All on a high school diploma | Inquirer Opinion

All on a high school diploma

/ 05:06 AM January 28, 2019

Tomorrow the family marks the 40th death anniversary of my father Modesto Farolan. If there was DHL service from this planet to wherever he may be, these are some of the things I would mention to him. After 40 years, he may have forgotten them.

Hi, Dad. It’s been 40 years since you left us, 119 since you were born at the turn of the 20th century in the sleepy town of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. At an early age, you left home to finish high school in Manila but even before the ink had dried on your diploma, you decided to fashion a life of your own, relying solely on pluck and a passion for hard work.

You started at the bottom of the heap as a copy boy, then graduated to being a cub reporter, eventually reaching the top as editor in chief and publisher of one of the leading dailies of your time, the Philippines Herald. You had set your sights on the highest peak of the profession and you conquered it without any formal education in journalism, mass communications or English literature.

During the Battle for Manila in February 1945, you were the acting general manager of the Philippine National Red Cross with offices in Isaac Peral Street (now UN Avenue). In the afternoon of Feb. 10, Japanese Marines with fixed bayonets barged into your office, shooting and bayoneting everyone in sight. Your quick reaction in ducking behind your desk saved you from certain death.


With the grant of independence in 1946, you served as the first press secretary of the Third Republic under President Manuel Roxas. Later, you became one of the pioneers of an infant Philippine Foreign Service as the first Philippine consul general to the Territory of Hawaii (not yet a State), home to thousands of Filipinos who were the original overseas Filipino workers.

The secretary of foreign affairs was Vice President Elpidio Quirino, and you became part of his “Kitchen Cabinet” when he assumed the presidency. Your stay in Hawaii, America’s premier tourist destination, exposed you to the potential of tourism as a catalyzing social and economic factor in national development. Together with others in the private sector who shared the same vision, you and Salvador Peña, a close colleague from Honolulu days, organized the Philippine Tourist and Travel Association, becoming its first president. The PTTA would be the font from which many initiatives and actions in tourism would arise.

During the heated presidential election in 1953 pitting the incumbent President Elpidio Quirino against the charismatic former defense secretary Ramon Magsaysay, you supported “Apo Pidiong.” Quirino was accused of, among other things, having a golden “orinola” and using a P5,000 bed in Malacañang. At that time, I was a second year cadet (yearling) at the Philippine Military Academy. When Quirino lost by a wide margin, I could sense your loneliness as old friends quickly disappeared or were difficult to reach. One of your letters ended on a sad note, “when a tree has fallen, everyone makes firewood of it.” To the astonishment of many, President Ramon Magsaysay appointed you the nation’s first commissioner of tourism. It was a recognition of your pioneering efforts in this relatively new field of activity. It was also a measure of Magsaysay’s magnanimous character, a virtue so lacking among many of today’s politicians. The commission is now a Cabinet-level post.

President Carlos Garcia kept you on as head of the tourist agency and in this capacity, you were elected the first Filipino president of the International Union of Official Travel Organizations, now the World Tourism Organization. In 1990, the Department of Tourism under President Corazon Aquino, posthumously bestowed on you a Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledging your role as the “Father of Philippine Tourism.”


President Diosdado Macapagal appointed you as ambassador to South Vietnam and Cambodia, and later on, to Switzerland and Austria. President Ferdinand Marcos extended your government service as ambassador to Indonesia where you closed out your foreign service career as the dean of the diplomatic corps in Jakarta.

You served the first six presidents of the Third Republic: Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal and Marcos. In one of our last conversations, I brought up this distinction and you simply waved your hand, saying “we serve the nation.”


Dad, what an incredible journey it has been for you. And all on a high school diploma.

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TAGS: Modesto Farolan, Ramon Farolan, Reveille

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