My Grandfather’s Legacy

sduncan post on January 30th, 2013
Posted in South East Asia Tags: ,

By Rosario P. Blardony

The Philippines has a long tradition of giving and volunteering. The bayanihan spirit, a community acting together to help its members, best captures the essence of Filipino generosity. Pakikipagkapwa (a shared sense of humanity), pagtutulungan (mutual self-help), and kawanggawa (charity) are cultural traits that tend to underlie Filipino philanthropy. The Church is another significant driving force in reinforcing neighborliness and charitable giving.
Traditionally, philanthropic work in the country has been practiced within the family and kinship groups, and not through institutions. If ever there was an individual contribution to organizations, it was wither to church-related organizations or social welfare agencies.
With just his shirt on his back, my great-grandfather took a slow boat from China and landed in the Philippines in 1884. With his hard work and sharp business acumen, he established a successful distillery company and became a top liquor distributor in the country. In time he became one of the most prominent Filipino-Chinese or Tsinoy businessmen and philanthropists, a patron of many educational institutions and taught his children the value of education. His eldest son, Angel, my grandfather, educated in America, worked with his father as his right-hand man.

After his death in 1950, the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature was established to commemorate his name. It is considered the “Pulitzer Prize” of the Philippines. Winners receive monetary prizes and recognition. Today, this award continues to enlighten the literary spirit of Filipino writers.

In 1998, the heirs of Angel C. Palanca established the FEU Angel C. Palanca Peace Education Program (FEU ACP3) to honour his birth centenary. Angel is the eldest son of Carlos. He spent his lifetime as an administrator of academic activities. He believed that everyone is entitled to an education. The program promotes and sustains a culture of Peace. Every year an essay writing contest (sometimes a photo or painting contest) invites students of the Far Eastern University to realize their literary and artistic skills. Winners receive monetary prizes and the recognition of their excellence in promoting peace in the community using various mediums. Other activities include forums, lectures, community outreach, educational scholarships and a peace camp.

As a child, I witnessed the generosity of my family (both with time and money) with people we were not related to. In the Philippines, there is the opportunity to perform both individualistic and private philanthropic acts to strengthen family units and at the same time serve a community of strangers. These activities have a strong likeness to non-Western traditions; like the First Nations concept of giving and ensuring that the gift must continue and be passed on. As long as these institutions continue to give to the community, future generations will honour them, and there will be a remembrance of heritage. There is also a similarity to the African concept of having productive descendants honour your name and memory after death (without necessarily having to take in strangers).

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