A tribute to the Rotary Club; our ‘Rock of Gibraltar’

Published February 14, 2021, 12:01 AM

by Former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia Jr.

PEACE-MAKER

Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

The “Four Way Test,” of what we Rotarians think, say, or do in the Rotary Creed include the following:

First: “Is it the Truth?” Second: “Is it Fair to All Concerned?” Third: “Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendship?” Fourth: “Will it be Beneficial to All Concerned?”

In our country today there are 931 Rotary clubs and 26,275 members, who are occasional sources of support for community service projects throughout the Philippines.

Throughout the world there are some 35,000 Rotary clubs and 1,177,137 members, advancing one basic ideal, the “Ideal of Service.” To us, Manila Rotary Club’s (RCM) most valuable declaration made in earlier days was:

“I shall value success in my vocation as a worthy ambition only when achieved as a result of service to society and as it helps others to be successful; to accept no profit or distinction which arises from unfair advantage, abuse of privilege, or betrayal of trust….”

The founders of Manila Rotary at the time – American Leon J. Lambert, president; Alfonso Sycip, vice president; E. E. Elser, secretary; and Walter Beam, treasurer – were the first Rotary officers in January 1919, following Manila Rotary’s launching by American Rotarian Roger D. Pinneo, then a member of the Rotary Club of Seattle. He sailed to Manila with a commission to assist in the organization of Rotary clubs in the Far East. The first Rotary Club of Manila had a membership of 38, with an office located in the office of the Benguet Consolidated Mining Co. where further meetings were held.

In 1939, through the invitation of then Rotary International Vice President Carlos P. “Romy” Romulo, who later became the first Asian president of the UN General Assembly, the Rotary Club of Guam was organized as RCM’s first overseas daughter, a Filipino initiative. However during World War II, under Japanese occupation, all the clubs in the Philippines stopped all formal meetings.

The last memorable emergency gathering of RCM was held on the embattled island of Corregidor on May 6, 1942, to induct Gen. Douglas MacArthur, World War II’s greatest general, as honorary member, on the eve of the fall of Bataan.

We remember as a young 19-year-old correspondent in Asia’s Asia-owned first news agency, Pan-Asia Newspaper Alliance, and as weekly columnist then on Asian affairs of the Philippines Herald, we used to ferry outstanding public speakers from Manila, like great journalists Ambassador to Germany Melchor Aquino and Washington-based media adviser Al Valencia via the old Ferrocarril de Manila trains to address Dagupan City’s Rotary Club, then headed by Pantranco bus transport co-founder Rafael Gonzalez, followed by the subsequent Secretary of Health Francisco Duque.

Oh, what we used to do as a young man in the service of Rotary for this went on almost every week for a year on the now defunct Manila-Dagupan railways run. As a prize for their task as guest speakers, and on their return to Manila, we would gift them tokens of Pangasinan’s priceless Dagupan bangus to take home, since at the time up to now, there are no honorariums for Rotary guest speakers.

***

We wish to greet our beloved wife, Gina who is celebrating her birthday tomorrow, February 15.

She is our family’s “Rock of Gibraltar,” a constant source of strength especially during our many years in Philippine politics and our foray into parliamentary and political party diplomacy in Asia and the international community.

We could not have carried out our initiatives and advanced some causes for our country and for the international community without our wife’s unwavering support.

We are proud of her own modest legacy in nation-building, particularly her advocacies for women, mothers, and children. She established the Haven for Women, now with 15 regional centers throughout the country, which rehabilitate women who had been raped and victimized by domestic violence, incest, forced prostitution, illegal recruitment, etc.; the Haven for Children, with four regional centers, which shelter streetchildren who are victims of illegal drugs and have committed crimes at their very young age; and the Haven for the Elderly, which serves as a home for senior citizens who have been abandoned by their families.  

She also built the INA (Inang Naulila sa Anak) Healing Center in Quezon City which provides free counseling and psycho-social support to mothers who also lost a child.

She served twice, from 2010 to 2013 and from 2013 to 2016, as representative of the fourth district of Pangasinan and was elected two times as president of the Association of Women Legislators of the House of Representatives during the 15th and 16th Congresses.

Gina and we have had wonderful yesterdays together, and look forward to many more tomorrows to share with each other.  

 
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