WE have always felt deeply for our Filipino brothers and sisters ever since we were granted Philippine Citizenship by President Marcos.
It was something we cherished beyond words.
When my brother-in-law, husband of my eldest sister passed away in Melbourne, Australia the other night and I posted a short item on Twitter and Facebook, I never expected the flood of messages of condolence.
It was touching even as it demonstrated, one more time, the caring and the affection Filipinos are capable of showing especially in times of personal tragedy.
For the record my brother-in-law “Bunny” Joseph and I were very close and shared a passion for boxing. We belonged to the same club in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and in our early days when he was younger than I and less experienced, he looked up to me both as a relative, a bosom friend and boxer of some talent since our trainer at that time, former Ceylon flyweight champion Henry Young had predicted that I would be an Olympic prospect.
Unfortunately, at the age of 17 or 18, I was diagnosed with a heart ailment—an irregular heartbeat and had to quit boxing.
But my brother-in-law took up the sport earnestly and trained so hard, he reminded me of Manny Pacquiao. He was rewarded by beating the hell out of the defending amateur flyweight champion to win the title and earn the respect he richly deserved.
Bunny had power beyond that of a flyweight and his right was dynamite.
But he was a compassionate and thoughtful individual and also a lover of horse racing, which in Australia, is a remarkable spectator sport as well.
Like most Australians, who loved the horses and had a penchant for gambling, my brother-in-law had a similar persuasion.
When I visited Melbourne as guest of the Australian government at a time when Andrew Peacock was Minister of Foreign Affairs and some years later with the Shell PBA team and then with my son Clifford and my lady, Amelia, we had some fun times.
Australia was a vast and beautiful country and when I turned down a lucrative offer wangled by my father from a dear friend of his to handle a weekly boxing show, I declined much to his annoyance so much so that he pointedly asked me why I was so much in love with President Marcos.
I told him then that Marcos has bestowed on me the cherished right of citizenship, for which I would be eternally grateful because being accepted as a Filipino was the highest honor one could receive. Besides, I told my father George St. Elmo was his name, that it was my obligation to give something back to the country that I was privileged to call my home. Besides, I loved it here. No matter our problems and pitfalls, I wouldn’t give it up for any other place in this whole wide world.
I’ve tried my very best to fulfill the obligation I felt I owed my country in my work as a broadcast-journalist. I may not have reached the heights of success I desired but it was never for want of trying.
The messages of condolences I received from friends and relatives and simple folk who followed our coverage especially of boxing events here and abroad, was truly touching.
It showed just how much Filipinos cared for one another, especially in times of grief. And is so doing it shone like a beacon in the midst of the darkness sometimes manifested within an environment of jealousy and hate.
When we watched eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao train this past week at the classy Elorde Boxing Gym in the fantastic Telstra building of the Mall of Asia complex and he embraced me and said: “How are you my brother?,” it touched me deeply.
It was the very best in a display of deep down affection that characterizes the Filipino heart.
Thank you my brother and all the other brothers and sisters, who felt our loss and shared in our grief.