Sunday, 22 January 2012

Rediscovering Parker Borg - ex-US Peace Corps Volunteer


Parker W Borg with a student at a farewell party held in his honor by students and colleagues of the American University in Rome, May 9, 2008, Rome, Italy. – Photo Courtesy of PARKER W BORG

Batch ’65
Port Moresby, PNG

PORT MORESBY: My coming back to this home of mine of 18 years after a month-long break in Manila has been made more exciting when I found buried among some 500 emails that accumulated over the last 30 days - both wanted and unwanted - one item that really stood out, truly a gem that I never expected to pop before my eyes: A surprise email from no one else but Parker W Borg whom I last communicated with 26 years ago when I was still a working journalist back in Manila.

Parker was an American Peace Corps Volunteer (US-PCV) posted at our school, both elementary and high school, in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, Philippines, from 1961 to 1963.

It was the first time ever that American volunteers - teachers, doctors, engineers, among many other American professionals - were sent out to developing countries across the globe.

They worked hard to help teach children, fight hunger, bring clean water to communities, help start new small businesses and stop the spread of deadly diseases.

Throughout his two-year gig at our school, Parker, then a 22-year-old English teacher, and I, 13, became close friends.

And Parker has never forgotten, still calling me a "friend" and appreciating my effort over the years to re-connect. He was among the more than 162,000 trained volunteers sent to 134 countries since 1961.

Several years after his stint as English teacher at my school, Parker had been US Ambassador to Mali and Iceland and a professor at the American University in Rome (AUR).

His nomination on July 22, 1991 to be Ambassador to Burma was not acted upon by the US Senate, due to political concerns at the time. Franklin P Huddle, Jr served as Chargé d'Affaires ad interim in Rangoon from September 1990 to September 1994.

At this point, I am taking liberty of posting Parker's email to me for what it's worth.

     Parker at home with his wife and two beautiful daughters. – Photo courtesy of PARKER  
     W BORG

Here's how it goes:
"Dear Freddie,

"I'm not sure whether you sent this tribute to me or somebody else found it and forwarded it, but I was very touched to read it and learn about you again after all these years. 

"I was on holiday when the message arrived and did not see it for several weeks.  Otherwise I would have attempted to send a response more rapidly.

"As you may have figured out, if you were the one to send the e-mail, I have been living in Rome, Italy for the past three years, where my wife works at the US embassy and I teach international relations at the American University of Rome (AUR). 

"Reading your comments about the way I tore apart your first piece of poetry, I realized that I am once again doing the same sort of thing. While I have been teaching international relations - basically how and why nations make the foreign policy decisions that they do, most of my work has been helping students organize their thoughts more clearly and write sentences that convey the meaning they intend.  

"After more than 30 years with the US government, this is a very rewarding occupation - rewarding in the sense of personal accomplishment, not at all in financial terms. Some of my best students in the past three years have come from Serbia, Chile, India, Venezuela, and Italy as well as from the US. There is also one very bright Filipina at the school l, but she has not taken any of my classes.

"You noted that when we corresponded previously, I had not remembered your poem.  Your description in the 'tribute' brought forth a string of memories about the years at JPHS and advising on The Waves.  I kept at least one issue of The Waves, which is buried deep in one of the filing boxes I left behind in the US.

"I remember that you were one of the best writers at the school, even though you were only a first year student.  I also recall how happy I was when I learned that you had become a writer.

"It was interesting to read about your departure from the Times Journal, which was news to me.  I remember, however, the role that "Kokoy" Romualdez exercised during the Marcos years.  How did you make the switch from Yomiuri Shimbun to Papua New Guinea? 

"Have you enjoyed your life so far from home?  There is a very large Filipino community in Rome, as seems to be the case for every big city in this part of the world. Much of the attraction here is being near the Vatican. While the community seems content with their lives in Italy, there are not many opportunities for advancement because the economy has been stagnant for so many years.

"You erred slightly in your statement that I had been working with the Drug Enforcement Administration. After finishing graduate school at Cornell as you noted, I entered the State Department and spent the next 31 years with that organization on assignments either in Washington or other world capitals. 

"I lived in Malaysia (1963-65 and again in 1996-99), Vietnam (1968-70 and again in 1973), the Congo (formerly Zaire (1976-8), Mali (1981-4), Iceland (1993-96), and now Italy (2005-08). 

"My Washington jobs have included assignments in many areas, but included both counter-terrorism policy and narcotics suppression, which may have been the source of your confusion. While I would have worked with organizations like DEA during my years working the narcotics issues, State offices operated quite independently, providing the advice and means for countries to deal with problems themselves (as contrasted with the DEA which likes to kick in doors and find traffickers themselves.)

"I was happy to retire from the State Department in 1996.  State wanted me to go to Bosnia, but my wife would be going to Kuala Lumpur. Having enough time to receive a pension and not wanting to live apart, I chose the retirement option, which has recently provided me the opportunity to pursue teaching.

"On the personal side, I have three daughters born in 1984, 1986, and 1989. The two oldest ones have just finished college and are getting started on their careers. The younger one is a student at an art school. One other point.  I don't believe that I have ever grown a beard. I will attempt to attach some pictures so that you can become reacquainted with all of us.

"At age 69, I am in better health than in many years. I jog almost every day and hardly look upon these years as my twilight time. Quite the contrary, I am still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

"That's my story in a nutshell. I would enjoy hearing about what you have been doing since we were last in touch.

"On a final note, we will be in Rome only for two more weeks, when we will pack up everything, return to the US for a few weeks, and move to Paris at the end of the summer.

"Once again, thank you for the very nice tribute and the effort to get in touch.


"Parker W Borg"

WELL, YOU TOO, may have a long-lost friend from childhood. It's worth your while to find out where he is right now. Who knows? He may also have a great story to tell and thus re-kindle an old friendship that had been part of your restless childhood.

I just had mine.

     Parker with JPHS students (from left) Teofila Lasala (Batch ’65), Imelda Floresca (Batch 
     ’64) , Sergio Ariola (Batch ’65) , Jr, Francisco Osorio, Jr (Batch ’64) and Eddie Tarog 
     (Batch ’66).  Picture taken at the Office of the Principal building in 1963. – Photo 
     courtesy of  PARKER W BORG

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