Perkaise, PA - A Filipina, Amelia J. Gordon will be honored with the 2002 Pearl S. Buck International (PSBI) Women of the Year Award for her life-long dedication to the children and adoption on Pearl S. Buck International Day, Saturday - 14 June 2003 at the Pearl S. Buck Historic Site in 520 Dublin Rd., Perkaise, Pennsylvania.
"Mrs. Gordon is the former Mayor and Assemblywoman of Olongapo City in the Philippines, who legally adopted 54 children and changed the lives of thousand more as the founder of the Boys Town and Girls Home, which provides shelter and opportunity for orphaned Filipino children of American descent in Olongapo City. A delegation from the Philippines will be attending the event, including two of Amelia's sons, Congressman James Gordon Jr., who represents the 1st District of Zambales province, and Richard J. Gordon who serves in the President's Cabinet as Secretary of Tourism." said PSBI Board Member Ernesto Gange.
Pearl S. Buck International (PSBI) is a non-sectarian development and humanitarian assistance organization dedicated to improving the quality of life and expanding opportunities for educational, social, economic and civil rights. From its home office in Pennsylvania, PSBI supports program in many countries worldwide, with a particular emphasis on program in Asia.
PSBI was founded by Nobel and Pulitzer prize winning author Pearl S. Buck, the first woman to be awarded both prizes. Upon her return to the United States after forty years in China, Ms. Buck became an activist. Through her activism, she received a certificate of life membership from the NAACP as well as becoming an active trustee of Howard University. She was instrumental in the fight to gain citizenship for Chinese Americans and was a supporter of the first human rights initiative affecting the status of biracial children in many countries. She dedicated her energy and resource to promoting Tolerance, human rights and inter-cultural understanding and fighting the impact which discrimination, prejudice and bigotry can have, particularly on the lives of the children.
"Mrs. Gordon bested other nominees that included Barbara Bush and Laura Bush, mother And wife respectively of President George W. Bush; Dana Cheney, wife of Vice President Cheney, Mary Robinson of the United Nations, primarily because of her life-long work for the cause of the abandoned Amerasian children that closely compares with the dedication and sacrifice of Pearl S. Buck." said Gange.
Previous PSBI Woman of the Year awardees includes actress Audrey Hepburn, former First Lady and now Senator Hillary Clinton and former Philippines President Corazon Aquino
AMELIA J. GORDON
Pearl S. Buck Woman of the Year
(A Family and Personal Profile)
- Amelia Juico-Gordon or Mama as she is fondly called was born on 4 September 1920 in Subic in the province of Zambales.
- Parents were Juan Gonzales Juico, Presidente ("Mayor") of Subic during the American government (1917-1919) and Ma. Espiritu Nepumoceno Juico.
- While in high school she met James Gordon, Sr., the son of John Jacob Gordon of Kingston, New York an American serviceman who arrived with the American forces under Admiral George Dewey and later settled in Barrio Olongapo with Veronica Tagle, the daughter of Capt. Jose Tagle of Imus, Cavite and known hero of the Philippine Revolution.
- In 1952 James Gordon became Deputy Governor of Zambales and in 1959 fought for the independence of Olongapo from the United States being a military reservation. He was elected as its first Mayor in 1963 and in 1966 when Olongapo became a City became its first City Mayor. Due to his unrelenting stance against crime, lawlessness and corruption, he was assassinated in 1967 after three attempts on his life.
- Amelia Gordon took on the cudgels of the City and instituted its first Masterplan. Later on in 1984, she ran and won as Assemblywoman in the Batasan Pambansa.
- Her achievements in politics pale in comparison to her civic accomplishments. In the late 1950s she started by adopting 3 infants and over the years more than a thousand children were looking up to Amelia as their foster mother. This led to the founding of the Olongapo Civic Action Group(OCAG) under who's supervision was placed the "Boys Town" and "Girls Home" that served as foster home to Olongapo's impoverished, unwanted and abandoned babies. Many of these were fathered by US servicemen and forsaken by their mothers. Some where deformed babies left right at the doorstep of the Gordon's house. Others where foundlings - children whose parents driven by poverty simply abandoned them in the streets and alleys of Olongapo. Regardless of their origins and backgrounds, Amelia took them all.
- Not only did she become foster mother to these children, she personally adopted 54 abandoned children. She likewise became an outspoken advocate of Amerasian rights at a time when society refused to acknowledge their existence for religious or cultural reasons. While most people ignored them, Amelia opened her arms, home and heart to the Amerasians. She saw them not as unwanted children but as boys and girls to be loved nurtured and cherished.
- Thanks to Mama Amelia, these children were given the basic necessities of food, shelter and clothing, which they would otherwise not have enjoyed. She personally saw to their health, education, and religious instruction. But more than that, they were given the love, care and affection of a real parent.
- Today the Boys' Town and Girls Home continue s to be a haven for around 70 homeless children. Despite her advanced age, Amelia continues to provide them with a good life and secures for them a better future.
- In addition, Amelia also headed the Olongapo-Iba Catholic Women's League and is the Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross in Olongapo.
- Amelia also made her mark in the field of business and entrepreneurship. Before her husband's entry into politics, she built Olongapo's first centrally air-conditioned hotel, a chain of restaurants, cinemas and a supermarket. All these were named "Admiral."
- More than being a public servant, a civic leader, a successful businesswoman and a dedicated wife, Amelia is a devoted mother.
- Her happy union with James Sr. produced 5 children, namely: Veronica Gordon-Lorenzana; Barbara Gordon-delos Reyes; Cecille Gordon-Mullen; Richard Gordon and James Gordon, Jr.
- Veronica or Onnie is successful in her hotel and resort business - White Rock chain of Hotel and Resort and married to George Lorenzana a leading businessman in the food industry. Barbara or Bai ha been successful in building her restaurant chain and catering service and is married to Antonio delos Reyes a leader of the Catholic laity closely associated with Cardinal Jaime Sin. Cecille who also owns her cakes and catering service is now in the US and is married to John Mullen who works in the United Nations.
- Amelia's two sons have inherited her and her husband's passion for public service. Richard or Dick is presently serving his country as a member of the Cabinet being Secretary of Tourism having been the founding Chair of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. He pioneered the bases conversion after the Americans left in 1992. Dick was Mayor of Olongapo from 1980-1994 transforming its sin city image to a model for the entire country. Previously, he was the youngest delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention. His wife Kate is on her third term as Mayor of Olongapo and has also served as Congresswoman of the 1st District of Zambales.
- Meanwhile, youngest son, James or Bong was a successful businessman making his mark in broadcasting. In 1994, he was appointed as Councilor of Olongapo by then President Ramos. In 1995 he ran and won as Congressman of the 1st District of Zambales. He is now on his third term and Chair of the Bases Oversight Committee in Congress.
- In addition to their 2 sons and 3 daughter, Mama Amelia and her husband also took under their wings two more children - Imelda Deza and Donald Fisher, giving them the same love and care as any child could hope for. Imelda, a nurse now lives in the US and is happily married to Rene a Doctor. Donald on the other hand is engaged in a small business and happily living with his wife Ellen delos Reyes in the Philippines.
- Victor Hugo once wrote that "a mothers arms are made of tenderness and sweet sleep blesses the child who lies therein". Now at the ripe age of 84, Amelia's arms continue to be felt by her children, her 21 grandchildren, by her foster children and indeed by the City of Olongapo.