Happy 125th birthday, President Quirino

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Family members and friends on Friday celebrated the 125th birthday of former President Elpidio Quirino, highlighting three values–tolerance, goodwill, and love–that he espoused during his six-year rule (1948-1953).

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Aleli Angela Quirino, third of the six children of Judge Antonio Quirino, youngest brother of the former president, said that the President Elpidio Quirino Foundation is holding a yearlong celebration called EQ125 to commemorate his legacy.

Yesterday, at Ayala Museum, a dedication wall was unveiled aptly called ‘Ako, Pilipino!’ which will function as a campaign to drum up the values that made Quirino an exemplary Filipino.

Aside from Aleli, among the Quirino descendants present were celebrity host and broadcast journalist Cory Quirino, and Maria Rosario Quirino Gonzales-Meyer, third child of Luis Gonzales and Victoria Quirino.

Quirino lost his wife, Alicia, and three children—son Armando, and daughters Norma and Fe —during World War II, from the Japanese snipers in February 1945.

Leading the speakers yesterday was Ma. Serena Diokno, chair of the National Historical Commission, who mentioned the 12 volumes of massive narrations of the origins of barangays, towns and provinces all over the country.

“President Quirino, in an executive order, instructed all teachers to collect stories of the origins of their barangays, towns and provinces. This is the single largest collection of the history of barangays, towns and provinces,” said Diokno, adding that her office has yet to digitize the microfilms.

Israel Ambassador Ephraim Ben Matityau also spoke of his country’s gratitude for President Quirino who as then secretary of Foreign Affairs guided the Philippine’s crucial vote at the United Nations in 1947. It was the same year when Manila was named by the UN General Assembly to the UN Commision on Palestine.

Bernard Kerblat, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative to the Philippines, talked about how Qurino welcomed white Russian refugees driven out of China, giving them sanctuary in Tubabao Island in Guiuan, Samar.

After yesterday’s event, more activities are lined up for the year, namely the launching of website www.elpidioquirino.org; ‘Guro to Pangulo Awards’ to outstanding teachers across the country, lectures on the Quirino Years by Prof. Solita Monsod on the economy, Jaime Laya on education, Ambeth Ocampo on Philippine-Japan relations, and Bernard Kerblat on the history of refugee arrivals in the Philippines; teachers happy and healthy day at SM malls; marathon and pop-rock concert at Quirino Grandstand; bike race from Luneta to Quirino province; launching of Quirino museum in Vigan City; Elpidio-Alicia musical, love letters book, commemorative stamps and tree planting of bamboos and coconuts.

Audience at Ayala Museum were surprised to learn from Kerblat how 6,000 white Russians left the communist rule in Shanghai and sought refuge to Samar, where they too experienced strong typhoon. In 1948 as the Chinese Red Army was advancing to Northern China, the International Refugee Organization appealed to several countries if they can temporarily give refuge . The only country to reply was the Philippines under Quirino.

Aleli Quirino talked about tolerance exhibited by his grandfather who forgave the Japanese prisoners of wars despite the massacre of his wife and three children. He pardoned more than 100 Japanese soldiers. He signed the clemency right in his sick bed in Baltimore on July 4, 1953, just before the presidential campaign that year.

Cory Quirino showed how her grandfather sacrificed for his family and his country.
President Quirino was vice president when then President Manuel Roxas died in 1948. Two years later he was elected president.

Quirino, a son of a jail warden, was born in a jail in Vigan. He finished law at the University of the Philippines and placed second in the bar exam.

He worked under then President Manuel L. Quezon. Became an assemblyman in 1919, senator in 1925 (reelected in 1931 and 1941), a delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention, before his appointment as secretary of finance and interior in the Quezon cabinet.

He emerged victorious with Roxas in the 1946 elections.

Among the major accomplishments as president were the construction of Ambuklao Dam and the Maria Cristina Hydroelectric Power Plant.

Quirino died on December 30, 1953 and his legacy is being hailed as the new Philippine ideology at this crucial time when the country is fighting the elimination of corrupt politicians and the practice of political patronage.

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