Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

Peace One Heart at a Time

Brigadier-General Carlos P. Romulo, Philippine delegate to the US  House of Representatives (Resident Commissioner), returns the flag  to its peacetime position at the Philippine Commonwealth building in  Washington, Aug. 17, 1945. The banner had been flying inverted,  with the red stripe up, since war was declared with Japan three and a half years before.

Brigadier-General Carlos P. Romulo, Philippine delegate to the US House of Representatives (Resident Commissioner), returns the flag to its peacetime position at the Philippine Commonwealth building in Washington, Aug. 17, 1945. The banner had been flying inverted, with the red stripe up, since war was declared with Japan three and a half years before.

After seventeen years of combing through Lolo’s letters and speeches, I think I finally understand what he meant when he said, “Peace is not built with words. Peace must be written in the human heart.” I believe he meant that the way to global peace is one person at a time, one heart at a time. Governments sign peace treaties all the time, but always it’s a temporary solution. The surest (and only) way to peace is to come together with a real willingness—a wanting—to stop fighting, stealing, hating; and a genuine desire to help others.

Today, January 14, 2015, would have been his 117th birthday. To honor him we recently opened the Romulo Peace Center, a place that endeavors to bring out the potential good in people through contemplative practices like meditation and yoga. A generous donation from San Miguel Corporation made it possible to create the Center, and all proceeds generated by it in its first year will go to the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation for Peace and Development, earmarked for a project to build a more climate-resilient Philippines.

Lolo was once featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! as the most awarded human being on the planet. His multifaceted career as a teacher, soldier, diplomat, and writer spanned more than seven decades, but what made him extraordinary was that he distinguished himself in every one of these roles.

By the time he died in 1985 he was a Philippine National Artist for Literature, and he’d collected 140 international awards and citations. The Pulitzer Prize in journalism, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the United Nations Peace Prize were a few of his crowning achievements.

Remembered most as a world statesman who advocated for human rights and decolonization, Lolo received—in addition to the 140 awards—seventy honorary degrees for his contributions to international cooperation and world peace. Yesterday my family was delighted to learn that the US–Philippines Society, at the suggestion of Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., established the Carlos P. Romulo Award to recognize significant contributions to the Society and for efforts strengthening US–Philippine ties.

“Men pray for peace,” he said, upon receiving an honorary doctorate from Georgetown University, “but they refuse to do those things that make peace possible. We profess but do not perform. We wish but do not will.”

The year was 1960. Just one year before, the Second Indochina War had erupted, and the brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet, since 1949, had forced the 14th Dalai Lama into exile. The world was in turmoil, and had been Lolo’s whole life. He was born in 1898, just as the revolution against Spain was ending. Then came the struggle against the United States, our new colonial boss, followed by World War Two and the Japanese Occupation. After that, amid the emerging Cold War, the Americans launched (from Philippine soil) air and sea actions against North Korea. Soon other nations, including the Philippines, joined the war.

Peace today, more than half a century later, seems not only possible but necessary if we are to survive as a species. We have to do “those things that make peace possible.” With weapons of mass destruction, war is a winner-less proposition. With global warming, Nature is kicking our butts. Meanwhile, genocide, rape, and torture still exist in many places, while an ever exploding population demands more resources than our planet can give. More oil, more water, more food. We’re simply out of time.

Fortunately, there is a distinct shift all over the world toward consciousness and away from greed. If Lolo were alive today, he might have been hopeful. In 1960 we were “too weak to resist the fierce compulsion of forces and events,” but today, in numbers growing exponentially every day, people are waking up and getting stronger in their resolve. The recent Paris trauma notwithstanding, there were four million souls marching in solidarity.

“There are hideous incidents and beings that are human cancers,” Lolo said in 1949, as president of the UN General Assembly. “But in the main our world is made up of people of potential good, willing, if the path before them is outlined, to become sharers of the light.”

We are changing as individuals within our hearts and minds, which makes change on a global level an unprecedented possibility. People are keenly aware that the world is shifting in big ways, and they want to be part of the transformation.

The Peace Center hopes to galvanize individuals to act for the greater good.

We not only reflect the current global movement toward consciousness but seek to help it gain momentum. As a gathering place for positive change, we wish to share the light with many others.

“Sometimes,” said Lolo, “a glimmer of understanding can show the way.”

For more information about the Romulo Peace Center, please see  text 0921 315 2644, or email

Blackout Christmas

Carlos P. Romulo’s Christmas message, 1949, which he wrote while serving as president of the UN General Assembly:

To appreciate Christmas to the full, one must know how it feels to be deprived of its blessings. We had that experience in the Philippines in December, 1941. The invasion of the Philippines had been launched a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. By Christmas time, Manila, the capital, had been declared an open city and the withdrawal of the Fil-American forces to Bataan was under way. The long night of the Japanese occupation had begun.

The Filipino people observed Christmas that year under black-out conditions: the enemy was no respecter of open cities and the advent of Christmas did not interrupt his bombing schedules. I was then in the uniform of a major in the army of the United States.

On Christmas eve we felt as though the lights of freedom, of decency, of justice and peace, of everything we valued and cherished, were going out all over the world. This thought came to soldiers in their unlighted trenches, to the refugees huddled along the dark roads and open fields, to the women and children in their black-out homes.

