I had been thinking about my late father lately. Perhaps it was because I spent a few days in Baguio last week. Next to Iloilo, my father, I and my late brother Geny remember Baguio with the fondest memories. We had part of our early schooling in Baguio and we saw Japanese planes drop bombs in this beautiful city to signal the start of the Japanese invasion during the Second World War. Of course, I cannot forget my family’s difficult and dangerous escape from Baguio towards the war’s end.
But let me tell you a little something about my father, the legendary Don Eugenio Lopez Sr. He founded what became the Lopez Group over 80 years ago. Most of you are likely to be too young to have an idea who he is. Let me just say that he epitomizes all the values we have adopted as our core values or how we do business. Today, as we celebrate 25 years of EDSA 1, let me just focus on one of those values, nationalism or love of country.
My father was not the type who delivered oratorical speeches on patriotism even as love of country was paramount to him. He believed that Filipinos should be first in this country not just in terms of a catchy slogan but more in the sense of being in control of their lives, being able to enjoy the fruits of their labor and the natural resources God has given our country. My father also believed strongly in the ability of the Filipino to chart his destiny, a revolutionary thought in his time when the country was still under a foreign ruler.
When my father returned to the country after obtaining a graduate degree from Harvard Law School, he decided to put his sentiments to action not by becoming a politician or becoming a practicing lawyer but by being a businessman. To him, it is in the field of business and industry where he should make a difference that matters most for our country and our people. He went back to Iloilo and took over the sugar plantation and the sugar milling business. And he established other businesses that he thought would help improve the quality of life of his beloved Ilonggos. He set up a bus line and a crusading local newspaper, and later on established the first airline in the country that predated Philippine Airlines.
The Second World War however, proved to be a major setback for him and he had to start all over again. He proved himself equal to the challenge. He was so successful that he had what could only be described during that time as the temerity to offer to buy out the American owners of Meralco. Sadly, many Filipinos in those years didn’t think Filipinos are capable of raising the massive financing and have the expertise to run a world class company like Meralco. My father thought differently and he accomplished what was then unthinkable and Filipinized Meralco. The rest is, as they say, history.
My father would have loved EDSA 1. As some of you might know, he was one of those who died without seeing the dawn of freedom that is EDSA 1break in our country. He died in exile in San Francisco, broken hearted by the cruel imprisonment of my brother Geny by the Marcos dictatorial regime. But then again, I know my father knew such is the price he had to pay in his lifetime quest to fight corruption and tyranny. He dedicated both the Manila Chronicle and ABS-CBN to this fight for our people’s democratic rights, a fight whose fruits only came to be during EDSA 1. He earned the ire of Mr Marcos because he dared to challenge the emerging dictatorial tendencies of the man whose political rise he had once supported.
As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of those glorious days in February 1986, let us remember how we all united as a people in defense of our freedom. Let us also not forget those who fought so that day would come but, like my father, did not live to cherish the moment.
Mabuhay ang diwa ng EDSA. Mabuhay tayong lahat!