Thursday, January 13, 2011


A UNION OF SPIRITS. Emilio Abello Sr. with his Kapampangan wife, Elisa F. Gutierrez of Bacolor, were classmates at the University of the Philippines College of Law. The Abellos built a distinguished career in foreign service beginning with the appointment of Emilio as Philippine envoy to Washington in 1962.

Even before Diosdado P. Macapagal assumed the presidency in 1961, he had already figured out his diplomatic team to Washington. His choice to the premier post was no other than Emilio M. Abello Sr., who, together with his equally accomplished Kapampangan wife Elisa F. Gutierrez, would serve the government for many years, ably representing the country as official spokespersons and interpreters to Americans of Filipino views and decisions on foreign policy. Emilio would serve in his capacity as Philippine ambassador from February to September of 1962, but would remain involved in foreign service for more years.

Emilio Abello was born on 14 January 1906, the third of five children of Dr, Manuel Abello of Iloilo and Rosario Montilla of Negros. After finishing his elementary and high school studies from Isabela public schools, he was accepted at the University of the Philippines as a law student.

At the state university, he met Elisa, already a popular campus beauty, whose lineage was no less formidable. The daughter of Eduardo Gutierrez-David and Florencia Fajardo, Elisa came from a family of lawyers and patriots. Her grandfather was Manila-born Mateo Gutierrez-Ubaldo, who had been a member of the Provincial Council of Pampanga and one of the signers of the Philippine Constitution approved in Malolos in 1898. He had moved to Pampanga to escape Spanish oppression during the time of the Revolution. An uncle, Jose, became a Supreme Court Justice while father Eduardo, was one of the province’s constitutional delegates.

It was during their second year in college that Emilio and Elisa became engaged. They graduated together in 1929, with Emilio as Class Salutatorian. Elisa finished third, the only female in her class of 35, a batch that included a future senator (valedictorian Lorenzo Sumulong), diplomats (Raul Leuterio, Jacinto Borja), congressmen (Justiniano Montano, Angel Fernandez, Fortunato de Leon, Juan Pajo, Pedro Syquia) and judges (Federico Alikpala, Mateo Canonong). The two passed the bar that same year, with Emilio placing fifth.

Their careers started soon after with Emilio joining the Paredes, Buencamino and Yulo Law Office as assistant attorney. Elisa joined the law firm of his uncle, Jose Gutierrez-David, where her work often brought her around Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac area. Within two years, Emilio and Elisa were married in Bacolor. They first kept house in Cabanatuan, where Elisa’s father served as a judge.

When Emilio joined the government service as assistant attorney in the Bureau of Justice, the Abellos moved to Manila in 1934. In 1937, he was promoted Assistant Solicitor General and in 1940, he became the youngest undersecretary of Justice at age 34. He later served as Executive Secretary to two presidents, Roxas and Quirino, and also taught law in several Manila universities.

Elisa, on the other hand, had to put her lawyering career aside to raise a family that would come to include five children, all boys: Manuel (a UP and Harvard law graduate), Emilio Jr. (a doctor), Jose Maria, Roberto and Eduardo. But she was kept busy with her involvement in many club endeavors, becoming a committee chairman of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, Vice President of the Civic Assembly of Women in the Philippines, member of the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, President of ZONTA Club and Head of the Discipline of Spanish-European Language at the U.P. As an envoy’s wife, she had to organize social events and attend countless foreign service functions, meet her international counterparts while projecting the culture of the Philippines and that of her home province Pampanga, of which she was well-known for.

The Abellos enjoyed a long and remarkable career as top level diplomats (Amelito Mutuc replaced him as Ambassador in September 1962). After his ambassadorial stint, Emilio served as Chairman of Meralco in the early 70s and was elected assemblyman of the Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978. The Don Emilio Abello Energy Efficiency Awards are given out yearly in his name. He passed away on 18 May 1982, while his widow carried on with her socio-civic interests and advocacies for the rest of her life.

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