when I ran for Vice-President of the Philippines, I declined the support of a politically powerful religious sect antagonistic to the Catholic Church and harmful to democracy because it forces its believers to vote solidly in elections. When I sought reelection as President, however, opposed by said religious sect, I lost although I previously won the vice-presidency and presidency without the sect's backing. In not winning reelection, I had no regret because my norm had always been that I would rather do what I believed to be right than win an election.