“I just returned from a short one-week visit to the Philippines. Since 1999, I have been a member of the Board of Trustees of an international charity, IIRR, the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction and for the past five years, have served as Chairman of its Board. IIRR is headquartered on a beautiful 54-acre campus in Silang, Cavite Province, about a one-hour drive south of Manila.
It has been said that getting there is half the fun. Well, that doesn’t work if you live in southern Portugal and have to travel half way around the world. Reaching Manila means catching a 6:15 am flight from Faro airport to Lisbon, then connecting to London’s Heathrow, followed by a third flight of 12-13 hours from London to Hong Kong, and finally getting on the fourth plane for the last leg to Manila. About 30 hours after leaving home, you touch down in the Philippines. Fortunately, the connections are convenient – no more than about two and a half hours between each flight. Even more fortunate, my suitcase arrived at the same time I did, also having made all four connections.
Returning to the Philippines is always a happy occasion, having first served there with my family as Peace Corps volunteers in the early 1970s. The purpose of this trip was to participate in an international conference that IIRR was hosting on the subject of rural enterprise development. It was my privilege as Chair to make the opening remarks and introduce the keynote speaker, former President of the Philippines, Corazon Aquino. After her husband, Senator Benigno Aquino, was assassinated in 1983, Mrs. Aquino led the opposition that eventually ended the dictatorship of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos . She was elected as Asia’s first woman President and served from 1986-1992.
The only sad note was that with the close of these meetings, my term as Chairman of IIRR’s Board came to an end. I will, however, remain involved with the organization as a Special Advisor for Africa. I have also agreed to take on another project, helping a group of bright young people from Mexico start a new NGO that will try to help alleviate poverty among the rural poor in that country.
Seven days later, at about two o’clock in the morning, I was home in Portimao. With delays and bad weather, the 30-hour trip turned into 37 hours. But I was back on the tennis court by 10:00 am the same morning. The only problem is that with jet lag, you usually see three tennis balls instead of one and it is a real challenge to figure out which one to hit.”