And out of the realization of their loss and their peril was born a mighty resolve to make sure that peace and the blessings of peace shall never again be jeopardized, even if the world should have to be rebuilt in order to make peace lasting as well as universal.

Eight eventful years have passed since that “dark Christmas” of 1941. I am now in Washington and the lights are on, but the struggle for peace continues. A new tyranny darkens many lands and endanger the security of the free world.

Our resolve to win the peace, shared by all the peoples bound together by their resistance to Nazi, fascist and Japanese aggression, gave birth to the United Nations. The trials, disillusionments and vicissitudes of the past eight years have not weakened it.

Despite the “cold war,” the peoples of the world are firmly determined that the efforts to establish a just and enduring peace should continue.

I firmly believe that mankind’s desire for peace will ultimately prevail. The splitting of the atom has made “peace on earth,” the central message of Christmas, a condition for the survival of the human race.

Through the instrumentality of the United Nations, much has already been accomplished. With good will the primary aim of the charter “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” can and will be attained.

CPR Recalls Manila Christmas 1941

Forum for a Tiny Planet

Liana Romulo is the daughter of the General’s youngest son, Bobby. When she’s not poring over her grandfather’s papers and trying to date old photographs, she is likely to be practicing Ashtanga yoga, hunting through bookstores, or recommending her favorite dishes to friends at Romulo Café. She lives in the Philippines but likes to wander the world, and has lived in Thailand, Belgium, and the United States. The pieces she writes for this site give her immense satisfaction, though she has also published half a dozen books for kids (available on Amazon and select bookstores worldwide).

CPR’s life traced an extraordinary pattern of starting out in a career, topping it, and then moving on to the next. The English professor became the university president; the soldier became a general; the cub reporter became a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist; and the diplomat became an ambassador, a foreign secretary, even “Mr. United Nations.”

Lolo Carlos and two-year old Liana, March 1969.

Lolo Carlos and two-year-old Liana

So many accomplishments in one lifetime! No wonder his great-grandchildren are confused. I made the site for them. I created it, too, for future generations who might need some bolstering in order to own up to being Filipino, in the hopes that they will prove worthy custodians of a nation whose right to independence CPR so tirelessly pursued. It is also for second- and third-generation Filipinos living overseas who’d like to feel a connection to their roots.

Most of all, this site is for my irrepressible grandfather, whose wisdom, words, and wit do not belong in a cardboard box or even a dusty old archive. Although to me he was just Lolo—the gourmet who took me out for fancy dinners, the giver of dolls from every country, the eater of too much ice cream, the storyteller always interested in hearing about my horseback-riding adventures—I am ever mindful of the legacy he left behind, and I do find myself wholly wrapped up in his vision of a peaceful, borderless world. He described it as “the human family on a tiny planet” in his farewell address to the United Nations. Though not quite seventeen, even I could understand that.

I sat up in the gallery spellbound as he delivered his swan song before the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations. It was November 1983, and my brother and I were on Thanksgiving break from boarding school. We’d seen Lolo speak a million times before, but this speech was different. It was ominous, gloomy . . . filled with despair.

“I do not think the world has much time,” he said darkly. “I do not think it has much time to escape the momentum toward self-destruction upon which it seems set.” Weeping openly, he asked what it would take to “galvanize us into the necessary steps and actions to preserve the world against catastrophe.” My brother sat next to me, fidgeting uneasily in his seat.

Foreign Minister of the Philippines Carlos P. Romulo addressing the UN General Assembly during its 37th regular session, September 27, 1982; where Imre Hollai of Hungary was elected as president.

Foreign Minister of the Philippines Carlos P. Romulo addressing the UN General Assembly during its 37th regular session, September 27, 1982; where Imre Hollai of Hungary was elected as president.

A rousing ovation followed as dignitaries from all over the world—Africa, India, Europe, the USSR—got to their feet, visibly moved. They rushed to pay their respects, a line suddenly forming, snaking around the assembly hall. The ovation continued, unabated, until every last one of the delegates from 154 member nations had shaken his hand; and at the end of what seemed to me at least thirty minutes we gave him a final burst of applause.

This man, my grandfather, was the last surviving signatory of the United Nations Charter. Everywhere we went people knew him, people loved him, and people bowed down to him. But here at the final curtain he was not basking in the glory of his achievements, as one might have expected; rather, he was lamenting his failures and those of the United Nations. “Yes, I have regrets,” he said, his face streaked with tears. “I regret that during these years—1945 to 1983—not more progress has been made in living up to the necessities of a unitary globe.”

I felt sad for my poor old lolo, nearly eighty-six, whose simple wish was for everyone to live together in peace: “The human family on a tiny planet.” Broken down into such basic language, it seemed to me like a reachable goal, a very possible dream. Yet today I find myself, all grown up, surrounded by war and conflict. Twenty-six years later this dream still eludes us.

It is therefore in the spirit of building a kinder world populated by more compassionate people that I dedicate this online forum to my loving grandfather—to honor him, to bring to light his ideas . . . to propagate peace.

Sincerely yours,


Liana Romulo
December 15, 2009