Tribute Albert F. del Rosario as I remember him

Alberto G. Romulo - The Philippine Star


It all began 60 years ago in the early 60s when Albert invited me to join the Manila Jaycees. He brought me the club and introduced me to his fellow Jaycees, among them past presidents – Greg Licaros, Manny Abello and Pepito de Leon.

Later in the year, Albert included me in his ticket for the election of Jaycees board members. Led by Albert, I was elected one of the directors together with Sonny Belmonte, Ting Bengzon and Ronnie Buencamino. By acclamation, Albert was the choice for president.

This election is memorable to me as it began my later entry into the political arena.

Twenty-three years later, in the 1980s, we were celebrating Albert’s 60th birthday. During the celebration, I thanked Albert for introducing me to a friend who helped during my electoral campaign for the Batasang Pambansa. When finally I won a seat in the Batasan, Albert was the first to congratulate me.

With his unerring sense of humor, Albert also had a story to tell. The story was about the town’s pastor who found a dead jackass in front of his house. As the story goes, when the town’s pastor found a dead jackass in front of his house, he called his congressman, with the latter angrily telling the pastor to bury the animal and not to bother him anymore.

“That’s alright, Mr. Congressman,” said the pastor. “I’ll be glad to bury the jackass.”

“Well,” said the congressman, somewhat appeased, “but why in the first place did you have to call me about a dead jackass?”

“Mr. Congressman,” replied the pastor. “I am going to bury the jackass. But before I did I just wanted his relatives to know he was dead.”

Five months ago, last Nov. 17, 2022 when we celebrated Albert’s 83rd birthday, we honored him for a reason and purpose. On Nov. 9, the emperor of Japan bestowed on him the country’s highest honor – the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.

In accepting the award, Secretary Albert said that the US-Japan efforts to oppose China’s attempts to advance its illegal claims in the South China Sea contrary to the arbitral tribunal’s unanimous ruling are aligned with the interest of the Philippines to preserve its own rights in the West Philippine Sea. Still, said Secretary Del Rosario with a tinge of regret, the past six years have been less than ideal for the Philippines as the previous administration tragically pursued a policy of appeasement, appeasing China all the way in exchange for economic benefits that never materialized.

Thus, during the previous administration, Secretary Albert was like Macaulay’s Horatius at the Bridge fending off against all odds unceasing onslaughts of “barbarians from the east.” “For how can man die better than facing fearful odds.”

Indeed, at Phnom Penh during the ASEAN summit of 2012 in a crucial closed-door meeting, Albert tried to stir and rouse his ministerial colleagues to stand up to China over its illegal claims in the West Philippine Sea. To stress his point, Albert quoted to his colleagues the famous lines of the German theologian Martin Meömller.

“Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist.

They they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew.

They they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me.”

Rarely has the likes of Albert’s tirade been heard in ASEAN ministerial meetings. Albert, however, was not afraid to stand up and be counted even when alone, when the fundamental issue concerns his country’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

That meeting predictably ended in unprecedented rancor as the ten ASEAN Foreign Ministers failed to produce an annual communiqué for the first time in ASEAN’s 45-year history. In that meeting, Cambodia stood accused of siding with the Chinese by shutting down debate on the regional concerns about the West Philippine Sea.

When the ASEAN Leaders met in Phnom Penh later, President Noynoy Aquino personally supported his Foreign Secretary’s position. President Aquino told his peers to stand united. “If you don’t stand up when your neighbors’ rights are violated, then you set the stage for violation of your own rights,” Aquino said.

It is thus providential that in his first State of the Nation Address on July 26 last year, President Marcos categorically and emphatically made his firm stand that the Philippines would not lose even an inch of its territory under his watch.

Said President Marcos, “I will not preside over any process that will abandon even one square inch of territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power.”

For standing up to the Chinese time and time again even when alone, I stand by the road with my countrymen to applaud and to cheer Secretary Albert del Rosario in awe and admiration.

To us, Secretary del Rosario stands ten feet tall in the pantheon of heroes and immortals for his unquestioned integrity, patriotism and love of country even when “facing fearful odds.”

Ave atque vale, dear Albert. Through God’s infinite grace one day we will meet again.

*   *   *

Alberto Romulo served as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs from 2004 to 2011.

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