Posts Tagged ‘Death’

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

I remember vividly my last visit with my grandfather. Late morning, August 1985, just before I left Manila to begin my sophomore year at Barnard College. He’d been sick a couple of years already and often complained about the deteriorating quality of his life. He had a lot on his mind, so much so that he didn’t seem all that interested in the usual chitchat about me and my life as a teenager; instead, he shared with me his thoughts about the Philippines and the mess it was in.

I remember thinking that his eyeglasses seemed extra thick and cloudy that day, as if they were preventing him from seeing things clearly. As far as he could tell, we were barreling towards a bloody revolution. Ninoy Aquino had been murdered two years before; the country was bankrupt; people were clamoring for change; and President Marcos, who’d been in power already twenty years and was in poor health, refused to step down.

Wearing a monogrammed pajama set in blue paisley, he looked frail and spent in his reading chair, his two golden cocker spaniels spread-eagled on the carpet beneath him. I felt strangely out of place. First of all, I was having what would be my first and last adult conversation with him. Second, it was rare to see him depressed. His sense of humor was legendary. It was the secret weapon in his armory, and he always had just the right repartee to lighten the dourest mood or diffuse even the stickiest diplomatic situation.

The ever buoyant CPR with his mother (Maria Cabrera Peña de Romulo); brothers Henry, 24, and Gilbert, 17; and sister, Pepita, 18. Having just graduated from the University of the Philippines just weeks before, 21-year-old Carlos was already preparing for his greatest adventure yet. He was about to attend Columbia University as a <i>pensionado</i> (government-sponsored scholar).

The ever buoyant CPR with his mother (Maria Cabrera Peña de Romulo); brothers Henry, 24, and Gilbert, 17; and sister, Choleng, 18. Having graduated from the University of the Philippines just weeks before, 21-year-old Carlos was preparing for his greatest adventure yet. He was about to attend Columbia University in New York City as a pensionado (government-sponsored scholar).

That was the last time I saw him. A few months later, in the second week of December, my dad phoned me in New York City to let me know that Lolo was in the hospital for emergency surgery—and that this time it was serious. I was getting ready for end-of-term finals but was well aware that it wasn’t just Lolo’s life that was in jeopardy; the Philippine situation, too, had grown critical. The international community was gravely suspicious of the Marcos administration, as the military had already been found guilty of conspiring to assassinate Aquino. Members of the clergy (i.e., Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin) were beginning to criticize openly those in power. Protests were erupting on the streets with more and more frequency. Marcos, in order to prove that the majority still wanted him as president, had called for a snap election.

As if he could no longer withstand the blows to a collapsing Philippines, Lolo died on December 15. His death was attributed to a general collapse of his circulatory system. He was a month shy of his 88th birthday.

<i>Querida hermana Loring: / Para felicitarte en tus cumpleaños y desearte largos años de vida, prosperidad y alegría sin cuento, van esas caras alegres de los que te quieren de corazon. / Tu hermano / Mayo 11, 1919 / 337 Florida, Ermita, Manila</i></p> <p>  My dear sister Loring: / To greet you on your birthday and to wish you a long life, prosperity and happiness without end, from these happy faces of those who love you with their hearts. / Your brother

Querida hermana Loring: / Para felicitarte en tus cumpleaños y desearte largos años de vida, prosperidad y alegría sin cuento, van esas caras alegres de los que te quieren de corazon. / Tu hermano / Mayo 11, 1919 / 337 Florida, Ermita, Manila; My dear sister Loring: / To greet you on your birthday and to wish you a long life, prosperity and happiness without end, from these happy faces . . . those who love you with their hearts. / Your brother

Tributes and condolences flooded in, assuaging our family’s grief to some extent. Leaders from all over the globe honored us with their appreciation of his years of devoted service to our nation and to the cause of world peace.

“A greatly beloved patriot has passed from our midst. Men of this stature survive even their own mortality, and what history may have missed, our hearts and our memories will recall.” ~ President Ferdinand E. Marcos

“We share more deeply than you know your own sense of loss at his passing, sharing your pride in the singular achievements of this remarkable man.” ~ US President Ronald Reagan

“The passing of Romulo, coinciding the UN’s 40th anniversary, signifies the passing of an era.” ~ UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar

“An outstanding scholar, a distinguished soldier, and an illustrious diplomat.” ~ Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew

“Australia has long valued the outstanding contributions of Romulo in international affairs, both in the UN where he served with distinction as president of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, and in the Asia Pacific region as a long serving and successful foreign minister who contributed to the development of good relations between our countries.” ~ Australia Foreign Minister Bill Hayden

“General Romulo had made invaluable support and assistance in founding the republic of Korea in 1948, and protecting its independence in the ensuing years.” ~ Korea Foreign Minister Won Kyung Lee

“We are losing an adviser, a counsel and friend. We shall all remember him.” ~ Malaysia Foreign Minister Tengku Ahmad Ritthauddeen

“. . . I will remember him for the passionate intensity of his conviction and commitment to the causes he believed in.” ~ Singapore Foreign Minister S. Dhanabalan

Though he died a private citizen, we gave him a state funeral, with President Marcos and the First Lady there to honor him. Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin officiated the mass at Santuario de San Antonio before his body was transferred to the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Each of the governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, the United States and the Secretary-General of the United Nations sent representatives. From the CCP the funeral procession pushed onward to the state cemetery, Libingan ng mga Bayani. There under the thick canopy of acacia trees we buried him.

