Oscar Lopez receives German Officer’s Cross
SUNDRY STROKES () - June 25, 2005 - 12:00am
Oscar M. Lopez received from the German government, through Ambassador Axel Weishaupt, the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit last Thursday at the German embassy residence.

Ambassador Weishaupt and Oscar being avid music lovers, the ceremonies were preceded by an interlude which featured the Bernie Pasamba String Quartet playing chamber music by Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart and our own Ryan Cayabyab whose delightful Limang Dipang Tao was originally for a choir.

Forthwith, Dr. Weishaupt read the citation which ended in fluent Tagalog. This was followed by another equally glowing citation delivered by Mr. Tertius Vermeulen, president of Siemens, Inc., on behalf of the Phil-German Council.

Oscar graduated (with honors) from the Littauer School of Government in Harvard University, was publisher of the Manila Chronicle from 1962 to 1966, and is currently chairman and CEO of the following corporations: the Benpres Holdings, First Philippine Holdings and ABS-CBN Holdings. He is also president/chairman of numerous other companies.

Herewith are excerpts from Dr. Weishaupt’s citation: "Oscar M. Lopez, who turned 75 only a couple of weeks ago, has experienced an exceptional career in quite exciting times. I may say, his curriculum vitae is indeed an example of living history.

"The Lopez family has a long-term business relationship with Germany and Oscar has been a frequent traveler between our two countries. Business contacts in the power sector with Siemens as early as 1960 resulted not only in fruitful business relationships but also in a personal friendship with the Siemens family. Thus, we asked Oscar to assume the co-chairmanship of the German-Philippine Business Council in 2001 and luckily he agreed. The Council has always seen itself as a means to promote bilateral business relationships and has gathered in informal as well as in numerous unofficial meetings over the years. It is thus my personal pleasure to present to you today, on behalf of the President of Germany, the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit for your outstanding achievements as a businessman and as a promoter of Phil-German cooperation and friendship. This is the very first time that a Filipino businessman will receive the highest award that Germany confers and it is more than well deserved."

Oscar’s response was particularly impressive for his scholarly and erudite allusion to Rizal, to the national hero’s one-year stay in Germany and to the enduring friendships he made there. If memory serves me well, Oscar referred to Rizal’s visit to Leipzig, Bremen and Berlin. Rizal studied in the University of Heidelberg for six months, later giving an address in German before the Ophthalmological Society. He became a close friend of Blumentritt, Virchow and Jagor. It was in Berlin Rizal wrote his novel Noli Me Tangere of which two thousand copies were printed and shipped from Berlin to Manila, with the Noli gradually and inevitably sparking the revolution. These foregoing facts will serve as a permanent bond between Germany and the Philippines.

I came to know about Oscar’s achievements in business only during the ceremonies – I leave the finer details to the STAR’s distinguished business columnist Boo Chanco – being able to speak only on the character and personality of the man who was the publisher of the Manila Chronicle where I spent some of the most interesting years of my journalistic career.

Actually already knew Oscar even when he was studying in Harvard University where I was taking post-graduate courses in English literature. (His parents and mine were friends from way back.)

In the Chronicle offices, Oscar never threw his weight around, so to speak. Like his father Don Eugenio, he kept a low profile: he was soft-spoken and gentle but firm. The staffers enjoyed a unique brand of democracy; for instance, we called the editors and the publishers (except Don Eugenio) by their first names; the publishers encouraged camaraderie among reporters and editors. (STAR publisher, Max Soliven, who once worked with the Chronicle can attest to this.)

As head of a powerful group of companies, Oscar still unassumingly and modestly maintains a low profile while keeping the loyalty and doubtless, the admiration – of his assistants, among them Rafael Alunan III and Dr. Serafin Quiazon, former director of the National Library and currently consultant of the Lopez Memorial Museum.

With regard to the Museum, one of the largest repositories of art treasures and documents in the country, it indicates that the Lopezes possess not only business acumen but a predilection for art and culture. In Ambassador Weishaupt’s citation, he referred to the close friendship between the Siemens and the Lopezes. Alluding to that friendship in his own response, Oscar said the Siemens would often invite the Lopezes to the concerts and operas in Germany, as well as to the Passion Play staged in Oberamergau every ten years.

Like the phoenix rising from its own ashes, the Lopezes have not only survived the total loss of their fortunes – their own Holocaust under the dictatorship – but have, with fortitude and determination, also built an even larger business empire – and a temple of art to boot. Now Oscar is overseer of this vast conglomerate and will doubtless continue to be so with expertise combined with equanimity.

Among those present at the rites were Filipino and German business executives including Claus Sudhoff, past recipients of German awards – Fr. Pierre Tritz, SJ, Ambassador Delia Domingo Albert, Ambassador Jose A. Zaide and this columnist, and not the least, family members and friends: Oscar’s wife Connie and daughter Cedie, publisher Marixi Prieto, Mr. and Mrs. Manolo Lopez, Steve and Pressy Psinakis, Justo Lopez, Ernest and Josie Rufino and media members Amando Doronilla, Boo Chanco, Domini Torrevillas and Johnny Litton.

Special thanks to Sabine Strnadl, secretary to the ambassador, and security manager Herbert Hatzl for their courtesy and attention.

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