There is reason and rhythm for another Romualdez to be in the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC today.
It would not be hyperbole to say that at no other time did a President of the Philippines need an Ambassador in the United States with the likes of a Babe Romualdez, as Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez is popularly known within his myriad friendships and professional connections.
At no other time has the Philippines ever had a President who blatantly declared his military and economic “separation” from the United States, with further cocky emphasis that it is now the Philippines, Russia and China “against the world.” An intended in-your-face, red flag taunting America! It is an estrangement that Presidential boosters and sycophants earlier even celebrated as an expression of the promised change! And, do we not remember Duterte calling President Obama “son of a b***!”
The job of a Philippine Ambassador to the United States has never been made so tough, dire, trying with an apparently built-in obstacle course one might mistakenly conclude as intentionally thrown in by the very President of the country he represents.
No other President has behaved so consistently and unrepentantly with a dirty finger and the foulest of mouths. No other president has ever been referred to as “misogynist, macho-fascist,” what with his latest indecency--a “pusila sa bisong” (shoot their vaginas and render them useless!)--in rallying soldiers who face rebel female combatants of the New People’s Army (NPA). Yet, another vile impertinence reverberating around the world.
Indeed, at no other time has a Philippine President squandered hard earned international public esteem for the country he is supposed to lead. The Filipino nation’s image faces imminent disfigurement.
Here then lies the reason the country requires an able and savvy repairman. That is where, how and why President Duterte needs Ambassador Babe Romualdez, whose professional preparation and talents are sharpened even as they are mightily challenged.
With reference to Philippine-American (PH-US) relations, it appears to me a recognition of the man’s capabilities and the obvious need to harness them, that his appointment as Ambassador may already be a nuanced backtracking from much lamented Presidential tactlessness. If that is so, well and good!
3RD ROMUALDEZ AS PH AMBASSADOR TO US
Ambassador Romualdez comes with an impressive political pedigree. He is the third from the prominent Romualdezes to serve as Ambassador of the Philippines to Washington DC. That spells for me a continuing rhythm in the Romualdez clan’s diplomatic service in the nations’s behalf.
First there was Eduardo Z. Romualdez, distinguished business executive and banker, Secretary of Finance (1966 to 1970) erstwhile President of the Philippine National Bank. He served as Ambassador to Washington DC from 1971 to 1982. He was followed by Benjamin ‘Kokoy’ Romualdez, favorite brother Imelda Romualdez Marcos, who was our Ambassador to the US until the fall of Marcos.
Ambassador Babe cut his teeth in public affairs as a broadcast journalist in the 1970s with RPN-9, TV Channel (of the late Roberto Benedicto’s KBS—Kanlaon Broadcasting System). He has enriched his media career with important connections locally and abroad, especially in the U.S. His friendship with the late Max Soliven, a newspaperman of great renown and founding publisher of the Philippine Star, led to an invitation to write a regular column, establishing himself as one of the country's influential ‘thought leaders’, eventually earning, in 2017, the Rotary Club of Manila’s “Opinion Writer of the Year.” He went to Ateneo for Grade School and High School, while it was at De La Salle College where he obtained his undergraduate degree in Business. Until recently, an executive of some publishing business concerns.
The lore of the fascinating Romualdez clan begins with a religio-political event involving the Church and the Jesuits who, by the way, educated most of the Romualdez men. Let me deliver this clan backgrounder in capsule form.
Had the Jesuits not been expelled from all of Spain’s domain in the latter half of the 18th century, the Franciscan friars would not have been assigned to take over the once Jesuit sacerdotal territory of Samar and Leyte. One such Spanish Franciscan priest, a Francisco Lopez, was first assigned to the parish of Basey, Samar. And, with a church choir girl, Concepcion Crisostomo, there was holy carnal chemistry that begat a daughter named Trinidad. On reassignment to Burauen, Leyte, there ensued additional procreation.
Subsequently, Trinidad Lopez, et al joined Padre Francisco in his reassignment to Pandacan, then in the outskirts of old Manila, where she met a young man of infirm health, Daniel Romualdez. A marital union followed and a return to Leyte for Daniel’s recuperation, as mandated by a strong willed Trinidad. She was to become the acknowledged matriarch of what blossomed into the illustrious Romualdez clan of Leyte.
Trinidad and Daniel were blessed with three sons: Norberto, Miguel and Vicente Orestes.
Norberto was the distinguished jurist (Supreme Court), politician and statesman, writer and delegate to the 1934 Constitutional Convention. His son, Norberto Jr. became Governor of Leyte while a daughter, Milagros, married Dr. Domingo Abella from Naga, a physician and an avid historian who was Director of the National Library at one time. Dr. Abella’s contribution to Philippine edification is the popular reprint of then rare monumental 55-volume historical compendium of translations, “the Philippine Islands.”
Miguel, also a lawyer, a known “Americanista” friend of Governor General Leonard Wood. He served as appointive Mayor of Manila in the mid-1920s and was a Representative to the Philippine Assembly in the 1910s. Of Miguel’s seven children, two sons distinguished themselves in Philippine national affairs. Daniel Z. Romualdez was the Nacionalista Party Speaker of the House of Representatives, 1958 to 1962, and Eduardo Z. Romualdez, mentioned earlier.
Miguel’s eldest daughter Estela (Mrs.Sulit), also a lawyer, was likewise in the Foreign Service having served as Consul General in San Francisco and eventually as Ambassador to Portugal. Another son, Alberto, Sr., was a medical doctor whose son, Alberto Jr., also a physician, nicknamed “Quasi,” was in President Estrada’s Cabinet as Secretary of Health.
Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez is another son of Dr. Alberto, Sr. Our Ambassador is therefore the grandson Miguel, a great, great grandson of the Franciscan, Padre Francisco Lopez.
The youngest of Dona Trinidad’s brood was also a lawyer, Vicente Orestes; perhaps the best looking and most mestizo of her boys. Compared to Norberto and Miguel, in terms of professional attainment, however, there was not much to speak of. But then Vicente sired an Imelda, about whom no comment need be added.
Political pedigree, professional background, business expertise, personal charm and a wide circle of friendly influence and credible ‘influencers’ sum up Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez’s mettle. He will survive. He will succeed. Despite the fact that no Philippine Ambassador to the US has ever faced the distinct peculiarity of his challenge. A challenge not coming from the venue of his diplomatic posting but from the leadership of the country he represents. There is that gaping lack of schooling and preparedness for foreign policy and basic social graces that is disturbing. I can only hope that there are no more monkey wrenches cast athwart the county’s diplomatic obligations and initiatives.
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