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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, June 19, 2017
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Twinkling
with Ninfa Leonardia
OPINIONS

Romulo and the
Banwahanons

Ninfa Leonardia “I was speechless, stunned and overwhelmed!” That was what Former Senator, and now Development Bank of the Philippines chairman, Alberto Romulo, said about his first view of the Bacolod City Government Center that he saw for the first time Saturday night before the awarding of this year's Banwahanon Awardees. He said he was further impressed by what he also described as “a magnificent” building, more so when he learned that it had cost the city less that P400 million (P394, records show). He also said he could not immediately get out of his vehicle when they arrived at the NGC, so impressed was he!

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I am sure that everybody present at the awarding rites approved of the honorable senator and foreign affairs secretary, as that night's guest of honor. Not only was he a very practical and impressive speaker, he was also extemporaneous, and therefore held the attention of everyone all the time. His familiarity with Bacolod and its history was also evident, but not unexpected, considering that he is an adopted son of Bacolod, and bestowed that distinction way back in April 4, 1990, or 27 years ago! Which was why, he said, he could not turn down the invitation for him to come, from his “ina-anak”, Mayor Bing Leonardia, at whose wedding he had been a sponsor.

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Personally, I have always considered then Senator Romulo as a close friend, not only because of my work in the media, but also because of his own friendliness and thoughtfulness. I recall that whenever his son, Rome, came to Bacolod he would always tell me his father was sending his regards. And on Saturday, he did not fail to greet me, I think, especially because someone told him I used to work at the DBP, too. No wonder so many felt they could have him pose with them, he made everybody feel at ease.

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As for the four awardees, former Judge Franklin Demonteverde, architect Armando Guevarra, lawyer Simplicio “Sammy Palanca”, and Conchita “Titang” Varela Sicangco, what a joy it must have been to them to hear him acknowledge their “immense contribution to their city…of their incomparable integrity, their strength of character and their dedication and love for their community, and for the city of Bacolod”. How proud Bacoleños were of their awardees, that night, and of having an adopted brother saying that.

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One thing the awardees seemed to have in common is that they were all humble and unassuming people, not prone to grandstanding or calling attention to their accomplishments. Which is, perhaps, why they were nominated in the first place. Judge Demonteverde, for instance, never calls attention to the fact that he has been several times elected the national president of the Masons, and the YMCA as well as an official of their international groups. We can all see the achievements of Sammy Palanca, but he has never called attention to himself, although the man-made addition to the area of Bacolod called the Reclamation Area, was his handiwork.

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I know this personally, because BREDCO, as it is now popularly known, was one of the exceptional projects funded the Development Bank of the Philippines, where I was then connected. And it was a strange coincidence that the guest at the awards night was the incumbent chairman of the DBP. I could not help mentioning this to its present chairman, Alberto Romulo. Another awardee, architect Armando Guevarra, is noted for having organized the Negros Kabarkada Painters Association, Inc. and for helping painters with free skills training, a program that was later adopted in other parts of the country.

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The only female in the group, Conchita “Titang” Varela Sicangco, was cited for entrepreneurship, for starting the highly successful chain of Bob's restaurants, and through them promoted the preservation of Bacolod's heritage in culinary arts. She has also set a scholarship fund for deserving students. For my sister and myself, Titang was the one we applauded the most, we felt almost as proud as the members of her family who attended in full force. That is because we have known her and her sisters all throughout our schooldays at La Consolacion College and were also virtually neighbors.

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Titang and her family then lived in the Provincial Hospital compound, their father being then its head, and one of the most well known doctors in Bacolod. Titang and my sister were classmates, and we used to walk to and from school together, LCC being very near our homes. Until now, she remains the unassuming, persons we have always known, which is why we all heartily agree that she deserves to be acclaimed as a true Banwahanon. Congratulations again, Titang! We share your pride and happiness, too.*

 

 

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