We wish to pay tribute to the late senator and foreign affairs secretary Raul Manglapus, whose 21st death anniversary last July 25 we quietly commemorated.
We were in Carmel, California in 1998, having accepted an invitation to speak at a forum organized by Paul Burgess Fay Jr. who served as President John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of the Navy, and our old friend Arab and Europe business leader Hany Salaam, who established a Christian-Muslim Center in Georgetown University.
We then received a call from Raul Manglapus who asked us to join him and former President Fidel V. Ramos in Madrid for the meeting of the executive council of the Christian Democrats International (CDI). He said that he had nominated us for International Vice President of CDI.
We told him that we had no impulse yet to take a political role overseas. We stressed that we just lost the presidential elections and did not relish the prospect of losing another election so soon. However, Manong Raul was insistent. He told us that he already campaigned among many European and Latin American friends and wanted us to succeed him as CDI International Vice President.
We protested but could not turn down Manong Raul, a fearless freedom fighter, brilliant reformist, and superb orator who in 1965 made a quixotic quest for the presidency of the Philippines and in 1992 co-founded with us and then former Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos the Lakas-NUCD-UMDP, now simply Lakas-CMD, which became Ramos’ political vehicle that catapulted him to Malacanang.
And so we found ourself in Madrid a few days later, where we, who were then practically unknown to the organization, addressed the CDI executive council led by then President Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik of Norway, and Prime Minister Wilfred Martens of Belgium, among others.
As fate would have it, with Manong Raul’s unequivocal support, we became International Vice President of CDI. We are pleased to say that at the CDI Executive Council meeting in Mexico City in 2002, we initiated the renaming of the organization from Christian Democrats International to Centrist Democrats International, in our desire to make the CDI a truly global organization, more inclusive, and in a better position to reach out to other faiths and groups.
We also established and launched the CDI Asia Pacific in Manila in 2006. Raul Manglapus’ son Francis served as the first secretary-general of the CDI Asia Pacific.
Raul Manglapus served our country with great distinction. He was our country’s youngest foreign affairs secretary, 38 years old, when he was appointed by President Carlos P. Garcia in 1957. Thirty years later, in 1987, he was again named as our country’s top diplomat by President Cory Aquino.
Much earlier, he was appointed by President Ramon Magsaysay as foreign affairs undersecretary. He was also twice elected senator, in 1961 and in 1987.
He was an orator, writer, musician, playwright, linguist, a man of numerous talents.
He composed the “Mambo Magsaysay,” the incomparable campaign jingle of Magsaysay when he ran for president, which became widely popular and was said to have helped boost the latter’s victory at the polls. He also wrote the “Blue Eagle the King,” our alma mater Ateneo de Manila’s rallying song, which is immortal among Ateneans.
Manglapus fought the Japanese during World War II, serving under the legendary Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
He ran against Ferdinand Marcos in the 1965 presidential elections. He fiercely opposed martial law and faced arrest and imprisonment. He went into exile to the US with his family, where he organized Filipinos against Marcos under the Movement for Free Philippines (MFP), which he founded.
Much later, as fate, or love, would have it, the grandchildren of political adversaries, Marcos and Manglapus ended the decades-long enmity between the two families.
Michael Ferdinand Marcos Manotoc, son of Senator Imee Marcos, married Cara Manglapus, daughter of centrist democrat leader Francis Manglapus, some three years ago and they have been blessed with a lovely daughter.
Some romanticists likened them to the famed “Romeo and Juliet” love story, albeit with a happy ending.
(Part of the column is based on our biography, Global Filipino, written by the American Brett M. Decker.)