Yes, the sultan is Italian!
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so great as real strength.” —Jo Petty
“An Italian will become a sultan?” Your columnist was asked this question many times with matching raised brows and dubious looks by persons who heard that Armando de Rossi was to be conferred a sultan in Mindanao.
Yes, engineer Armando de Rossi was born and raised in Sicily. But since he set foot on Philippine soil in 1976, he knew he had found his true home. He came to Mindanao in 1980 to oversee the National Power Corporation’s hydroelectric projects at the Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City and from then on immersed in the lives and issues of the people of Lanao.
He built schools and provided supplies for the construction of mosques. He supported agricultural and irrigation projects in Lanao. He helped forge and maintain peace through constant dialogues between Christians and Muslims, and helped stop the rido or clan war among Lanao’s prominent families. Before long, he became a confidant of the sultans. Last year, to seal his personal commitment to the Philippines, Armando became a naturalized Filipino citizen.
It is for these reasons and Armando’s many other contributions that the Royal Houses of the Sultanate of Lanao, through the hard work and research done by Mayor Anwar Balindong, conferred the highest honors on Armando. During the 109th Founding Anniversary of the town of Malabang in Lanao del Sur, they conferred on him the title Sultan Macapundeg Ko Ranao Ragat (Sultan Benefactor of the People of Lanao).
In colorful festivities, Sultan Amir Balindong; Judge Rasad Balindong; Malabang Mayor Berua Anwar Balindong; and Sultan Ali Asghar Bin Sani, among others, paid tribute to Armando, citing his immense generosity and sacrifices on behalf of the people of Lanao.
During the five-hour land trip from Cagayan de Oro to Malabang, we realized why Armando grew to love Lanao. Passing through Iligan City, Marawi City and the coastal roads to Malabang, we beheld lush forests, bobbing waves, rustic huts and the round turrets of mosques. The place was utterly beautiful and there was an obvious grace and a charm in the smiles and gestures of the locals.
The Hofer family of Malabang warmly welcomed Armando, his wife (now called Bae Lilibeth) and son Michael, the executives of CMC de Ravenna (an Italian construction firm headed by Armando) Pepito and Randy Manaloto and George Quimson and delegates from the media. The Hofers laid out a feast truly befitting to a sultan; they served the freshest fish, salads, crisp fried chicken, exotic adobong baboy damo and sweet durian, among others.
After the conferment ceremonies, Mayor Anwar Balindong honored the new sultan with a hearty lunch at his residence, done the traditional Muslim way and served on brass plates.
The new Sultan Macapundeg has promised to be the spokesperson of the people of Lanao del Sur. In fact, in the last year or so he has worked hard for the Italian government to provide more development grants to Mindanao. He plans to meet with Philippine government officials soon to discuss agrarian reform projects in Lanao.
We believe in you, Armando–your mission, your life, your love for Lanao. To you, our congratulations and heartfelt admiration!
Happy birthday to our celebrators today, Jacqui Maniquis and Eva Estrada Kalaw.
Advanced birthday greetings to Sen. John Osmeña, Zita Feliciano and Jun Lagman, June 17; Marissa Rocha, June 18; Ruby Tuason, lawyer Eric Puno, June 20; Gina Ledesma Lim and Marcia Campos Fong, June 21.
Happy wedding anniversary to Alex and Marixi Prieto, June 17; and to Elias and Vic Pantangco, June 18. May you all have many, many more years of wedded bliss.
So, how was your week?