I met Lewis “Lew” Edwards about 25 years ago. I was then one of the legal officers at the Allied Banking Corporation (“Allied Bank”) which was housed at the second floor of the Allied Bank Center located at 6754 Ayala Avenue, Makati City; the financial center of the country which lies at the southern part of Metro-Manila. Lew personally came over to me one working day at my cubicle which is within the office of the Legal and Collection Department of Allied Bank, with a document for notarization. As Legal Officers of Allied Bank then, we were tasked and entitled to service clients who would need notarial services especially clients of Allied Bank who need to have a document notarized as part of a process to open, close or do something out of the ordinary to a bank account. I was sort of amazed and awed as Lew was then, the top honcho of a corporate entity known as FILWAYS CORPORATION, which is a company engaged in the marketing and distribution of books such as the Colliers’ Encyclopedia. FILWAYS was then occupying one of the topmost floors of the Allied Bank Center. I did not charge Lew any notarization fee and the next day, I was gifted by him through a messenger from his office, with a thick Webster’s Dictionary. And those gestures of charity and generosity started our friendship.
I learned thereafter that Lew was a former US serviceman assigned in the Air Force from 1957 to 1960 and was a paramedic. As a paramedic, Lew would come to the Philippines and would land at the Clark Air Base (“CAB”) bringing injured and sick servicemen for hospitalization and medical care at the CAB Hospital. Lew was then stationed in Tachikawa, Japan for about THREE (3) years.
During this stint in the Air Force, Lew’s entrepreneurial spirit got harnessed and eventually grew into some kind of business acumen when he started making use of his free air-transport ride from Japan to CAB and CAB back to Japan. Coming in from Okinawa, Japan, which was American territory at that time, Lew would bring in cases of Johnny Walker (which was a popular brand then and until now among Filipino liquor connoisseurs), sell it through a Filipino friend and on his way back to Japan he would bring luscious native fruits from the Philippines like the popular Philippine mangoes and other fruits in season, to be sold in Japan. Upon reaching CAB, Lew would head straight to the public market in Angeles City and would buy fruit baskets to be sold in mainland Japan. Indeed, tropical fruits from the Philippines were in high demand in Japan. Trading of the Johnny Walker whisky was even more lucrative in Japan for which reason, Lew put up some kind of trading outlet in mainland Japan. At that time, there still was a prevailing restriction in Japan against importation of liquor particularly the Johnny Walker brand which was in high demand among the Nipponese people. Lew and his team would usually travel on board a C 54, a 4-propeller engine plane, from Japan to CAB via a slow ride with THREE (3) stops along the way. The civilian equivalent of this military plane is the DC 6. When he resigned from military service, Lew stayed for three (3) more years in Japan and eventually met his first wife Chiyoko. Thereafter, Lew and Chiyoko opted to relocate to the Philippines and started then and there, his book distribution business with a Filipino partner.
I consider Lew as more of a Filipino than our typical Pinoys. Sixteen (16) years ago, a balikbayan from the US, having been so much immersed perhaps in the ways and culture of the the land of milk and honey, wrote a letter to the editor of a leading national daily. The surname of this letter-sender, as far as I can recall, is ANASTACIO. Anastacio poured out all of his negative sentiments against the Philippines and everything that was Filipino. Anastacio even prognosticated that the Philippines was a hopeless case…the dirty public toilets with no toilet paper even, the ubiquitous dirt and grime and the soot-black fumes from jeepneys and dilapidated buses, etc. It was Lew who brought back Anastacio to his senses, when Lew wrote to the newspaper’s editor totally defending the Philippines and every thing that was Filipino. Finally, Lew advised and counseled Anastacio, who eventually earned the sobriquet “NASTY”, after a string of other Filipino patriotic letter-senders started to bash NASTY. What Lew told NASTY was an enumeration of TEN (10) things that he should do instead of complaining all about the Philippines. If I remember it right, the list contained the following: help the Filipino orphans, give alms to the poor in the Philippines, keep Filipino kids in school, take care of the old Pinoy folks, say a little prayer for the country, to write something positive about the Filipino, etc. But it was Lew who started it all, defending the Philippines and all things about the Filipino from the tirades and jeremiads from NASTY.
As of today, Lew has helped about 800 night high school Filipino students to graduate and earn a college degree through the A BETTER CHANCE FOUNDATION, INC., more popularly known with its acronym “ABC Foundation”, which Lew organized in 2001 with me as one of the members of the Board of Trustees and as the Corporate Secretary while Lew serves as its Chairman Emeritus. As the more deserving high school graduates stuck it out with ABC, Lew has given further financial help resulting in 130 of these scholars with college diplomas to their name. Lew provided the seed money which started the ABC Foundation to help the deserving children of financially-distressed families to earn a college degree to facilitate their eventual employment. Lew is happily married and committed to his life-time partner Judith, a demure and dainty Filipina, whom I personally brought to be wed together at the Quezon City Hall of Justice in 2001, before the then RTC Judge Noel Tijam, now Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals. Indeed, Lew is truly more than a Filipino.
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Okinawa is still “unofficially” the U.S. territory up to now because of its military base in that island.