The man who wore no socks laid to restBy Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Ambassador Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez never wore socks—not even when he entered the great halls of other countries—to remind him where he came from.
This and other anecdotes about his father were shared by his son Benjamin Philip on Tuesday as Romualdez was laid to rest at The Heritage Park in Taguig City.
The former ambassador to the United States, China and Saudi Arabia, and governor of Leyte died on February 21 at the age of 81.
Philip, one of the Romualdez’s three sons, said Peter Carey, his professor at Oxford University in England, wrote him two days ago to relate a very revealing conversation he had with his father.
“Ambagov (Ambassador-governor), why don’t you wear socks? I mean it’s interesting, you have a nice suit but you don’t wear socks,” Carey recalled asking Romualdez once.
Carey said Romualdez looked him in the eye and replied: “You know, while I might have become an ambassador, while I might have become a governor, while I have worked very closely with the president and the first lady, I don’t wear socks for one reason and one reason alone—it is simply to remind me of my origins.”
Philip said he was delighted to hear this vignette about his father which the governor had never shared with him or his siblings.
Carey, he said, had been telling the story of Romualdez and his bare ankles to officials of other countries as an example of the ambassador’s humility.
“So even then, Papa was somehow affecting a lot of people in other places,” Philip told around 300 family members, relatives and friends gathered for the funeral.
Romualdez’s career began when his brother-in-law Ferdinand Marcos came to power in the 1960s. His elder sister, Imelda Romualdez Marcos, was first lady then.
He paved the way for many a successful visit of the Marcos couple to several foreign countries. He was instrumental in opening Philippine relations with China.
“Just remember as Papa would do an advance party for his sister Mrs. Marcos well, just think of Papa making an advance party for the rest of us, hopefully not too soon,” Philip joked.
“I can imagine Papa right now having a serious negotiation with St. Peter to make sure he sets the terms of his visit and his stay with our Lord,” he added.
Aside from Imelda Marcos, Romualdez’s other siblings who were at the funeral were Alita Martel, Conchita Yap and brothers Alfredo and Armando. Nephew and niece Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Irene Marcos-Araneta, former Prime Minister Cesar Virata and Bohol Representative Arthur Yap were also present.
Before the niche made of black marble was sealed, Romualdez’s grandchildren led the mourners in releasing butterflies in the air. Imelda Marcos was seen wiping away tears.
At the eulogy, Andrew Romualdez, son of the congressman and eldest grandson of the late ambassador, read Kokoy’s favorite poem, the inspirational ‘‘If’’ by Rudyard Kipling. His nine grandchildren also sang ‘‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’’ from the movie The Wizard of Oz.
“Now fly away butterfly, as high as you can go, Lolo is right there with you more than you know,” read one of the grandsons from the poem “Butterfly.”
Romualdez is survived by his wife Juliette, and children Daniel, a New York architect, and partner Michael; Benjamin Philip, president and CEO of Benguet Corp., who is married to Philippine Daily Inquirer president and CEO Alexandra Prieto; Leyte Representative Ferdinand Martin and his wife Yedda Marie; and Marean, an investment banker, and husband Thomas, and nine grandchildren.