Thelmo delightfully told me his story of hitchhiking all over Europe before joining his class at West Point. Prior to crossing the Atlantic and on his first plane rides (as his youngest son, Conrad, revealed to me today), this young man from Bacolod (Negros Occidental, Philippines) embarked on an adventure, thumbing his way around a strange land. Just before that he was a plebe at the Philippine Military Academy.
Thelmo's adventures only stopped when he succumbed to cancer on January 16, 2011.
Thelmo was our ambassador in Phnom Penh when we first met during the parliamentary elections in Cambodia in 1998. With him in Phnom Penh and I in Manila, we assisted Joecon (Concepcion) set up the 10-member National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) delegation, which alongside the Joint International Observer Group (JIOG) monitored the elections. With his usual efficiency, Thelmo had arranged meetings for Joecon with Cambodian leaders, including the ones with King Sihanouk, Prince Ranariddh, Sam Rainsy and Hun Sen.
We learned that Thelmo had secured information about which provinces we would be deployed and inspected each hotel where we were to be billeted. He flew and traveled by land for the inspection to help ensure that we would be able do what we came out there to do. I am sure that his plan included details on how we would be moved to safety in case the situation went south. I observed in Battambang; the elections were orderly; and we came home pleased with our little contribution to strengthening democracy in Asia.
Namfrel again had the honor of being served by Thelmo in Indonesia in the 1999 presidential polls. The 100-member Namfrel delegation of pemantau pemilu, largest of the observer groups, saw the landmark election that handed power from Mr Suharto to Ms Sukarnoputri. Exhibiting the same due diligence, attention to detail and professionalism, the observer mission under his watch went smoothly and was a success. We went home inspired by the peaceful and orderly way the Indonesians had conducted their elections.
I will remember Thelmo by his fatherly care and attention. He had his trademark of steadfast professionalism -- as a true soldier would, in all the things that he had done for us and with us, at all times. I thank God for the privilege to have served alongside him and for his inspiration for adventure.
|Changing of the Guards|