Closing Remarks at the Lecture and Presentation of Prof. Sharon Delmendo on “Doing the Right Thing in Time of Need: Open Door Policy of President Manuel L. Quezon on Jewish Refugees”
04 March 2016, Ayala Museum
This is absolutely the worst job to have because everyone is hungry and sleepy and wants to beat the traffic, so I will try to keep it brief. I did want to sort of focus our attention on a thought– but before I reach that thought, I would like to read a quote. This was by Teodoro Locsin Sr., father of my mentor and he wrote it in 1961. Now, Sharon here has talked to you about her unique identity as a Filipino-American or American-Filipino. This institution was established by Spanish-Filipinos. Everyone of us here has a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But what we all have together is this country and our roots in it. And talking about identity, Locsin wrote, and this is about how you talk to any Filipino and every Filipino is full of that good German word angst about who they are and what we’re all about. So, Locsin said:
“Our masks become our nature. When we try to remove them, we find we can’t. If we could, the face underneath would prove to be the same as the masks. The Filipino is all he has tried to be, the masks he has put on. He is more than the primitive darkly present in the background. To be a Filipino is not simply a thing but a great bewilderment, a matter of great complexity, which is only a way of saying what it is to be a man. The native returns, but only to himself. The inescapable one.
To cultivate the virtues of honesty, industry and justice, to learn how to love, is to be human. To be a Filipino, in the best sense of the word. Whether as a Spaniard or American or Japanese, or as Nationalist, the Filipino must reckon with himself at last. He has no excuse for what he does; he should blame nobody but himself for what he is. If he has courage, he is brave; if he is honest, he is true; if he loves justice, he is decent, and if he loves rather than hate, he is at ease. The rest is merely economics, politics and the movies”.
And that’s the quote. Today, you got a very brief glimpse and a glimpse made very brief, and Sharon I hope you will forgive me for what I am going to say next, because of this sense of hiya– of shame, of modesty of the young professor you saw standing before you today. Everything you saw on the screens, the research, and you have only seen the tip of the iceberg, the videos produced by long hours of research, editing, writing, talking, sifting, understanding- all of this is a labor of love. It is a labor of sacrifice.
Some of you here, particularly those of you in academe, know that some of the loneliest, longest, least paying work is that of the scholar because the scholar must face many, many dragons. The scholar must give up time. The scholar must give up labor. The scholar must confront the truth wherever the documents, the data and the information will bring you. That is not a recipe for currying favor or for even keeping body and soul together.
But I did want you to know, because I have been privileged to see some of what the research has been done and where this research is leading. That the sacrifice so lightly shown because you wouldn’t know that she’s given so much of her life for this, that it is not quite there. If the research you saw is just the tip of the iceberg it is because it would take time, effort, and money to get to the bottom of the matter.
So, I would like to issue a challenge to you, and I hope you will forgive me for this Sharon, because if any of you are here and you have sacrificed time to listen, time to wade through the traffic, time to listen and to understand, then I do hope you will find time to get to know what exactly Sharon and Noel are doing and see whether that road and that labor should be so lonely, so time consuming and so unrewarding for people like her. I leave it to you to go to the world wide web to see her research, to look at her sources, to understand what she is doing and perhaps they might have moved you a little bit and again forgive me for saying this, because she deserves your help.
She’s doing a lot for the country and I think it is time for the country to pony up. I’m not going to be the one to do it because I work for you as a government official and I’m not about to make decisions about your taxes. But I do believe that it is well within your means to give her a helping hand.
That being said, the presence of our friends from Israel and Austria also indicate something very important about what’s happening here. Which is, even as we wrestle with who we are, where our country is going, and where it came it came from, that there are centers of excellence that are taking a stand to fight amnesia and to build a culture of memory.
It actually began not only with the commitment of the McMickings and the Zobels to setting up this institution. It came from the commitment of people like the Quirino family to start depositing their papers here. And, in fact, it was with that example in mind that my Aunt, my cousins, and all of us, made the decision with an understanding with Rod Hall and other members of their family and with the Filipinas Heritage Library to place the papers of Manuel L. Quezon here, the personal papers of the family and his wartime papers in trust with the foundation so that it can be digitized and shared with others.
The same applies to Rod Hall’s efforts to keep memories of the war and our national experience alive. And there is Professor Jose in the background who has been entrusted to make sure that this collection, and again, in trust with the Filipinas Heritage Library, those. So there is a lot more to this place than the beautiful paintings, the glittering gold, the shiny pots and entertaining dioramas.
This is a center for scholarship and that your being here today shows that much as other people might say it, there is hope for our country. It is a hope that transcends borders, it is a hope that crosses through generations, and is one that is going to give us a wonderful appetite for the goodies that we are now going to enjoy.
Thank you very much.