Monday, January 14, 2019

Philippine hero’s birth date

Carlos P. Romulo, one of the most decorated Filipinos in history, was born 120 years ago today. Although there is widespread disagreement across the web about the date of his birth, it’s a diary clue that seems to provide the most reliable date. He was a president of the United Nations General Assembly in its early years, and a long-term foreign minister at home - he served, in one capacity or another, eight Philippine presidents. There is no evidence that he was diarist, but he does feature in the diaries of various other leading politicians of the day, as revealed by The Philippine Diary Project - a database of diary entries concerning Philippine history.

Romulo was born in Intramuros, the historic centre of Manila, on 14 January 1898, though his well-off parents soon moved to live in Camiling, Tarlac, some 150km north of Manila. After graduating from the University of the Philippines in 1918, he studied for a masters at Columbia University. Back in Manila, he was appointed professor of English, and chairman of the English department at University of the Philippines, eventually succeeding to become, first, a regent of the university, and then president. In 1924, he married Virginia Llamas, and they had four sons.

In 1931, Romulo was made editor-in-chief of TVT Publications. In the late 1930s, he helped found the Boy Scouts of the Philippines movement. In 1941, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a series of pioneering articles on the politics of Southeast Asia; and that same year he joined the staff of General Douglas MacArthur as press relations officer. He also served as secretary of information and public relations in the wartime cabinet of Manuel Quezon (for whom he’d acted as secretary earlier in their careers). As aide-de-camp to MacArthur, he rose from the rank of colonel to brigadier general.

In 1945, Romulo acted as Philippine delegate to the United Nations Organization Conference in San Francisco; and he was then Philippine ambassador to the UN from 1946 to 1954 (including a period as president of the General Assembly). In 1950-1951, he acted as secretary of foreign affairs and, from 1952 on (with some gaps) he served as Philippine ambassador to the US. Terms as president of the University of the Philippines and as secretary of education followed, before he returned to the post of secretary/minister of foreign affairs, a position he held from 1968 to 1984. He died in 1985, having become one of the most decorated Filippinos in history. He also published nearly 20 books, politicial, historical, autobiographical and even fiction. Further information is available from a website hosted by The Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, and maintained by Romulo’s great granddaughter (Liana Romulo), Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or the United Nations.

There seems to be an interesting controversy over when Romulo was actually born. The UN website gives his year of birth as 1901, Encyclopaedia Britannica says 1899, and Wikipedia says 1898 at the top of its biography but 1899 in the side box of facts! However, the Romulo website displays several pages from the diary of Romulo’s father, Gregorio Besacruz Romulo. One of the pages, in translation, reads: ‘On 14 of January 1898 at 3:45 pm (Friday) my wife, thank God, happily gave birth to a boy in the house Legaspi No. 19 (Intramuros) and nine days after his birth he was baptized, his godfather Don Enrique Llopis y Becerra (lawyer).

Another entry reads: ‘On Wednesday 23 of March 1898 at 10 am I had my two children Lourdes and Carlos vaccinated - the first was one year and 10 months old; the second [. . .] two months and 9 days old. The doctor who vaccinated them was my friend Don Jose R. Torres, recently licensed.’

There is no evidence that Romulo himself kept a diary, but he does feature in the diaries of several other leading politicians of the time. The excellent Philippine Diary Project contains many diary extracts from Philippine history, and a search for Romulo brings up the following extracts, among others.

Diary of Francis Burton Harrison

24 August 1942
‘Quezon, whom I had not seen for nearly a month, looks well but complains that he cannot make any great effort; and that his blood pressure is still very high. He spends most of the day in a silk dressing wrapper. He was closeted in his room for some time with Carlos Romulo, whom he afterwards characterized to me as politically “foolish” but adds that Romulo is a man who carries out everything entrusted to him.’

