Last Thursday the nation marked the 116th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from Spain. In the afternoon of June 12, 1898, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, sporting the title “Dictator,” unfurled for the first time the Philippine flag from the balcony of his Kawit residence. His adviser, Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, read a declaration proclaiming “in the name and by the authority of the inhabitants of these Philippine Islands, that they are and have the right to be free and independent, that they have ceased to have any allegiance to the Crown of Spain….” There was no formal speech by Aguinaldo himself.
Some 64 years later, on May 12, 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal signed Proclamation No. 28, officially declaring June 12, 1898, as Philippine Independence Day. On this anniversary of our nation’s freedom, we honor and salute the officers and men of the Philippine Navy who have been stationed onboard the RPS Sierra Madre, in the Ayungin Shoal. They symbolize our resolve to defend our territorial integrity as well as to uphold the national dignity of all Filipinos.
For our family, June 12 holds a special meaning other than Independence Day. My father Modesto Farolan, was the youngest son of middle-class farmers from the small community of Sarrat, in the province of Ilocos Norte. Born at the turn of the century, his highest formal education rewarded him with a high school diploma. From then on, it was the school of hard knocks; and through discipline, hard work, and self-education, he pulled himself up from the ranks of cub reporters to become editor and publisher of the Philippines Herald, one of the leading dailies of his time. In July 1946, when the Third Republic was inaugurated under President Manuel Roxas, he served as press secretary of an independent Philippines. In the words of his good friend, Benjamin Salvosa, founding president of the Baguio Colleges Foundation (now the University of the Cordilleras), he was the “acme of the informal process of self-education and discipline.”
From journalism he ventured, along with Salvador Peña and other pioneers of the industry, into the field of tourism, becoming the nation’s first commissioner of tourism, appointed by President Ramon Magsaysay. He thus earned the title “Father of Philippine Tourism.”
Modesto Farolan served six presidents, each one belonging to different political alliances. He would remind us that “as public officials, we do not serve individuals; we serve the nation and our people.”
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Traditions are beliefs or behaviors passed down within a group or society, with symbolic meaning or special significance. The word “tradition” comes from the Latin word “tradere” meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping. While it is commonly assumed that traditions have ancient history, many traditions, customs or practices have been created over short periods of time. Among the traditions sought to be preserved are customary celebrations as well as lifestyles.
In the Air Force family, one such tradition has been the “Night with the Air Chiefs,” an annual gathering of former commanding generals of the Philippine Air Force and their ladies, including widows. It is a tradition of fairly recent vintage, having been started some 20 years ago on the initiative of a former PAF chief, Gen. Arnulfo Acedera who later on became AFP chief of staff.
The “Night with the Air Chiefs” is one of several activities culminating with the celebration of Air Force Day in early July, and is hosted by the current head of the organization.
This year, the newly installed commanding general or CG, Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey F. Delgado, and his wife Raquel welcomed the chiefs to their residence in Villamor Air Base, treating them to a sumptuous dinner with music from the golden years. Present aside from the commanding generals and their ladies were Ms Frances Sarmiento, Ms Amelia Lapeña, and Ms Julie de Leon, widows, respectively, of generals Samuel Sarmiento, Petronio Lapeña and Jose de Leon.
As the most senior former commanding general present, I was tasked to deliver the response of the group, just before the program came to an end. Actually, I am not the most senior former CG of PAF. Maj. Gen. Vicente Piccio Jr., the 15th commanding general, is currently the most senior among former air chiefs. Unfortunately, Vic was unable to be with us due to health problems.
In my short talk, I related to the group some interesting facts on the background of General Delgado and the present flag officer in command of the Philippine Navy, Vice Admiral Jesus Millan.
General Delgado is the son of a Navy chief petty officer. He graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1982, ended up in the Air Force and now serves as its
commanding general. Vice Admiral Jesus Millan is the son of an Air Force sergeant. He also graduated from the PMA in 1982, ended up in the Navy and now is the Navy flag officer in command. Sons of enlisted men, they both are examples of what hard work, determination and discipline can bring about in a meritocracy that has its warts and blemishes. By the way, they were not only classmates at the academy; they were also bunkmates in their cadet quarters.
What a wonderfully weird situation! Two young men belonging to the same class, same company at the PMA (Delta Company), and sharing the same bunk ending up as the chiefs of the Air Force and the Navy. Now, if only they can get the Army commander, Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Class 1983, to join them, the trio could stage a coup and perhaps straighten out some problems of the country. (Oops, sorry boss, just kidding!)
I also reminded my colleagues that with all the problems our country is facing both externally and internally, this is still one of the best places in the world to be living in. Women are being gang-raped in India, schoolgirls are abducted and sold into slavery in Nigeria, Thailand is experiencing numerous protest marches and demonstrations, Iraq is constantly under violent attack by militants, Pakistan has a similar problem with the Taliban, Syria has been involved in a deadly civil war for the last three years. In the United States, psychos armed with high-powered guns, are roaming around schools, shooting students and teachers. Nothing appears to stop these incidents.
So, just remember to count your blessings and thank the Almighty for the peace and harmony we enjoy. The Air Force remains in good and competent hands.
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