MANILA — The remains of former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario have arrived in the Philippines, his family said Saturday.
According to the late diplomat's daughter Dr. Inge del Rosario, the plane carrying her father's remains arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, together with his wife Margaret Gretchen and his sister Joanne.
"A patriot has returned to his beloved family and his home, the Philippines," Inge added in her statement.
She also recounted her father's last hours. On April 18, del Rosario was on a plane en route to San Francisco, California with his wife and son-in-law Jay Inocentes when he suffered a massive heart attack.
Two doctors who were on the same flight as del Rosario tried to revive the late diplomat, but these efforts "were to no avail."
"Following an investigation by the coroner’s office in San Mateo, California, it was determined that the causes of death of Ambassador del Rosario were cardiac insufficiency, congestive heart failure, and cardiomyopathy," his daughter said.
"He died in the arms of his wife of 60 years, Gretchen," she added.
Inge also noted that her father had traveled to the United States on short notice in hopes to pray at a private devotion to the Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
"He had suffered over the past twenty years from various ailments and had had numerous back and knee surgeries but persisted despite the pain and suffering to serve as Philippine ambassador to the United States and Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs," she said.
In 2016, just a few months before then-President Benigno Aquino III finished his term in office, del Rosario resigned as the Philippines' top diplomat, a post he had held for 5 years under the Aquino administration. He had cited health reasons to justify his resignation.
Del Rosario's wake opens on Sunday, April 23 at the Chapels of the Santuario de San Antonio in Makati City. The wake will be held there until Monday, his daughter also said.
"We ask the Filipino people to pray for the peaceful repose of his soul and for consolation in our time of grief," she added.
"Our Papa, a loving husband, father and grandfather, the Patriot, has returned home to our Merciful God and rests now in the arms of our Blessed Mother. He is home to stay."
Del Rosario, 83, was best known for leading the Philippines' legal battle against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, parts of which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.
The United Nations-backed court ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016.
In its tribute, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) described Del Rosario as "an advocate of protecting and advancing national security and promoting the rights and welfare of Filipinos both in the Philippines and abroad."
Tributes for del Rosario poured right after his passing, with diplomats and embassies from various countries extending their sympathies to the late diplomat's family.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also paid tribute to del Rosario, who in 2022 thanked him for his stance on the West Philippine Sea.
—with reports from Raffy Cabristante and Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News