(14 February 1948)
Since the coming Christ with His sublime message of love and good-will, humanity has not known a happier or a more memorable event than the foundation of the Red Cross in Switzerland over eight decades ago. It came into this world without fanfare, without noise, without publicity, but surely with the blessing of high Heaven. In fact, the man who first conceived the idea of establishing the Red Cross seemed to have been inspired by God. His moving appeal to his country and later to other civilized nations embodies the noblest and finest feeling of humanity and expresses in concrete form the teachings of the Man from Galilee.
Like Christianity, the Red Cross had a modest beginning. And like Christianity, it has spread although at a much quicker pace, to all the corners of the earth with its healing and humanizing mission, its mission of mercy and faith and charity. It has lightened the sorrows and griefs of the sick, the wounded, and the afflicted; it has shed rays of joy on their paths; it has strengthened their failing courage; it has instilled hope in their moment of despair.
No wonder, the Red Cross, with its splendid record of achievements, counts today with the solid support of nearly seventy societies, each society, representing a country, and all devoting their time and energy unselfishly to the alleviation of human pain and to relief in times of distress and national emergency. Although not a person, but an association actuated by the spirit of brotherhood, the Red Cross has been regarded as an individual and in 1945 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Shortly, after 1918, the Red Cross exerted herculean efforts to perfect the conventions designed to combat the ills and causes that had precipitated a global conflagration. Failing to save mankind because mankind seems unwilling to be saved, it has nevertheless expanded its sphere of action so that today it literally girds the whole world. It has become not only an organization of mercy in time of war but also of relief in time of peace. Its pleading voice was drowned in the clash of vast and conflicting forces that finally engulfed the world in blood for the second time, but it has not failed the world to accomplish its primary function, its essential duty, to serve suffering humanity.
One year ago, the Red Cross in the Philippines acceded to the international Red Cross organization and became an independent society in the midst of stirring ceremonies within the Malacañang compound. It is a significant fact as well as a distinct tribute that the loving and self-effacing wife of the man who worked and struggled so hard and so long for the freedom and independence of his country was chosen leader of that organization ― Doña Aurora Quezon. In barely a year of its separate and independent existence under her able, untiring, and unfailing leadership, our Red Cross has given ample and convincing proof of its vitality and its ability to carry on with energy, promptitude and efficiency.
True, it has been handicapped by lack of facilities and the remoteness of the territories it has to cover. Nevertheless, it has been able to succor most if not all those in need of aid and answer the urgent cries of distress. It has sent its members under the most trying and perilous circumstances to such places as the Cagayan Valley, bringing with them food and medicine for the victims of the wrath and fury of Nature; to the Visayan islands to set up emergency stations in areas heavily devastated by ill-behaved lady typhoons; to the slums of cities whose inhabitants have been visited and ruined by fires; to Iloilo where the recent earthquakes have exacted a toll of human lives and great loss of property. No place has been too distant, no danger too great, no calamity or disaster too appalling, no epidemic too destructive, to deter for one moment the courageous members of the Red Cross from performing their humanitarian mission.
Those of us who have been fortunate to escape from the clutches of wrenching disasters caused by the elements or brought in the wake of war will not forget, nor can we fail to realize, the active humanity and unselfish devotion to duty which the Red Cross members have shown in the past years. They have been like ministering angels. They have faced danger, defied death with an equanimity that would have done honor to the bravest men. We who have heard the sobbing or moaning of bereaved or anguished women and seen the look of fright in the eyes of children, the deep lines of worry and anxiety on the faces of persons who have fled terror-stricken from their burning homes, have always looked up to the Red Cross for help, for consolation, for encouragement.
It is the Philippine Red Cross that has continuously and steadily aided our victims of war, the veterans, the widows, and the orphans. In addition, it has continued its undertaking of extending training on first aid, life saving, and accident prevention. It has instructed the people in the care of the sick, carried out a program among the youth to supplement the objectives of our educational system, and assisted our service-men in the hospitals.
Working in conjunction with the government, the Philippine Red Cross has labored indefatigably for the improvement of the health, safety, and welfare of the people. I have nothing but praise and admiration for this humanitarian organization. I avail myself of this opportunity to extend my heartiest organization. I avail myself of this opportunity to extend my heartiest congratulations to its chairman and its staff members who have unstintedly given their best so that the sublime ideals of the Red Cross may become a throbbing reality.
Today for the first time in its history as an independent organization, the Philippine Red Cross launches its nationwide appeals for funds, funds which it needs to carry on in the self-same spirit of service and devotion. I have no doubt that the people it has served so faithfully and well, in rain or shine, in peace or in war, will respond to its appeal promptly and generously.
Friends who are listening to me, rich and poor are alike, let us make our Red Cross a truly great and independent organization, giving it all that each can so that it may proceed unhampered with its wonderful humanitarian work. It is the voice of humanity, which we cannot ignore and to which we cannot lend a deaf ear. It means the relief, the consolation, and the encouragement of our distressed people, which we cannot deny. Let us all heed the call and give, and give! Giving should make us happy, and suffering humanity happier, indeed.
Source: Juan Collas, The Quirino Way : Collecton of Speeches and Addresses by Quirino, Elpidio (Manila: Juan Collas, 1955), p 82-84