Not many Filipinos know about President Elpidio Quirino beyond his being the country’s sixth President, who presided over the postwar reconstruction of the Philippines after the Japanese occupation.
To make him a more familiar figure in the country’s history, President Elpidio Quirino Foundation has lined up a series of activities to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of the former President in November, said his niece and foundation chair Aleli Angela Quirino.
During the brief presentation on the former President’s life during the kickoff event, his family and friends recalled Quirino as a man who embodied several important values.
Aleli Quirino said her uncle demonstrated two aspects of tolerance: the “capacity to endure pain or hardship” and the “capacity to recognize and respect the beliefs, opinions and practices of others.”
The former President demonstrated the latter when he readily forgave Japanese prisoners of war in 1953 despite the fact that his wife Alicia and three of his five children were killed by Japanese forces as they fled their home, she said.
Among the events planned are a series of lectures on the economy, education, patterns of migration, and postwar relations between the Philippines and Japan during the Quirino presidency; a nationwide health and wellness tour for teachers; a marathon; a musical; a book launch, and tree-planting, Quirino told reporters during the kickoff on Friday of the eight-month-long celebration, also called EQ125.
“We’re celebrating [Quirino’s 125th birthday] … mainly for public information,” the younger Quirino said.
The event comes a few months after Malacañang, through Proclamation No. 467, officially declared Nov. 16, 2015, President Elpidio Quirino Day.
The date of the kickoff in Makati, April 17, also marked the day when then Vice President Quirino assumed the country’s presidency, following the sudden death of President Manuel Roxas in 1948.
The first activity after the launch was a lecture by economist Solita Monsod on the Philippine economy during Quirino’s time on April 29, the President’s niece said. Other lectures have been scheduled in June and August, and will have as speakers Bernard Kerblat, Philippine representative to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Jaime Laya, former budget secretary. The two will speak on patterns of migrations, and education in the Quirino years, respectively.
“The last lecture by Ambeth Ocampo will be on postwar relations between Japan and the Philippines,” Aleli Quirino said.
Media personality Cory Quirino, a granddaughter of the former President and a trustee of the foundation, said other activities included a “mall health and wellness tour” for teachers, since Quirino himself was a teacher before he became President.
“We are calling it Teachers Healthy and Happy Day. On May 17 we will be in SM North Edsa, but we are also going to cover Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” she said, adding that Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio and Naga are in the list of places to be visited by the wellness tour.
A marathon—called Guro to Pangulo run—was also scheduled on Oct. 10, Cory Quirino added.
“It’s not just a run; We want to have separate lanes for walkathoners and for bikers,” she added.
A statement distributed to reporters during the launch listed other activities for EQ125, including the staging of “Elpidio and Alicia, the Musical,” about the Quirino couple’s life together, the launch of a book featuring the couple’s love letters, as well as tree-planting activities, which “highlight the (former) President’s Arbor Day initiative.”
“In the next eight months we hope to bring to the public [former President Quirino’s] values and vision,” the President’s niece, Aleli Quirino, said.
“[Former] President Quirino was a man who valued forgiveness and tolerance,” she added.
Kerblat recalled how the former President opened up the country’s borders to white Russian refugees who were driven out of China, and gave them sanctuary in Tubabao, Guiuan, in Samar.
Ma. Sereno Diokno, chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, credited the former President for having “initiated a massive effort to develop the country’s local history.”
Diokno said that in 1951, Quirino issued Executive Order No. 486, “which asked all schoolteachers to gather, collect and compile the histories of towns, cities and provinces.”
“That effort produced 12 volumes, of which three contained the annual provincial reports of 49 provinces at that time, from 1946 to 1951. In all, there are at least 79 microfilm reels at the national library,” she added.
Diokno said the initiative was “very important” for historians as they were “the single largest existing collection of local histories.”
“We hope that we will be able to let you know more about [former President Quirino] and how many of the things he did and the values he held remains relevant to our times today,” Cory Quirino said.