June 7, 2004  (STAR) (PHOTO AT LEFT: Local tourists spend several minutes of meditation in a chapel built in one of the seven chambers of the Callao Caves in Penablanca town in Cagayan, a popular tourist destination about 14 kilometers from the capital of Tuguegarao. - James Mananghaya )



PYRAMID REEFS: Diver-volunteers have planted a cross on one of the 10 coral reef pyramids built in waters 65 feet deep in Calatagan, Batangas in memory of slain barangay captain Sixto Atienza, a marine conservationist. The coral reefs of Calatagan are threatened by years of unabated dynamite fishing. -(Photo courtesy of Conserve and Protect Oceans Foundations)

Arroyo to pay last respects to Pangasinan matriarch (Star) 06/06/2004

President Arroyo is scheduled to pay her last respects today to Consuelo Salazar Perez, the well-loved matriarch of Pangasinan and one of the country’s well-known philanthropists, who passed away Friday night at age 92.

The remains of Perez, who was also a noted music and history professor and pre-war operatic singer, lie in state at the church of Manaoag in Pangasinan’s fourth district. Perez spent the last years of her life in Manaoag and San Fabian after donating most of her real estate properties — leaving little for her children — for hospitals, churches, markets and housing projects in Pangasinan.

Perez was Mrs. Arroyo’s baptismal godmother and the national treasurer of the Liberal Party when Mrs. Arroyo’s father, Diosdado Macapagal, successfully ran for president in 1961 as the opposition candidate. Perez was married to one of the country’s political giants, Eugenio Perez Sr., the last Speaker of the Commonwealth and the first Speaker of the Republic. Perez, a beloved son of San Carlos City who was related to Fernando Poe Sr., co-founded the Liberal Party with President Manuel Roxas.

Mrs. Arroyo paid Mrs. Perez a brief visit in San Fabian during one of her campaign sorties in Pangasinan before the May 10 elections. Mrs. Perez’s family hailed from Nueva Ecija and Aurora. She was a relative of former Sen. Heherson Alvarez; Lorna Perez Laurel, wife of former Senate President Pro-Tempore Sotero Laurel; and President Manuel Luis Quezon of the Commonwealth government. A soprano, she essayed roles of an operatic singer in several pre-war movies and was a professor of history at the Mapua Institute of Technology and of music at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music.

Mrs. Gina de Venecia, president of the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc., paid tribute to Mrs. Perez as "one of the great ladies of her generation who showed a genuine concern for the lowly and downtrodden." Mrs. Perez was the founder of the first congressional spouses foundation. Three-time Manaoag Mayor Pedro Garcia called her the "most beloved matriarch of Pangasinan." Her children are former Pangasinan vice governor Eugenio Perez Jr., Victoria Perez-Norton who lives in the United States, and Consuelo Perez, governor and member of the Board of Investments.

Among her grandchildren are Leslie de Venecia-Norton, a financial columnist of Barrons in the US and a professor at Columbia University; Alexandra de Venecia-Haner, a doctor of chemistry from Princeton and a patent lawyer in the US, married to Mark Haner, a US telecommunications executive; Vivian de Venecia-Garcia, married to Dr. Dennis Garcia; and Jose de Venecia III, business executive and son of Speaker Jose de Venecia.

Mrs. Perez will be laid to rest next weekend beside her husband at the family plot in San Carlos City, Pangasinan.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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