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Month of heroes

June is the birth month of our national hero Jose Rizal. He was born on June 19, 1861, in Calamba, Laguna, the seventh child of Francisco Rizal Mercado and Teodora Alonzo Realonda. Thirty-five years later, Rizal was executed by a Filipino firing squad backed up by Spanish regulars at Luneta on Dec. 30, 1896. His death ignited the Philippine revolution against Spain and brought about the First Republic in Asia. In 1903, US President Theodore Roosevelt in a public address, referred to Rizal as “the greatest genius and most revered patriot ever known in the Philippines.”

Gen. Jose Alejandrino, one of the leaders of the revolution and a friend of Rizal during their days in Europe, wrote that “if Rizal had lived, unless he were elected President of the Republic, … he would have joined the opposition, convinced that with his doubts and constructive criticisms, he could better serve the interests of the people than by uniting himself with the majority.”

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Today few politicians would care to be identified with the opposition. Under any possible political arrangement, many would rather desire to be part of the ruling majority.

June is also the birth month of my own personal hero. Readers must forgive me for dwelling on my dad, Modesto Farolan, so soon after a January column on him. But last week on June 12, Independence Day, the family marked his 119th birth anniversary. Born at the start of the 20th century, he was the youngest of Marciano Farolan and Escolastica Racela, middle-class landowning farmers from Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. My mother, Filipinas Jamias, passed away 10 months after my birth and so I grew up with my aunt Cristeta, a retired public school teacher in Baguio City.

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The first time I stayed with my father for any length of time was after World War II when the Philippines became an independent republic. In early 1947, the infant Philippine Foreign Service was organized with then Vice President Elpidio Quirino as secretary of foreign affairs. My dad was appointed first Philippine consul general to Hawaii, home to the largest Filipino community outside the continental United States. It was here where I got to know him.

When we returned to the Philippines, he reopened the Madrigal-owned Philippine Herald, one of the leading dailies of his time. He was both editor in chief and publisher. For a number of days prior to the rollout of the paper’s maiden issue, my dad was completely focused on a successful first run, and I somehow added to his problems. The congratulatory message of Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, then ambassador to the United States, was needed for the front page. I had earlier received the telegram that had the message at home, and threw it aside not realizing its importance. Only when the cable office presented my signature as the recipient did my father raise hell, telling me to locate the telegram pronto. I finally found it among my notebooks and rushed it to the Herald office where a whole crew was waiting to put it into print.

At the Herald, where I used to wait for my dad, hoping to hitch a ride home, I met some of the top journalists of the country, people like Jose Lansang, Doroy Valencia, Teddy Benigno, Eddie Lachica, Henry Quema, just to mention a few. And before I forget, Mary Joaquin of the advertising department, my future mother-in-law.

After his work with the newspaper, President Ramon Magsaysay appointed him the nation’s first commissioner (now secretary) of tourism in recognition of his pioneering efforts in the tourist industry. In this capacity, he was elected first Filipino president of the International Union of Official Travel Organizations, now the World Tourism Organization. He was also the first Filipino honored with lifetime membership status in the Pacific Area Travel Association (now known as Pacific Asia Travel Association). It was his stint in Hawaii that exposed him to the tremendous potential of tourism as a source of foreign exchange and a catalyzing factor in national development. Today the tourism industry accounts for 12-13 percent of our gross domestic product.

Last month, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, citizens of Canada and the United States, visited some of the tourist attractions in Palawan. Long considered the new frontier of Philippine tourism, they described their stay as “really fortunate and blessed to be able to enjoy one of the top tourist destinations on this planet. The natural environment remains pristine, and out of this world. The fresh and brackish water lakes such as Kayangan, Barracuda and Twin Lagoons, and the beaches, Banol and Dicantuman, are the real gems and enticements.”

The “Father of Philippine Tourism” would have been pleased to note that the work of a lifetime was continuing to bear fruit.

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TAGS: heroes, Jose Rizal, Modesto Farolan, Ramon Farolan, Reveille
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