“My father died as he lived,” said my uncle Ricardo Romulo in his eulogy, “indomitable, at peace with God, and in the bosom of his family.”

St. Peter Calls

Response of Ricardo J. Romulo at the funeral mass celebrated by Jaime Cardinal Sin, December 19, 1985

Your Emminence, Excellencies, and Friends:

The secret of his longevity, according to my father, is that he answers “absent” whenever St. Peter calls the rolls. Considering what is transpiring on planet earth, St. Peter must have need of my father’s boundless optimism and unshakable faith in man’s perfectibility because this time Dad’s request for a furlough was denied.

Today my brothers and I are truly orphaned. It is difficult enough to lose a father; it is twice as difficult when he has been an extraordinary one. I was often asked how it is to be the son of a famous man. In jest, and perhaps in irritation, I frequently replied: “It sure beats being the son of a horse thief.” Actually, it was less taxing than you might imagine.

My father never made us feel that we had to compete or equal his accomplishments. He always recognized that we had our own unique personalities and talents. But more than that, he made us an integral part of his life. We never felt shut out. We shared his victories and his defeats, his dreams and frustrations, his hopes and disappointments. No major decision affecting our family was ever made by him without first consulting us. He showed such great concern for our welfare. As soon as he learns that I have caught a cold, he is on the phone urging me to rest. He used to nag Greg and Bobby constantly about their smoking. When the moratorium was declared in 1983, he worried endlessly about how our individual businesses were coming along. And yet, remarkably, my father never worried about money matters during his long life. His finances were simply something my late mother and then Beth had to sort out. He established another tradition in the family. Each grandchild was entitled to a dinner at the best restaurant of his or her choice on his or her birthday hosted by their grandfather.

My father died as he lived: indomitable, at peace with God, and in the bosom of his family. Nevertheless, his death has left us disconsolate. He was so much a part of us, and he left us with such memories, however, that as long as we live, he will be with us. Moreover, we are consoled by the teachings of our ancient faith that death is but the beginning of eternal life; and we take heart in the beatitude so applicable to my father “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

On behalf of Beth and the rest of the family, allow me to express our deep gratitude for the sympathy, kindnesses, and concern that all of you have shown us during our moment of sorrow, and may I add a special word of appreciation to Cardinal Sin for celebrating this funeral mass and for his generous tribute to my father.

I would be remiss in my duty as a son if I did not also specially thank all the doctors who were unsparing in their care of dad and who labored mightily to save his life.

My last words are addressed to Beth. For the love, devotion, care, and companionship which you gave our father, we shall be forever in your debt. “May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Admired in Life; Revered in Death

Response of Ricardo J. Romulo at the state funeral ceremonies, Cultural Center of the Philippines, December 19, 1985

Mr. President, Mrs. Marcos, Excellencies, and Friends:

My father was fond of saying that gratitude is the memory of the heart. Our hearts are indeed full to the brim with the tributes which you, Mr. President, and his former colleagues have so generously paid him this morning.

On behalf of Beth and the other members of the family, we wish to express our abiding appreciation for the courtesies and kindnesses which both of you extended to my father while he was alive, and for the honors accorded him now that he is dead. Few men have had the good fortune of being admired in life and revered in death.

That each of the governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, the United States of America and the Secretary General of the United Nations should see fit to send a special representative to my father’s funeral, we consider a great honor indeed, considering that he died a private citizen. That these distinguished persons happen to be his good friends and former colleagues, much esteemed and respected by him, we count as a blessing.

Bittersweet emotions assail us at this moment. We are deeply saddened by his passing and the thought that we shall never again share the warmth of his love, the comfort of his concern, and the joy of his company. However, our grief is somewhat assuaged by the sure knowledge that his years of devoted service to our people and the cause of world peace are appreciated by many here and abroad, as manifested by the outpouring of sympathy which we have received.

It is but fitting that I close my remarks with a quotation from my father. On the occasion of his retirement from public service, he said

“You are here tonight to honor one man, but in doing so you honor many. As Henry Miller said: ‘Whatever it is that I choose to regard as my story is lost, drowned, indissolubly fused with the lives, the drama, the stories of others.’ Like him, I have led multiple lives. In each I had the privilege of working closely with a few. In the course of time the few have become many. I want to share your tribute to me with them, not only because unlike material rewards, a tribute gains in value as it is shared, but also because your tribute is to an entire people. Tonight we celebrate the resiliency, the acuity, the courage of the Filipino.”

Mr. President, Mrs. Marcos, Excellencies, and friends: We thank you all for paying your last respects to a man we so dearly loved.