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Emmanuel Libre Osorio

© Riki Sandalo

Carlos P Romulo personally asked him to join his team when Mr Romulo was appointed head of the Department of Education.  Mr Romulo even sent someone to where they lived in Frisco to invite him to join him in government.  Larry Henares called him an Islamic scholar.  He was a proponent of the Ninth Ray campaign to introduce a ninth ray on the sun on the Philippine flag that sought to recognise the contribution to Philippine history and sovereignty by our Muslim brothers.  He was highly regarded in the UP community and was well known as a poet, a writer, a scholar and a brilliant mind.  He was a proud Filipino.

He was a political organism.  He ran in circles with the great political thinkers and political personalities.  I grew up with him saying he met with this person, or had coffee with that, and then I’d read the name in the newspapers.  I know very little of his political involvement, only that he once ran for public office in Toledo, in Cebu.  He didn’t win the election, but I have no doubt that had he been successful, he would have served with all his heart, only thinking of what was best for the constituents he served.  He helped set up livelihood programs in various locations in the Philippines to help his countrymen improve their lives.  He spent his years advocating Mindanao Muslims so that they were represented and respected as valuable, integral parts of the Philippine society, and not viewed as schismatic or separationists.

But to us, his nephews and nieces, he was simply Uncle Wawell.  The uncle who wanted the best for his family.  To me, especially, he was Koji.  When I was little, he was the uncle who visited me and played with me.  He allowed me to call him Koji because that was the name of the character he played in my dress up games.  He even suffered a busted lip once because we played jump rope and my head hit his chin and he bit his lip.  He was in pain, I’m sure, but he said he was okay.

I think he taught all of us how to play chess. I remember him telling me when I was looking at what piece to move that I needed to think, be strategic and plan.  Little did I know he was trying to equip me for life.  He was telling me that it was necessary to plan and to know where you wanted to go, what result you wanted to achieve and to consider carefully how you planned to get there.  He loved his lists of things to do and enjoyed word games, particularly a good crossword puzzle.  He loved a good chat and a cup of coffee, and he could talk about anything under the sun.  He was brilliant like that.  He believed in his nephews and nieces.  He was our biggest fan and our biggest defender.  He was someone who was always there if you needed to talk.  He tried to give us everything we wanted, if he could.  When he found out that I needed a portable typewriter for school projects, he just appeared at Don Jose one day with typewriter in hand…just because I needed one.  He was like that.  He once said that he would do everything to support his nieces and nephews, because he wanted us to realise our potential to make up for him not living up to the promise of his own potential.  He loved us, in the way that he loved his brothers and sisters, deeply and completely.

Antonio Porchia said that “one lives in the hope of becoming a memory.”  On Friday morning, I received the heartbreaking news that my Uncle Wawell passed away.  Koji is no longer with physically with us.  I will never hear him laugh or clear his throat, or hear him call his sisters Fems, Gards, Binggay or Jinks, which always made me smile.  But he is with God and he is whole, healthy and no longer in discomfort. He said once to me that he never lived up to the promise of his potential.  Oh but he did!  He has contributed to everyone’s lives in more ways than he can imagine.  He has made the lives of a multitude of people better.  He has made his family feel valued, supported and important.  His memory will live on through his family, his nieces and nephews and their children, and the people whose lives he touched.

We love you Koji.  We are proud to call you our Uncle Wawell.  You are remembered with pride and love.

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Vote wisely my dear fellow Filipinos

One the eve of what is, arguably, the most divisive of Philippine elections, my thoughts turn to home.  My thoughts turn to my countrymen who are about to go to the polls to select a new leader. 

My dear fellow Filipinos

I do not intend to change your minds about who to vote for. That is your choice to make because we live in a democracy and we all have the right to choose. I ask you to vote wisely because apart from making your choice, you are also choosing for people who are not able to make the choice.

Make sure that the person you vote for has the right agenda. Make sure that the person you vote for understands that our country is no longer an archipelago of 7,107 islands but part of a global community where working relationships are important. Make sure that the person you vote for intends to implement fiscal policies that lift the country’s economy up. Make sure that the person you vote for feels that they are not only accountable to every single Filipino but that they answer to God too, that their moral compass points to the true north. Make sure that the person you are voting for is really the change that the country needs, that you’re voting not just for change’s sake. Most importantly, make sure that you vote not because there is an instant economic gain for you in exchange for that vote, but that you are putting ink to paper because you think that person is worth the vote.

And lastly, make sure that once you have voted, after all the votes have been cast and counted, you haven’t burned any bridges and severed relationships. We all have opinions and we need to expect that we all won’t necessarily agree. I pray for clean, honest and peaceful elections.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas at mabuhay ang Pilipino!

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Looking for Rizal in London Town

Dr Jose Rizal is the Philippine national hero.  He was an opthalmologist by profession.  Although he wasn’t directly involved with the actual rebellion against the Spanish colonial goverment, he was a member of the Filipino propaganda movement.  He wrote Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, two novels which are credited to have inspired the rebellion against Spain.

Rizal was well-traveled and well-educated.  He studied in Madrid, in Paris, and in Heidelberg in Germany.  He was a polyglot and a polymath.  I remember my early years in school, from Grades 1 to 3, we studied Jose Rizal’s life.  We learned about his parents, Francisco and Teodora, his siblings, Paciano, and his nine sisters, Saturnina, Trinidad, Maria, Lucia, Josefa, Concepcion, Narcisa, Soledad and Olympia.  One of the stories from our little Jose Rizal books that I distinctly remember was an anecdote about how devastated Rizal felt when his little sister Concha (Concepcion) died when she was only three years old.

When I moved to England, one of my friends told me about a blue plaque that bore Jose Rizal’s name.  The Blue Plaque scheme is run by the English Heritage, honouring the notable men and women of the world who lived in London by placing a blue plaque on the houses or buildings which they lived in or worked in whilst they were in London.  I didn’t know about this.  I knew that Jose Rizal had memorials in other countries, but I didn’t know about the blue plaque in London.

It was something I had to find.  I was Filipino and proud of my country.  I get all choked up seeing the Philippine flag flying and ruffling in the wind whilst hanging outside the Philippine Embassy on Suffolk Place!  I found out that Jose Rizal lived in the very posh area of Primrose Hill!  After getting the exact address, I did the only thing a proud Filipino would do, find the actual plaque!  I dragged Alan with me as I tried to find 37 Chalcot Crescent.  Before we found Rizal’s plaque, we discovered that the house he lived in was just around the corner from Sylvia Plath’s old house!

I didn’t want to do the cheesy thing of posing right next to the blue plaque but, oh my goodness, was I so proud to see the words “Dr Jose Rizal, 1861 – 1896, writer and national hero of the Philippines, lived here.”  He apparently lived here in 1888 as a lodger.  His rent was £2!  I’m sure that wasn’t exactly cheap then!

I only wish I’d seen this with my parents when we were traipsing around Camden, after our visit to the Jewish Museum.  I’m sure they would have beamed with pride, too, that this young, talented man from the Philippines, who lodged at 37 Chalcot Crescent, was recognised by English Heritage as a person of note.

Pinoy pride!

Jose Rizal blue plaque