Albert del Rosario: patriot, family man

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Albert del Rosario stood tall among world leaders. Yet there he sat on my old couch that afternoon in 1984, cradling and goo-gooing my newborn.

Tito Albert and Tita Gretchen visited us days after Marissa birthed their first grandniece, and were delighted to hear that we’d christened her after her grand-aunt. Albert was our wedding sponsor two years prior. Three-and-a-half decades later, despite his busy schedule and advancing age, he spent a good part of the day at the ceremony and reception when Margarita and Luke wedded.

That’s typical Albert. Although running many businesses, family was priority. He doted on his six apo, accompanying them to arcades, sports competitions and haircuts.

On five offspring, whom he raised in Makati’s posh Dasma village, he inculcated frugality and diligence. In aprons launching a fast-food outlet in the 1980s, Albert and Gretchen took orders while Buddy, Hans, Inge, Meg and Steffi served and bused dishes. All bubbly, they enjoyed their roles and the family bonding.

Marissa fondly recalls Albert picking her up at freshman college dorm for weekend sleep-ins with cousins, then driving her back Sunday afternoons. Mine were of quarterly weekend family picnic lunches at Inge’s novitiate, after which he’d drop me off at the newsroom then proceed to work himself.

We shared similar passions. He wrote a column on risk management for Business Day, later renamed BusinessWorld, of which he became chairman. He couldn’t convince me to do political satire like his fave Art Buchwald, as I was hopelessly humorless. Still, twice recently he sat at the head table and winked as I received journo awards on stage.

It was Albert who saw humor even in grim situations. As the fatigued foreign secretary evacuating Filipino workers from Libya’s 2011 civil strife, he tripped and fell on his face on the ship’s steel deck. Forehead black and blue, he wished he could say it was due to something more dramatic, like eluding rocket fire.

Hopping to another troubled land despite a newly-repaired knee, power was out and he climbed up then down 12 flights of stairs for a vital meeting because “I needed exercise.”

In 2019 China Immigration held Albert at the Hong Kong airport. He was to attend a board meeting. Weeks prior, he had urged the International Criminal Court to prosecute Xi Jinping for crimes against humanity in menacing 350,000 Filipinos from traditional fishing grounds. His stomach growled from the hours-long detention, he recalled.

In 2006 he resigned as ambassador to Washington after refusing to justify to US officials Gloria Arroyo’s plot to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Still he deferred to the president, “I got fired from my job.”

Retired by 2021, he disclosed Beijing’s frequent brag of having influenced Rody Duterte’s 2016 election. Threatening to pour coffee on his face, the enraged president demanded to know where he hung out. A taekwondo black belt and descendant of Gregorio del Pilar, Albert retorted, “I don’t even drink coffee.”

Albert gave away his government official’s monthly salary to needy subordinates. He headed the Philippine Cancer Society’s fund drive, and shoveled for Gawad Kalinga. He chaired us trustees of Free Rural Eye Clinics which operated on thousands of indigents in Pangasinan, Zambales, Tarlac and La Union. Gretchen’s kuya, Dr. Guillermo de Venecia, had initiated FREC.

Filipinos are indebted to Albert for winning, with Justice Tony Carpio, Manila’s maritime case at The Hague arbitration. That 2016 victory set international precedents:

(1) No “historical claim,” like China’s “nine-dash line,” can supersede a state’s exclusive economic zone. China’s “ownership” of the entire South China Sea is invalid.

(2) China’s concreted reefs, being artificial islands with no natural freshwater source, do not generate any EEZ that overlaps with Manila’s.

(3) China violated international law in harassing Filipino fishing and exploration vessels in the Philippine EEZ.

(4) China ruined the environment with its fortification of the Philippines’ Panganiban, Kagitingan and Zamora Reefs, and pillage of Panatag Shoal.

(5) China aggravated the dispute with its island-building.

Tragedy struck Albert’s extended brood in March 2020. A great-grandniece suddenly passed away at 16. Albert, pushing 80 and unable to lean back on the chapel couch due to spinal injury, attended the wake every night, lending the bereaved parents his quiet comforting presence.

Now Albert too has gone ahead. The family lost a spouse, dad, brother, uncle, lolo, ninong. The Philippines lost a national treasure.

*      *      *

Follow me on Facebook: https://tinyurl.com/Jarius-Bondoc

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with