Growing up in the American public educational system, I, like many others, sat through years of history classes which introduced me and my classmates to various important historical figures. Julius Caesar, George Washington, Joan of Arc, and other historical giants were all covered by our teachers. Special emphasis was placed on twentieth century history, as it touches more closely on people’s current lives. And yet, somehow my classes failed to touch on one particular person whose contributions to global diplomacy and peace cannot be overstated. That person is Carlos Peña Romulo of the Philippines, and his story deserves to be widely known.
Pick any career path, and chances are Romulo has outdone you in it.
Journalist, author, soldier, diplomat, statesman, and public speaker; Carlos Romulo was a decorated success in virtually every professional avenue he pursued, and truly was a titan of the twentieth century.
Romulo was born in the Tarlac province of the Philippines in 1898, just as the Treaty of Paris put an end to the Spanish-American War and ceded colonial control of the Philippines from Spain to the United States.
Romulo served in the Philippine Army (at the time commissioned to the United States Army), eventually reaching the rank of Major General. He earned multiple honors and awards during his military tenure, including the Philippine Gold Cross and Silver Star, as well as the American Purple Heart and Legion of Merit. During World War II, he served as aide-de-camp to General Douglas MacArthur, and traveled Asia conducting journalistic reconnaissance. In fact, Romulo’s work in East Asia earned him the 1942 Pulitzer Prize for Correspondence. He was the first non-American to earn such a distinction.
Post-war, Romulo served as the Philippines’ representative in the US House of Representatives. His tenure ended with the Philippines’ independence in 1946. Shortly thereafter, he continued his service as a statesman as the first Asian President of the United Nations General Assembly, a post he held from 1949 to 1950. He was highly regarded by his peers on the world stage, and even received a nomination for the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts towards global peace.
Following this brief stint in the UN he returned to the service of his country yet again, serving as the Filipino ambassador to the United States. Interestingly, he is only the second former Congressman to subsequently become ambassador from a foreign country (the first being Joaquin Elizalde, Romulo’s predecessor in both positions).
As if a lifetime of political and military service was not enough, Carlos Romulo was also a prolific and successful author, publishing more than a dozen books on topics including the Philippines, the United States, and his own life experiences. He was named a National Artist of the Philippines, an honor reserved for citizens who have made major contributions to the arts.
Given the incredible accomplishments and lasting impact Romulo had on an entire generation of global affairs, Oakridge Auction Gallery is proud to be offering one of his possessions in our upcoming sale.
Lot 329 in Oakridge’s upcoming Antiques, Collectibles, Advertising, Militaria, Toys & Dolls auction is a cigar box owned by Carlos Romulo, similar to the one he gifted to US President John F. Kennedy. The item is made of mahogany, and carries a pre-sale estimate of $600-$800. A full description, measurements, and condition report for the item are available in our online catalog. The live auction begins at the Oakridge gallery on Saturday, November 17 at 10:00 AM Eastern Standard Time.
Josh Cohen is a professionally licensed auctioneer and serves as the Auction Coordinator at Oakridge Auction Gallery. He specializes in Chinese language, culture, and history, and holds a Master of Laws degree from Beijing Foreign Studies University.