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Gratitude

/ 08:12 PM February 02, 2014

Last Jan.12, Pope Francis announced the appointment of the first batch of cardinals of his papacy.

The full text of the Holy Father’s announcement read: “On February 22, the Feast of the Chair of Peter, I will have the joy of holding a consistory during which I will name sixteen new cardinals who, coming from twelve countries from every part of the world, represent the deep ecclesiastical relationship between the Church of Rome and the other Churches throughout the world. The following day, February 23, I will preside at a solemn concelebration with the new cardinals.

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“Together with them, I will join to the Members of the College of Cardinals, three archbishops emeriti, distinguished for their services to the Holy See and to the Church.” (These three are non-voting cardinals. -RJF)

Among the new red hats was Archbishop Orlando Beltran Quevedo, son of Ilocano school teachers from the town of Sarrat, in the province of Ilocos Norte. Unlike most of the cardinals from the Philippines, Quevedo does not represent a metropolis like Manila or Cebu. He is the first from Mindanao, the biggest island of the country. While some reports describe him as representing the country’s poorest region, this may not be quite accurate as Mindanao remains a land of tremendous resources and wealth. Unfortunately, it also continues to be a land of conflict and struggle, resulting in unfulfilled opportunities and poverty.

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In checking my family tree, courtesy of Max Edralin Jr., I came to realize that my great grandmother on my father’s side was Josefa Quevedo, one of the daughters of Casimiro Quevedo and Maria Palacio. On my mother’s side, I also discovered a number of Quevedo relatives and so I am inclined to believe, considering the size of the community in a small town like Sarrat, that the good cardinal-designate is a relative, perhaps distant but nevertheless still a relation. I just cannot pinpoint the exact connection, and I pray that Cardinal-elect Quevedo will not consider it presumptuous on my part to refer to him as kin. It is not very often that one can brag about having a cardinal in the family.

Having unilaterally exercised my bragging rights, let me dwell on the first Ilocano cardinal in the 2,000-year history of the Roman Catholic Church.

Orlando Quevedo was born on March 11, 1939 in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, the youngest in a family of two brothers (Vincent and Zosimo Jr.) and a sister (Nelly). After a few years, like many Ilocano families, the Quevedos decided to move to Mindanao, “the land of promise,” where the young Orlando finished his secondary education at Notre Dame High School in Marbel, Cotabato. After completing his Bachelor of Sacred Theology (STB) and Masters in Religious Education from the Oblate College at the Catholic University of Washington in Washington, DC, he was ordained a priest of the missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He began his career as assistant parish priest of the Cotabato Cathedral.

Quevedo steadily rose through the religious hierarchy. In 1980, he was elevated to be the bishop of Kidapawan in Cotabato. Six years later, he became archbishop of Nueva Segovia in Vigan. He returned to Mindanao when he was appointed archbishop of Cotabato in 1998.

We almost lost a future cardinal when in 2009, while he was delivering the homily during Mass, a bomb exploded inside the church. Quevedo has courageously worked for peace in Mindanao, believing that the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is “realistic and doable.” The government panel in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  has referred to him as a “beacon of hope” for the region.

Quevedo served as the youngest president of Notre Dame University, Cotabato City, in 1970 and was the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awardee for Education in 1973. He served as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) from 1999 to 2003. His personal motto reads: “Caritas congaudet veritati” (Love rejoices in the truth).

We are grateful to the Holy Father for the immense honor bestowed on a member of the family.

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Last Jan. 29 was the 35th death anniversary of Modesto Farolan, widely known as the “Father of Philippine Tourism.” He was the nation’s first commissioner of tourism, a sub-Cabinet post created by President Ramon Magsaysay when the industry was still in its early stages.

With only a high school diploma to his name, he rose to become editor and publisher of one of the leading dailies of the country, the Philippines Herald. He also served as ambassador to South Vietnam, Cambodia, Switzerland, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.

My father would serve six presidents of the republic—Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal, and Ferdinand Marcos—each of them belonging to different political affiliations. He would always say, “As public officials, we serve the nation, not individuals.”

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The 20th death anniversary of a dear friend, Betty Go-Belmonte, was marked by family and friends last Tuesday.

Betty and I were classmates at UP High School in Diliman, graduating with the Class of 1951. But the friendship between our two families goes back even further. Jimmy Go and my father were the best of friends and each would stand as godfather for the kids of the other. They also shared a common love for journalism; the masthead of the Fookien Times and the Philippines Herald would carry their names for many years.

When I left government service, Betty asked me to join the Star. I begged off making a decision, saying I wanted to take things easy and focus on improving my golf game. Betty understood, but after a few weeks, she was on the phone asking if I was getting bored and needed something to do like writing a column. It was her third call that finally settled the matter and so I found myself with deadlines three times a week. She didn’t stop there; every now and then, she would call to say how much she enjoyed a particular piece.

How does one explain her thoughtfulness, her concern for others? Simply put, Betty loved people in exactly the way her Christian faith taught her: no reservations, no equivocations. This was my friend Betty.

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