‘We serve the nation, not individuals’ | Inquirer Opinion

‘We serve the nation, not individuals’

Last Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz, the commanding general of the Philippine Air Force, hosted a dinner in honor of former chiefs of the PAF and their ladies. One of several pre-anniversary activities of the command in preparation for Air Force Day next month, “A Night with the Air Chiefs” has become an annual tradition. This was started during the time of Gen. Arnulfo Acedera Jr., who later served as AFP chief of staff. Special guests of the evening were three widows of former air chiefs, Frances Sarmiento, Amy Lapeña and Julie de Leon.

The Philippine Air Force will be observing its 66th anniversary on July 1, the day when Executive Order No. 94 was signed in 1947, raising the PAF to major service command status. This year also marks the 66th death anniversary of the first Filipino air chief after the grant of independence in July 1946. Col.


Edwin Dudley Buencamino Andrews was born in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, the only child of Edwin Andrews, an American, and his Filipino wife Victoria Buencamino. After graduation from the Philippine Constabulary Academy (now the Philippine Military Academy) in 1928, he qualified as a military aviator after undergoing flying training at the Philippine Army Air Corps Flying School.

Colonel Andrews perished in the crash of his C-47 aircraft, the Lily Marlene, while on a mission in Mindanao on May 18, 1947. The tragedy claimed the lives of 19 people, including Rafael Alunan, prewar secretary of agriculture and father of Raffy Alunan, the interior and local government secretary during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos.


His son Capt. John Andrews, PAF Flying School Class 1960, is currently the deputy director for operations of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. The air base in Zamboanga City is named in honor of Colonel Andrews.

At age 37, Gen. Pelagio Cruz became the youngest Filipino air chief to rise to one-star rank. He would also become the first air force officer to hold the post of AFP chief of staff with the rank of lieutenant general. Cruz also holds the distinction of being the only AFP officer to head two branches of service, the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Constabulary, an achievement that has never been repeated since.

It was during the incumbency of General Cruz that the PAF moved into the jet age with the acquisition of T-33 jet trainers. This was followed by the arrival of F-86 fighter aircraft, which formed the command’s first jet fighter component and ushered the PAF into a golden age as one of the best air organizations in Southeast Asia.

Today, Lt. Gen. Larry dela Cruz, the 32nd air chief, is on the verge of once again regaining for the command a part of its enviable past. Let us hope that protracted negotiations will soon bear fruit and President Aquino can preside over the reentry of the PAF into a second jet age. The command needs it. The nation can only benefit from a modern air force. It is not just a question of flying jets; it involves the development of a whole world of technical skills and abilities that need to be constantly upgraded if we are to keep up with the rest of the aviation community.

Mabuhay ang Philippine Air Force!

* * *

Each year, I devote one column in remembrance of my father Modesto Farolan. His birthday, June 12, coincides with Independence Day and I am reminded that he encouraged in me a sense of independence in thought and action regardless of what others felt or were saying.


Born at the turn of the century on June 12, 1900 in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, his formal education consisted of secondary school work at UP High, Padre Faura. Everything else was self-taught and on-the-job training as he moved from cub reporter in the Manila Daily Bulletin to city editor of the Philippines Herald, the pioneer Filipino daily in English during those days. He would become editor of the paper in 1931 and, after World War II, editor and publisher of the same. In the words of an old friend, Benjamin Salvosa of the Baguio Colleges Foundation (now the University of the Cordilleras), he was “the acme of the informal process of self-education and self-discipline.”

A close confidante of President Elpidio Quirino, he served as a member of the UP Board of Regents, an appointment that did not sit well with some PhDs of the UP academic family. Why should a mere high school graduate be involved in the affairs of the university? But he dealt with this situation as firmly as he ran the newsroom when he was putting out a paper.

When Ramon Magsaysay defeated Elpidio Quirino in the presidential elections of 1953, many people thought Modesto Farolan was finished with government work. But Magsaysay appointed him commissioner of tourism, a new sub-cabinet post that emphasized the growing importance of tourism as a source of revenue and much-needed foreign exchange. For his pioneering work in tourism, he would earn the title of “Father of Philippine Tourism,” an honor posthumously bestowed on him during the term of President Cory Aquino.

My father would also serve as ambassador to South Vietnam, Cambodia, Switzerland, Austria, and Indonesia. When I arrived to take up my post in Jakarta, his old friends thought that he was returning for a second tour of duty in Indonesia. It gave me a sense of homecoming to be welcomed by people with whom he spent almost 10 years of his diplomatic career, in which he was dean of the corps for most of that period.

Modesto Farolan would serve six presidents of the republic—from Roxas to Quirino to Magsaysay to Garcia to Macapagal and finally to Marcos, each of them belonging to different political affiliations. He would always remind me: “As public officials, we serve the nation, not individuals.”

* * *

Two of his great-grandchildren, Christine Lynn and Nicole Frances Farolan, are graduating from high school and middle school, respectively, this month in Illinois, USA.

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