Cornelio Balmaceda (September 15, 1896 – April 17, 1982) was a former Secretary of Commerce and Industries in the Philippines. He was also one of the original board of trustees and then later became president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement.
Cornelio Balmaceda, born Cornelio Agor Balmaceda, was born in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte on September 14, 1896.
Known for his notable achievements in Philippine government, particularly the creation of the Department of Commerce and Industry and his leadership in the establishment of the Asian Development Bank in the Philippines, Commerce Secretary Cornelio Balmaceda was also a writer and a journalist. Leaving the farmlands of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte where he grew up, he began a career that made him one of the country’s distinguished economists and a respected statesman among Asian countries. He was a brilliant man but a humble one, who placed service to his country above personal glory. Early Life and Schooling
Cornelio Balmaceda was born on September 15, 1896 in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. The son of farmers, Santos Balmaceda and Crispina Agor, he became the only child after his four siblings died in infancy. He attended elementary school in Sarrat and the first three years of high school in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. He left for Manila when he was sixteen to finish his last year of high school in the Manila High School. Having been taught by American teachers who were sent to the Philippines to teach English when the Americans took over the country, Balmaceda became fluent in the language and excelled in writing in English.
For his first job, he was hired as a cub reporter in the Manila Times, a daily newspaper in Manila run by American journalists. In a few weeks he was given a regular beat as news reporter until he rose to be an editorial writer. Balmaceda was among the first five Filipino newspapermen who wrote in English. He enrolled in the University of the Philippines where he finished a degree in Bachelor of Arts in 1918. He was granted a government scholarship to study in Harvard University where he obtained an MBA, major in Foreign Trade in 1922. He finished a Law degree at the University of Manila in 1927 and passed the Philippine bar in December of the same year. He married Monica Jamias with whom he has seven children: Cornelio, Jr., Erlinda, Zenaida, Virginia, Gloria, Grace and Rose Marie.
Outstanding Achievements in Government
In the Bureau of Commerce, he rose from Chief of the Editorial Section, then Head of the Commercial Intelligence Division, became Assistant
Director and was appointed Director in 1937. He founded and became a prolific writer and editor of the Commerce and Industry Journal where he urged the promotion and patronage of Filipino products which he called “a movement that deserves the full and active support of every citizen, Economic Nationalism,” Always a farmer at heart he pushed for the formation of cooperatives to give the farmers a better market for their products.
Created the Department of Commerce and Industry Under President Manuel Roxas, Balmaceda proposed the creation of the Department of Commerce and Industry and became its first Acting Secretary. Under President Elpidio Quirino, Balmaceda was appointed Secretary of Commerce and Industry and held this position for five consecutive years, the longest among Commerce Secretaries.
Launched the 1953 Philippines International Fair The biggest tourism project ever held in the Philippines was proposed by Cornelio Balmaceda in 1953. The Fair, headed by Balmaceda, occupying an area of 19.5 hectares of land bordering the Manila Bay stretching to Intramuros and Taft Avenue in Manila, was a huge success. A fair with a similar size and scope has never been attempted again.
Asian Development Bank Cornelio Balmaceda, as the Philippine Representative to the 9-nation Consultative Committee that conceived and formulated the measures for the establishment of the Asian Development Bank, was elected Chairman of the Consultative Committee. He said at the opening meeting: “It is the considered view of my government that the establishment of a regional bank for Asia and the Far East is one of the most significant and important, if not the most significant and important undertaking that the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East has ever launched during its eighteen years of existence. My government is giving its full support and is prepared to cooperate to the fullest extent in bringing about the successful establishment of the proposed Asian Development Bank.”
In his article, “Why Manila”, Cornelio Balmaceda explained how the location of the bank was determined: “The selection of the location of the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank will be based on the conditions obtaining in the proposed site that are most conducive to the smooth and successful operation of the Bank and the attainment of its objectives.. . . . The primary objective of the Bank is to help accelerate the economic development of the developing countries in Asia. To accomplish this, the Bank must not only know the hardships, problems and dreams of these countries, but must also look at these hardships, problems, and dreams through the eyes of these countries. The Bank must, therefore, be located in a developing country. . . . . Viewed and tested by the above criteria, Manila, Philippines, stands as the most ideal and the best location for the Bank, and I feel confident that the Ministerial Conference , after careful, objective, and impartial analysis and comparison of the actual conditions in the different cities being proposed, will reach the conclusion that the Philippines offers the best location for the Bank.”
Balmaceda led the campaign among the Asian contending countries for Manila to get the site and won in the final ballot by just one vote over Japan. For his accomplishment, he was awarded the Presidential Award of Merit by President Diosdado Macapagal.
Hailed as “Manila’s Golden Moment of Economic Diplomacy”, Amando Doronila, columnist, wrote: “The success of that diplomatic campaign was made possible by two factors: the leadership of Commerce Secretary Cornelio Balmaceda and a diplomatic service infrastructure composed of veteran and competent diplomats, led by Foreign Secretary Mauro Mendez. Balmaceda was a top grade Cabinet minister of the old school of civil servants. He rose up the ranks of the bureaucracy. He had an impeccable integrity and was respected. He was never self-promoting. . .”
“The Senate Honors Cornelio Balmaceda” (From the article of Ramon J. Farolan in the Daily Inquirer, May 21, 2012) “Some 45 years after Manila became home to the Asian Development Bank, the Senate adopted a resolution sponsored by Senator Franklin Drilon, recognizing the role of Cornelio Balmaceda, Secretary of Commerce and Industry, in the establishment of the ADB headquarters in the Philippines. In simple ceremonies held at the Senate session hall, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile presented to the members of the Balmaceda family - Virginia B. Castro, Gloria B. Gozum, and Rosemarie B. Lazaro,
accompanied by spouses Antonio Gozum and the Manuel Lazaro - Senate Resolution No. 85.” A Legacy of Honor and Integrity
Cornelio Balmaceda, a man of humble beginnings, displayed a zealous regard for the welfare of the simple folk and crafted economic policies designed to improve their lives. His life and career mirrored values of perseverance, hope, faith in God, and unwavering belief in the Filipino people. He died at the age of 86, on April 17, 1982, barely four weeks after his wife’s death. The Cornelio Balmaceda Foundation
Founded and established by his daughter, Grace Balmaceda, the Cornelio Balmaceda Foundation seeks to be an institution that will promote the ideals that Cornelio Balmaceda exemplified in his life - SIMPLICITY, INTEGRITY, SERVICE TO COUNTRY AND FAITH IN GOD. The CBF has become a family commitment to continue the ideals that Cornelio Balmaceda stood for - to improve the quality of life in the rural communities through self-help and education, encourage cooperative enterprise, and to preserve family and Filipino cultural values.
The CBF Scholarship Program Launched in 2002, the CBF Scholarship Program provides educational assistance to underprivileged but deserving students. Qualified students from the Sarrat National High School are enrolled at the Mariano Marcos State University in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
The CBF Outreach Program Every year on the 15th of September, to commemorate the birthday of Cornelio Balmaceda, the Balmaceda family, composed of his children and grandchildren, go to Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, his hometown, and conduct Medical and Dental Missions for the town folks where volunteer doctors and dentists attend to their medical needs. Since the outreach program started, more than a thousand people of Sarrat, mostly from the rural areas, have been given free medical check-ups and free medicines. The school teachers of Sarrat have also attended English workshops for faculty development and the school children have enjoyed feeding programs and received school material kits.