Consuelo’s Legacy

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By Alejandro Padilla

Member of the Board of Directors
Consuelo Foundation

 

In the old days I remember I used to see Consuelo or Tia Consuelo as I called her, mainly at family gatherings, Christmas or some event. General James. D. Alger, her husband would come as well but always left earlier to where he had been posted.

My mother was quite close to her and they would always keep in touch. When they came to the Philippines they would stay with us.

They would invite me to visit them wherever General Alger was posted. Having been deeply involved in Consuelo Foundation I really regret not having done so, and visiting them in the army posts where they were assigned. I would have had the experience of visiting not only different countries but having access to areas restricted to the public like the Panama Canal where General Alger was assigned for five years as commanding officer on the Canal Zone.

At that time I was in College and the timing was never right but I did visit once in Washington D.C. Jim Alger then had just then retired as a Three Star General. He told me to meet him at the Officers Club in the Pentagon for lunch and told me was referred as the Greasy Spoon.

When I arrived I found out they had two clubs, so to make sure I was in the right place I said to the officer, is this The Greasy Spoon? Yes I am afraid it is, he replied.

General Alger died in Hawaii a few years after they retired there. I went to his funeral with other members of the family and some close friends. It was impressive and quite moving to watch a military funeral with full military honors with pall bearers carrying his coffin, an honor guard and the twelve gun salute as Taps was played with three air force jets flying low over us in a formation as he was laid down. It was a sight and an experience that I will never forget.

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Consuelo was not a very tall person well built and very attractive. She dressed very simple and was very religious, willing always to help, was very open with a great sense of humor.

She never had a chance to show it during her lifetime, she was a cultured person and spoke four languages.

I went to visit Consuelo in 1988. She had invited me over so she could meet Esperanza my wife since I recently had gotten married. She told us that she was inviting us to dinner to the Country Club where there was a special show of three well-known Hawaiian singers. When we arrived, she found out that the show had been the night before. Nevertheless, she got hold of the phone number of these ladies called them and explained that I was visiting and leaving the next day. In an hour they were at the Club where they sung for us. These same ladies later sung at her funeral.

It was during this visit that Consuelo told me about her desire to create a foundation to help the poor Hawaiians who were homeless, and the poor, abused and exploited children in the Philippines. She explained to me that she wanted me to be a member of the Foundation’s board.

When I joined the foundation, my idea was not to stay more than five years. I thought that we would meet around twice a year and perhaps make a side trip to the Philippines occasionally but this board as it evolved through the years and the organization itself with a Hawaiian and Philippine based staff proved quite different and explains, 25 years later, why I am still on the board.
We have gotten to be a very collegial board coming from different sectors and even though we meet only 4 times a year, we are all very committed to Consuelo’s vision. While we work well together and discuss and occasionally disagree, our focus is clear, to ensure that everything we do is designed to attain Consuelo’s vision and mission. We are beginning to see that the Foundation is truly making a difference in the lives of the people Consuelo wanted to help.

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A major aspect of what makes this effort attainable is the fact that aside from being a hands on Board, we also have a great relationship with both our Philippine and Hawaii staff who have been very committed and effective in carrying out Consuelo’s mandate.

The Foundation has become like our second home, that is why I try to take my children along in order for them to spend time working and living with the street children in order to see what the Foundation does and how much need there is outside the habitat they are used to live in.

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