9-10 January 1943
‘Bernstein then presented the question of a movie drama in Hollywood, now in course of preparation, showing an American nurse and an American officer’s adventures on Bataan. A Filipino doctor had been proposed, and Romulo considered it, and insisted that he should appear as himself! Quezon said quietly that Romulo did not look sufficiently like a Filipino - was more like a Chinese. Proponed Dr Diño, his personal physician instead - said he was a real Malay type and also had had previous experience of acting.

Knowing as I did, from another source, of the terrific row Romulo and Quezon had recently had over Romulo’s book I saw the Fall of the Philippines, I was somewhat diverted by this calm discussion. Quezon had been so angry with Romulo that he had told him, “to get the hell out of here, and never come back” and had deprived him of his uniform as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Philippine Army when he was on the lecture platform.’

Diary of Antonio de las Alas

19 May 1945
‘Don Vicente Madrigal talked also of Gen. Carlos P. Romulo. He said that Romulo is even rougher and more uncompromising than Confesor and Secretary Cabili. One day he saw copies of the Philippines Herald being sold in the streets. He learned that the newspaper’s daily publication started a week before. Romulo appears as Chief Editor. Don Vicente sent word to Romulo stating that he was glad that the Philippines Herald was already being published. It must be remembered that Don Vicente is practically the owner of the Philippines Herald as he owns the majority of the stocks. Romulo offered his regrets and apology to Don Vicente for not having informed him. Romulo added that the publication of the Herald would have to be suspended as Gen. MacArthur did not want any of the old newspapers to begin publication. Later the Free Philippines began its publication.

When Romulo arrived from the U.S., he did not visit Madrigal nor offer any help to him. Madrigal considers Romulo the most ungrateful man he has ever known. He bought the Herald upon the entreaty of Romulo who did not want the Herald to fall into the hands of the Roceses. He made Romulo the Editor. Romulo wanted to go to Chunking and other places in the Orient to be able to write on the conditions in those places. He had no money, however. Don Vicente granted him an unlimited credit that allowed Romulo to visit many places in the Orient and write a series of articles. These made him very famous in the literary world. The articles earned him the Pulitzer Prize, which also brought in some cash. After all he has done for Romulo, as Mr. Madrigal puts it, Romulo’s attitude of indifference towards him was the height of ingratitude.’

4 July 1945
‘In connection with Romulo again, after the nomination for candidates for Senator in 1941, Romulo, who was an intimate friend of mine, showed coolness towards me. I attributed it to the fact that I was nominated and he was not. His resentment was absolutely unjustified. We all worked for him and we were able to get a big majority in the convention promise support for Romulo. Although Pres. Quezon always said that he wished the convention to act freely, the fact was that he controlled the nominations. He was the one who prepared the list of candidates and the names in his list were the ones nominated in the convention. When we submitted the name of Romulo, the President flatly refused for two reasons: he belonged to the same organization (Philippines Herald) as Don Vicente Madrigal. As Madrigal had already been chosen, Romulo could not be a candidate. The other reason was that he was not supported by a majority of the delegation from his own province, Tarlac. How could he expect other provinces to support him when his own province would not even vote for him? But there was a clear majority in favor of Romulo in the convention. It was probably influenced by the Free Press poll in which he got first place among an array of big men. Because of this, I had been calling him “Senator”. When later I was nominated and he was not, I noticed that he changed, probably believing that if I had not been included he would have been nominated. But it was all in accordance with the desire of President Quezon.’

17 July 1945
‘It was reported that there was a plan to launch a team composed of Osmeña for President and Romulo for Vice President. It is also said that Romulo had declined. It is too bad. We wish Romulo were a candidate so that the people can show that they do not consider Romulo the hero he seems to think he is.’

Diary of Ferdinand E. Marcos

20 February 1970
‘But Romulo is getting senile. That note of his in answer to the stiff protest of the Americans was off the beam. It speaks of there being valid ground for the attacks against the Americans and the Americans to ponder on the solution of the problems between the two countries. I have to replace Romulo soon. This is not the way to treat a wounded ally.’

No comments: