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At the national level, this contrast between a highly responsible civil society and private sector and an apathetic national government explains the well-known fact that the Philippines ranks high in educational attainment in the Human Development Index (especially in the rate of literacy and average years of schooling) while having one of the lowest per capita incomes in the East Asian region. Thanks to individuals like those of the Romualdez clan who have devoted much of their resources to improving the health and educational standards of Tacloban and their other hometowns (e.g. Tolosa, Tanuan, Olot, etc.), their region has been supplying the nation with high-quality personnel for the schools and hospitals of the entire nation. In fact, before Typhoon Yolanda wrought its physical destruction on Tacloban and the surrounding areas, there were already more than 1,000 employees of a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) enterprise in the area.
As a consultant helping both the Philippine government and CEOs in the private sector to map out their respective strategies of seizing the opportunities in an increasingly globalized economic environment, I am especially interested in the Chinese and Spanish roots of the Romualdez clan. As first discovered by one of the in-laws of the Romualdez clan, famous historian Domingo Abella, the Romualdezes trace their roots to Pei Ling Po or Pei Lang Po, who sailed from Hunan Province in China in search of a better life and livelihood in the early nineteenth century. Pei Ling Po befriended a Spanish friar named Romualdo, and thus was named Romualdez, which means “son of Romualdo.” A search in Spain carried out by First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos revealed that the “lineage of the Romualdezes proceeds from a Gothic knight, who fought with the King of Asturias in the battle of Covadonga. When King Alfonso the Catholic transferred his Court from Oviedo to Leon, those belonging to that lineage accompanied him, taking their coat-of-arms from the Kingdom. With these two lines of their family tree, the Romualdezes can be effective channels for linking the Philippines to China, whose expanding demand for food, will make the Philippines a very logical partner in the supply of high-value agribusiness products which hopefully can be cultivated in the rich agricultural resources of Eastern Visayas. Simultaneously, as the “mutual ignorance” between Spain and the Philippines is dissipated by more active engagements between the two very closely related countries, much technology in agriculture, energy, tourism, transport and other important utilities can be sourced from Spain to address the regional development needs of both Leyte and Samar.
At a less strategic level, closer rapport between the Philippines and Spain can help Tacloban and the surrounding areas to be one of the epicenters for the promotion of football in the country. It is providential that one of the leading lights in national football, Dan Palami—the organizer of the AZKALS— is from Tacloban. The international federation of football, FIFA, has chosen Tacloban as one of the three regional centers for establishing football academies in the country (the other two are in Valencia, Bukidnon and Carmona, Cavite). A good number of NGOs, led by a Romualdez foundation, have actively promoted the playing of football among street children and other youth, especially among those families who suffered most from Typhoon Yolanda. As Chairman of the Task Force appointed by the Philippine Football Federation to study the launching of the Philippine National Football League some time in 2017, I earnestly hope that, if not at the very start of the league, but sometime in the near future, there will be enough support from the Tacloban community to organize a football club that can compete in the national league. They can count on the help of foundations in Spain, a world leader in this beautiful game. This is one area in which the Romualdez clan can capitalize on their Spanish roots in the same way that former Senator Edgardo Angara has done much to make Baler in the Aurora Province a major contender as a football capital of Luzon through his very close networking with Spanish institutions.
Finally, in my role as social philosopher constantly emphasizing the Christian doctrine that the family is the very foundation of society, that as St. John Paul II wrote, “every society goes the way of the family,” I am in complete agreement with the main author of the book, Dr. Marya Svetlana T. Camacho, that we discover in the members of the Romualdez clan the ideals of strong and enduring family ties. Their firm attachment to their respective families make them exude what the Spaniards call “solera” or “calidad humana.” It is easy to recognize in them what is called “buena educacion” not only in terms of advanced university studies but also in savoir-faire. Indeed, in my personal relationships with a good number of the Romualdez clan (especially those who descend from “Kokoy” Romualdez and his wife Juliet Gomez), I can concur with Dr. Camacho that they are “representative of the particular value that family has in the Philippines and likewise of the universal value of family.” Especially under the papacy of Pope Francis, it is very providential that a book on the history of a particular clan in the Philippines reinforces the importance of strong family ties in the integral human development of the Filipino nation. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.