Don Eugenio remembered
SUNDRY STROKES () - July 19, 2006 - 12:00am
The children of the late Don Eugenio Lopez Sr. – Oscar, Presy, Manolo Lopez, and Eugenio Lopez III, son of Eugenio, Jr. – will mark his 105th birth anniversary with many auspicious events. On July 22, The Most Reverend Angel N. Lagdameo, D.D., Archbishop of Jaro, will celebrate an afternoon mass at the Jaro Cathedral. This will be followed by cocktails and dinner at the Iloilo Grand Hotel.

On Sunday, July 23, the Lopez heirs will host a luncheon at Roca Encantada, a summer house built in 1902 by their great grandmother Doña Presentacion Hofileña Lopez. The house, which offers a breathtaking view of its surroundings, is perched on a promontory overlooking Guimaras Strait.

I am highly honored to have received an invitation to these family gatherings. I am an avid admirer of Don Eugenio – an industrialist-financier of vision, a fierce nationalist, an avid patron of the arts and a philanthropist.

As publisher of the Manila Chronicle, he consistently championed nationalistic causes. I began my journalistic career with the Chronicle, and I deeply cherish the many years I spent working under its nationalist-oriented editors. Although Don Eugenio was the Chronicle’s big boss, he was the easiest man to approach. Anybody who wished to see him – even the lowliest reporter – could call his secretary and in two minutes, he/she would be talking to the big boss himself! What one immediately noticed, as one entered his office, was that his desk was absolutely bare. There was nothing on it, not even a sheet of paper or a pencil. One wondered how he could keep details in his head – details of giant transactions, negotiations, etc. with no reference materials whatsoever to guide him.

One of these giant transactions, as Don Eugenio envisioned it, was the transfer of Meralco from American to Filipino hands through a group he instructed to implement it, this including Roberto Villanueva and banker-lawyer Sixto L. Orosa Jr.

What I appreciated and admired most about Don Eugenio was his encompassing love for the arts, both the performing and visual arts. He was an art patron of the first order and when the Meralco Theater was inaugurated, incidentally, much ahead of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the audience enjoyed seeing stars of the Bolshoi Ballet, and later, listening to the super-diva Beverly Sills, the other world-class performers.

Don Eugenio’s nationalism and love for the arts are wholeheartedly shared by Oscar and the rest. The Lopez Museum – where some of the rarest Filipiniana collections as well as treasured paintings are housed – attest to this.

Most people, however, remember Don Eugenio best for his magnanimous philanthropy. He was profoundly aware of the dictum: "To whom much is given, from them much is expected." His heirs – Oscar, Presy, Manolo, Eugenio – keep the philanthropic flame burning. They walk with kings yet keep the common touch.

On Don Eugenio’s 105th birth anniversary, focus will be on the social development projects which will be implemented by the Lopez heirs in their father’s name. These follow:

Eugenio Lopez Sr. – Gawad Kalinga Project

A partnership with the GK to build 50 houses for a community of church workers. Located in Barangay Buntatala, the lot was donated by the Archdiocese of Jaro.

Venue: Barangay Buntatala (along main road), Jaro, Iloilo City.

Education and Training Project

The Knowledge Channel and the ABS-CBN Foundation’s E-media provide 15 public elementary and three public high schools with media-based learning, educational television and teachers’ training.

Venue: Tacas Elementary School, Barangay Tacas, Jaro, Iloilo City

Bantay Kalusugan Project

A six-month project with Bantay Bata 163 to help reduce malnutrition of more than 500 children in over 40 barangays in Jaro. (The original Bantay Bata is a project of Gina Lopez.)

Venue: Jaro Gym, Jaro Plaza, Iloilo City.

Responsible Parenthood Project

A partnership with the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines-Iloilo Chapter to improve the reproductive health and well-being of families from selected depressed areas in Jaro.

Venue: Jaro Gym, Jaro Plaza, Jaro, Iloilo City.

In these days, with our country torn by strife and conflict, with petty and divisive elements promoting only their selfish interests and aggrandizement, affluent families who have not yet done their share to alleviate the state of the masses – most of whom remain hungry and desperate – should do so.

Don Eugenio Lopez Sr. and his heirs have given and continue to give the nation sterling examples of civic-minded service.

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