THE Commission on Population and Development (Popcom), in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), launched at the Department of Foreign Affairs on August 9 A Millennial Man for Others: The Life & Times of Rafael M. Salas (Popcom, 2019), a biography of the UNFPA’s first executive director.
Written by Palanca award-winning fictionists Jose Dalisay and Carmen Sarmiento, the 185-page A Millennial Man for Others chronicles his life, from his birth and upbringing in Negros Occidental province to his career and achievements until his death in 1987.
Affectionately known as “Mr. Population,” Salas was one of the first Filipino advocates who made the crucial links between population and development and sexual and reproductive health and rights, both in the Philippines and overseas.
After becoming the UNFPA’s first chief in 1969, Salas nurtured the agency with care and imbued it with his foresight and vision. Under his leadership, the UNFPA grew from a relatively small body to the world’s largest provider of multilateral development assistance on population dynamics through the prism of sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality.
As UNFPA executive director, Salas had carried the rank of UN undersecretary-general, the highest UN office ever accorded to a Filipino.
“It is an honor for us to carry on Rafael Salas’ legacy at UNFPA in this historic 50th anniversary of UNFPA and the 25th anniversary of the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), where Mr. Salas’ vision became a global consensus when 179 governments, including [that of] the Philippines, agreed on a call for all people to have access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including voluntary family planning, and safe pregnancy and childbirth services,” UNFPA Representative in the Philippines Iori Kato said in a statement.
The launch served not only to mark Salas’ 91st birth anniversary, but also as an occasion to gather some of the most prominent figures in government, business and civil society.
These included Kato; Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernest Pernia, who delivered the opening statement; 2005 UN Population Awardee Dr. Mercedes Concepcion, who participated in a panel discussion with Dalisay and Sarmiento; and Ambassador Carmelita Rodriguez Salas, the late UN official’s widow, to whom Pernia turned over a copy of the biography.