Former Speaker of the House Jose C. De Venecia Jr.

We are delighted that after two years of renovation, the Home Economics building of our old school, the West Central Elementary School (formerly Dagupan Elementary School) in Dagupan City, which served as the brief headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur in January, 1945 opened last Sept. 8.

The newly-restored building, now called “Bahay ni Mac Arthur” has also been declared a cultural heritage site.

We recollected in this column much earlier that as a nine-year-old boy, we actually saw the great general in his sunglasses and corncob pipe and, on occasion, waved and smiled at the crowds.

The Home Economics building was right beside our then classroom.

On behalf of the people of Dagupan City and Pangasinan, and the Filipino people, we commend the Department of Education (DepEd), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), our son, Congressman Christopher de Venecia of the fourth district of Pangasinan, and other persons and agencies concerned for making possible the preservation of this historic building.

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The German people will elect today the successor of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has bade farewell to the her people after leading her country for 15 years and her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), for 18 years.

The Christian Democratic Union is a democratic and conservative political party in Germany which produced great post-war leaders like Konrad Adenauer, Helmut Kohl, and Merkel herself.

Considered by many as the de facto leader of Europe, Merkel, a quantum chemist, is the first woman Chancellor of Germany and the first woman and first non-Catholic to lead CDU.

Notably, another great woman leader of Europe was also a chemist and the first woman prime minister not just of her country but in Europe, the late Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom.

Merkel is much-admired for steering her country, and many say Europe, from the European financial crisis in 2008 and the region’s refugee crisis in 2010. Merkel is also widely recognized for her leadership and toughness in the face of enormous challenges and for her ability to build consensus and strike a balance among divergent views.

Merkel was first elected to public office in 1990, at the Bundestag, or the Lower House of parliament, following the reunification of East and West Germany in the same year. She was appointed minister for women and youth in 1991 by then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, a towering figure in German politics and the first leader of a reunified Germany, who became our friend and supportive of close political and economic relations with Asia.

Germany has a special place in our heart as it is where our vision of establishing an organization of political parties in Asia was born.

Also, our uncle Policronio de Venecia studied medicine in Berlin and married a German lady, Erna, and they later settled in our hometown in Dagupan City. Policronio’s daughter Gretchen was later married to Albert del Rosario, who later became Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

It was in the beautiful city of Sankt Augustin in 1998 when we addressed a forum organized by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (Foundation), which is affiliated with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), where we first espoused the idea of an “Asian dialogue” and which would engage the mainstream political parties of our continent on matters of peace, security and development up to now.

Two years later in the year 2000, we founded and launched the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) here in Manila, which has now all of the political parties of Asia as members, active in promoting peace and economic development, which headquarters we later transferred from Manila to Seoul in hopes of contributing to peace in the Korean peninsula, which unfortunately, has not happened up to now.

We continue to believe, however, that with mutual will in sustained, even long drawn-out negotiations, the North Korea and South Korea will someday emerge united, as in the case of the two Germanys and the two Vietnams.

As our modest contribution in promoting peace and reconciliation in Asia and the international community, we also helped launch the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace (IAPP), which has a global membership of incumbent and former parliamentarians.

We are hopeful that even with the uncertain future, with no indicative, predictable initiatives for peace, there are no forceable perils today of nuclear conflict, which is obviously a No-No in the 21st Century.