Humanitarian par excellence: The legacy of Amelia J. Gordon

Every 4th of September, the Philippines celebrates the birth anniversary of one of the country’s most beloved humanitarians – Mrs. Amelia J. Gordon. Amelia, Olongapo’s first-ever female mayor, and one of only three Filipinas given the Pearl S. Buck International Woman of the Year Award joining the ranks of other prominent awardees like US female political figure Hillary Clinton, leader and policymaker Sharon P. Rockefeller, British actress and philanthropist Audrey Hepburn, Burmese diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and first woman president of the Philippines Corazon Aquino to name a few.

Mrs. Gordon raised hundreds of children, adopted more than 50 and changed the lives of thousands as the founder of the Boy’s Town and Girls Home in Olongapo City. These homes provided shelter and opportunity to orphaned and abandoned children in Olongapo.

She fiercely fought for her hometown’s independence from the Americans and was instrumental in the declaration of Olongapo’s cityhood in 1966. Following the assassination of her husband, James Gordon Sr. in 1969, Amelia was elected mayor of Olongapo City.

As mayor, Amelia used her determination and strong-willed character, together with her caring heart, to ensure that the marginalized sector was cared for. Her term saw the height of the Vietnam War, where Olongapo was the recreational mecca of American soldiers taking a reprieve from the conflict. During these times, Mrs. Gordon maintained peace and order in the city, keeping the criminal syndicates at bay.

Mama Amelia, as she is fondly called, is the mother of Richard “Dick” J. Gordon, former Senator and current Philippine Red Cross Chairman and CEO. A passion he shared with his Mama Amelia as she was also the founder of the Olongapo Chapter of the Philippine Red Cross and stayed with the humanitarian organization for more than 63 years after her retirement from politics.

Her exemplary achievements and commendable humanitarian work paved the way for her to be accorded numerous awards, including the Doña Aurora Aragon Quezon Medal Award, Silver Humanitarian Service Cross Award and the Gold Humanitarian Award Red Cross. Mama Amelia is also a Gintong Ina Awardee and the recipient of the Philippine Centennial Commission Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award as she advocated volunteerism and lived as an outstanding volunteer herself.

This Sunday, September 4, Filipinos celebrate her life and the morals she exemplified – tolerance, service above self and compassion for the less fortunate – admirable values truly worth emulating.

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