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Family, friends bid farewell to Aboitiz

First Posted 08:22:00 01/19/2010

FRIENDS and family of the late businessman and civic leader Ernesto Aboitiz held a memorial service and Mass officiated by Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal at the Redemptorist Church yesterday afternoon.

Ernie, as he was called by his friends, passed away in Manila last Jan. 13, a few months after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

At the church, a white urn containing his ashes was placed on a small table positioned in front of the altar together with his captain's hat and photo.

His ashes were later interred in Cempark in Cebu City.

Aboitiz was, among other things, a pilot, a diver, a skipper of his own boats, a corporate boss, a former president of the National Power Corp. and Davao Power & Light, and a nature enthusiast. In 2006, he was named a papal awardee for his contributions to the Catholic faith.

Youngest son, Antonio, in his eulogy, said the man who was ?captain? of the family, didn?t like fanfare and used to carry a calling card that simply described him as ?Electrical Engineer?.

Present during the service, attended by Aboitiz family members, were Michel and Amparito Lhuiller, former Cebu governor Lito Osmeña, Minnie Osmeña, businessmen Benson Dakay and Carlos Co, Marilu Chiongbian of C-Cimpel, former Namfrel Cebu executive director Jake Marques, and Fe Walag and Fr. Herman van Engelen of the Water Resources Center, among others.

In one side of the church were a group of children from Cebu Hope Center, which was established in 1981 by Ernie's mother, Doña Maria Aboitiz.

?He (Ernie) continued the work of his mother,? said Sr. Agnes, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

She said there were at least 34 children who came from the orphanage in barangay Talamban, to attend the service to pay their last respects.

Gladys Ceniza, Dilaab Foundation Inc. president, said Abotiz still worked for the anti-corruption advocacy group m even if he was cancer-stricken.

?He was one of the visionaries who started Dilaab. Fr. Melo would visit him when he got sick. He was very conscious about continuing what he started,? she added.

A representative from Aboitiz?s granchildren delivered a eulogy recalling the man they fondly called ?Abu?, who took them on memorable trips to Camiguin island. (Abuelito is the Spanish word for grandfather.)

Marga Aboitiz said her grandfather was, among others ?a teacher, leader, captain and big boy.?

?He ate using the serving spoon and liked ice cream,? she said.

?He was the lifeguard who shaped who we are.?

In his tribute to his father, Antonio, a lawyer, started with reciting the opening lines of the Walt Whitman poem ?Oh Captain, My Captain.?

?He was a man's man, sober, courageous and a commander. His life was in constant motion,? he said.

Ernie was ?not afraid to take on challenges with boundless enthusiasm? and was a ?champion of the church,? according to his son.

Cardinal Vidal recalled Aboitiz?s special role as co-chairman of the Bishops-Businessmen?s Conference - Cebu chapter headed by Vidal.

?This is how we can sustain Ernie's legacy. We do not despair that a man of substance has gone on ahead of us. Rather, we roll up our sleeves to continue doing his work because the substance of his life's work remains where he has labored,? he said.

?It was with him (Aboitiz) that I mediated labor disputes and advocated social issues that concern the Cebuano community,? Vidal said in his homily.

Cardinal Vidal said he valued Aboitiz?s ?counsel and presence?, his ?balanced appreciation of the problem and the sober solutions.?

Until the time of his death, Ernie served as a director of Aboitiz Power Corp.

He played a major role in the expansion and consolidation of the power group.

Aboitiz joined Davao Light and Power Corp. in 1955 and became its president from 1970 until 1987 when he assumed the presidency of the Napocor, appointed by president Corazon Aquino.

He was also chairman and general manager of the Mindanao Development Authority between 1972 and 1975.

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