Bayaning Pilipino

- Tingting Cojuangco () - November 14, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - We are always running around, chasing after people, following up projects to leave a legacy, going after contracts. Distractions abound and daily stresses test our stamina and willpower. Yet we move on for our fellow Filipino, and allot time to recognize those who have inspired others that his life’s purpose may be discovered. It’s always an appropriate time to honor ang mga “Bayaning Pilipino” who have emerged as little benefactors in different capacities, and who go out of their way to care. And this year there were five in wheelchairs who still continued their advocacies.

The Bayaning Pilipino Awards of ABS-CBN was launched in 1994 in partnership with the Ugnayan at Tulong Para sa Maralitang Pamilya (UGAT) Foundation, Inc. headed by Fr. Nilo Tanalega, SJ. and a brainchild of the late Don Eugenio Lopez Jr. He named his advocacy Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Pilipino Awards. Based on three categories: Bayaning Pilipino, Bayaning Kabataan, and the Bayaning Samahan. Entries were collated by regional promoters of ABS-CBN radio and TV stations nationwide. Entries were recommended as far as Japan and United States. The culmination of applications required site visitations, interviews, testimonials and video documentation as verification procedures.

On Nov. 4, in spite of all the hustle and bustle of business and civic endeavors, I witnessed a close-knit family — the Lopezes — come together in memory of their father Geny. Three of his children, Gina, Gabby and Roberta and her husband Ting Feliciano presented medals to winners from the north to the south and across the seas to Pinoys who have shared their resources to make a burdened people who feel helpless discover their capabilities in this unstable world.

My precious friends at the San Francisco Police Department were honored that evening and it was Police Superintendent Brandy Usana and I who represented them and received their award for humanitarian services. The San Francisco Police have regularly visited the Philippine Public Safety College and the Philippine National Police for the past 10 years. These Filipino-Americans from Ilocos, Manila and Antipolo have shared their policing expertise here. Their forefathers left in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Encouraged by their parents to love their homeland and history, these Filipino-Americans pay for all their expenses and arrive every January with balikbayan boxes filled with toys for orphanages collected by Japanese-born Linda Quema, married to the head of delegation Senior Lt. Eric Quema and a Filipina; Beth Espinda, married to American San Francisco police officer Louie. Their husbands and 15 others teach fellow law enforcers different perspectives on law enforcement and police operations to minimize risks to their communities and themselves. It is from this outlook of giving that they serve God and country.

For the Lopezes, the siblings continue the legacy of their forefathers as a family of peacekeepers. Emerging as sugar planters with 1,500 hectares of land in the 1850s, it took their forefathers 15 years of planting and sowing on the Negros frontier until they became leaders of a regional industry and emerged as political elites from Iloilo and Manila.

The elderly Eugenio H. Lopez, according to author McCoy, was a man of personal discipline and determination. He rose daily at 4 a.m. because, as he told his wife, “My enemies, whoever they are, they are still asleep and I’m already planning how to attack them.” “Soon after his marriage, he informed his wife that he intended to become a millionaire by the time he was 30,” to quote Pacita Moreno Lopez. Eugenio and his brother Fernando moved into information technology — newspaper, radio and television and the acquisition of the Manila Electric Company from 1961 to ‘62.

Fast forwarding through the years, Marcos — through legal and extralegal methods — gained a significant advantage over the Lopezes. When Marcos declared martial law he destroyed the Lopez wealth and led Gina’s daddy to a detention cell.

Midnight of Sept. 22, 1972: Marcos’s trusted agents occupied the ABS-CBN Broadcast Center in Quezon City. All Lopez broadcasting companies amounting to P119 million worth of equipment was rendered useless to anyone other than a Palace favorite with a license to operate.

In November, 1972, Marcos expropriated Meralco, using his martial law powers. Through a series of legalistic maneuvers, Marcos gained control over the Lopez company with assets worth $5.7 million for a cash outlay of only $1,500. A promise had been made — Geny would be freed once the Meralco sale was consummated. Meralco was signed over to Marcos yet Geny’s release did not happen. In 1974, the elderly Eugenio, grandfather of Gabby in self-exile in San Francisco, California, contacted Marcos through intermediaries to request a final visit with his son. Diagnosed with cancer, he believed the end of his life was fast approaching. Marcos suggested to the sick gentleman that he return to Manila. And then Marcos refused him permission to visit his son! Losing hope that he would not be freed, Geny launched a 10-day hunger strike in November.

Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile dangled the promise of a quick release once the hunger strike ended. Geny broke his fast. Again, another surprise came along: Marcos announced that the Lopez heir would be tried in a civil court for a capital crime: plotting to assassinate the president with an international team of hired killers. Saddened, the elder Eugenio realized the promise of Geny’s release from prison was a hoax.

Two years later, Geny through his brother-in-law’s efforts with Serge Osmeña, escaped from their Fort Bonifacio cell by climbing over Fort Bonifacio’s perimeter wall. They were driven by car to a chartered aircraft. Both won political asylum in the United States where Geny and his brother-in-law Steve Psinakis became leaders in the anti-Marcos movement.

What else can be said but that the world is truly round? Marcos fled to exile and Geny Lopez returned to his motherland.

On Feb. 28, 1986, two days after Marcos fled to Hawaii, Cory Aquino appointed Manuel M. Lopez, Geny’s brother, as officer-in-charge of Meralco. Back in the Philippines, Geny Lopez began rebuilding the ruined media conglomerate he had headed before its expropriation. His children have taken over the task. Over five generations, the Lopez family has maintained its mission of courage recognized in their father’s bravery and resilience that are examples for the Bayaning Pilipino to emulate.

Mabuhay to the Pamilyang Lopez and his seven children: Eugenio III, Gina, Gabby, Ernesto, Ramon, Roberta, Rafael and Marissa.

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