Sunday, July 30, 2006

Judy Roxas: Grand Doyen of Ilonggo Politics

Today is the birthday of one of the greatest Ilonggas of our time. I am referring of course to no other that the grand doyen of Philippine politics: Madame Judy Roxas.

Variously described as the “Grand Dame of the Liberal Party,” “Matriarch of the Araneta Clan,” and the wife of Senator Gerry Roxas, Judy Roxas is better known today as the mother of Mr. Palengke Senator Mar Roxas. But lest people think that Mrs. Roxas is merely basking in the reflected glory of the prominent men in her life, let me state that Madam Judy is an accomplished person in her own right.

Born to a wealthy haciendero family from Bago, Negros Occidental, Judy Araneta Roxas is the eldest child of Don Amado and Doña Ester Araneta. Aside from owning vast tracts of sugarcane fields in Negros, the Araneta family also owns Ma-ao Sugar Central and later branched out into real estate development in Metro Manila. Her family owns Araneta Coliseum, the new Gateway Mall in Cubao and the Pizza Hut franchise in the country. Mrs. Roxas studied in Assumption-Manila from elementary thru college, obtaining her Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in 1954. In 1955, she married Senator Gerardo “Gerry” Roxas and their union produced 3 children; Ria now Mrs. Augusto Ojeda and mother of three, Senator Mar Roxas, and the late Congressman Dinggoy Roxas of Capiz.

In her lifetime, Judy Roxas suffered three catastrophes that would have destroyed lesser mortals. In 1971, while campaigning for Liberal Party senatorial bets, two grenades were lobbed at their miting de avance rally at Plaza Miranda which killed and injured several supporters. A number of Liberal Party stalwarts also suffered serious injuries, including Mrs. Roxas who was hit by a grenade shrapnel in the leg. The Plaza Miranda Bombing of 1971 effectively crushed the presidential ambitions of Gerry Roxas because soon after the incident, President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial rule. So from being a “First Lady-in-waiting,” Judy Roxas became a political pariah as most of their political allies stayed away out of fear of Marcos. More than the physical wounds, the Plaza Miranda incident must have inflicted deeper psychological scars.

The second calamity is the death of Gerry Roxas. He was only in his early 60s when he died. Gerry Roxas died at an age when he should have been at the height of his political powers. Before Martial Law was declared, he was already being touted as a strong contender to succeed President Marcos (together with Senator Ninoy Aquino) who at that time was constitutionally barred from running for a third term. Gerry Roxas and Ninoy Aquino were both opposition giants who suffered much under Marcos. Their only difference was that while Ninoy Aquino died gloriously, dramatically assassinated at the Manila Airport tarmac, Gerry Roxas died quietly in a hospital due to cancer, surrounded by family and close friends, a true patriot to the end. Roxas was assiduously courted by Marcos to support and lend his credibility to his Martial Law regime. A highly principled man, Roxas never wavered and till the end of his days never pledged his allegiance to the dictator.

Shortly after the death of her husband came the untimely demise of her youngest and dearest child, Gerardo “Dinggoy” Roxas. Only in his late 30s, Dinggoy died also of a rare type of cancer. As the namesake and political heir of his father Gerry Roxas, Dinggoy died when he was just starting to make his mark in Philippine politics. As proof of his political charisma, his funeral in Roxas City was attended by one of the biggest crowds in Capiz history. Charming, humble and approachable, Dinggoy Roxas was truly loved by the people.

Despite life’s misfortunes, Judy Roxas remains buoyant and full of life. She could have attained dizzying heights of political power but in her humility preferred to let others get the limelight. It is said that after EDSA1986, she was offered a slot in the administration senatorial ticket by President Cory Aquino. As the widow of Senator Gerry Roxas and backed by her family’s tremendous resources, she would have been a shoo-in for the Senate. But she declined, preferring to just quietly work towards the good of her countrymen. And there, I think, lies the true measure of her greatness.

Judy Roxas, even at her advanced age, continues to chair the Gerry Roxas Foundation. Established in 1958, the Foundation has already helped 56,000 outstanding high school graduates nationwide and assisted 1,200 scholars get a college degree. She is also Senior Vice President of Progressive Development Corporation, the Araneta family firm which administers their myriad business interests. She is also active in Liberal Party affairs, helping young and aspiring politicians get elected to important government posts. Ask any governor, mayor or just any "old school" Ilonggo politician and chances are he will tell you that he owes his first "break" in politics to this lady. Ask any outstanding student leader, journalist, business leader or government executive and chances are they will tell you that they were once a GRF (Gerry Roxas Foundation) awardee and scholar. Without people even knowing it, Judy Roxas has touched countless lives, never asking for something in return.

In recognition of her humble service and humanity, Judy Roxas was personally bestowed the Papal Award in 1987 by no less than Pope John Paul II. The Papal Award is one of the highest honors a Catholic can hope to get from the Vatican. The late Jaime Cardinal Sin also gave her this accolade: “Judy Roxas has remained a woman of great faith working with and treating other people with a soul of consideration and gentleness even when tragedy touched her life.”


Anonymous said...

hi. just a few corrections on your article on Judy A. Roxas. Her birthday is July 31 (1931) and not the 30th. Her husband was in his late 50s when he died in 1982, he having been born 1925. Lastly, Dinggoy died in his early 30s, (32), having been born 1960. Truly a humble person, Mrs. Roxas styles her name merely as Judy A. Roxas, without having to spell out her maiden name.

Iloilo City Boy said...

Thank you for your corrections. No excuses -- I'm really just bad at remembering dates.

Arelle said...

I met her tonight in a meeting about updating the site. She is a sparkling woman!!!

okidokidok said...

Gerry Roxas died of cirrhosis of the liver...the same disease that killed his son Dinggoy. Their condition is hereditary and will most likely afflict members of their familiy even if they're not large consumers of alcoholic beverages.

Anonymous said...

Mrs Roxas YOU ARE A GREAT LADY MAAM.from Pinoys in Monaco.

Anonymous said...

Judy Roxas is an example of the super rich becoming humble to the poor ( what an excellent example of Christianity in action and not in words) Judy roxas will also be like cory aquino when she dies because she is a mercenary of the good examples of this world ( sic, evil world) the politicians should follow her example (words
are not empty) her example to the rich is exemplary

dino said...

I truly agree to everything you said about Judy Araneta. Personally, I don't know her or anybody connected to her, but from stories I've heard and from where she is coming from in the history, I can truly say that she is one great person. More power to you Judy Araneta.

Anonymous said...

It's written like a Press release from the LP and the Araneta camp. Kulang na lang Boiler Plates at the bottom of the article.

edwin said...

DearTita Inday Judy,
Iam Edwin Abuyen Negapatan My Mom is Raquel Torres I have had learned and heard a lot of the Araneta clans during my early age Lolo Buk an yulo said Primo ako ni Mar well How nice having a great and humble Tita Whom I realy wish to meet.I am the composer of Senior Citizens song and planning to have a concert at the araneta colliseum I have a letter for you but since you are not around Pray you could have the chance when you come back.God Bless you Tita.
Sincerely yours Boy Negapatan

Anonymous said...

I heard may daughter si Dinggoy Roxas na hindi pinabayaan lang ni Madame Judy Roxas, hindi niya matanggap kase mahirap lang yubg mother nung bata.

Anonymous said...

Matagal ng bulungbulungan yan na pinapabayaan or hindi nila ina acknowledge yung bata. Kawawa naman! Tingin ko hindi magugustuhan ni Dinggoy yan