Glicerio “Eli” Del Mundo Arago, who was the honorary consul of the Philippines in the CNMI, the publisher of Saipan Tribune, and was senior vice president of TanHoldings Corp., passed away peacefully yesterday at the Guam Regional Medical City in Guam. He was 69 years old.
Arago joined his creator yesterday at 10:22am, a day before Thanksgiving and just 27 days before what would have been his 70th birthday.
Arago died of complications from a stroke, according to a joint statement from the Philippine Honorary Consulate for the CNMI and the Philippine Consulate General Agaña, Guam.
“He was surrounded by family members, his consulate staff members, and close friends at the time of his passing shortly after 10am today at the Guam Regional Medical City,” the statement said.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres offered his condolences to Arago’s family, friends, and colleagues and described him as a great friend and a true partner “in building a stronger and closely-knit Commonwealth with help of our Filipino community.”
In honor of Arago’s role as the Philippine government’s representative in the CNMI, Torres directed that the flag of the Commonwealth and the United States be flown at half-staff in all public buildings, instrumentalities, and grounds within the Commonwealth until the day of Arago’s interment.
Arago’s remains will soon be flown from Guam to Saipan, which he considered his second home, having lived on Saipan for 35 years, before he is finally laid to rest in the Philippines. Further funeral announcements will be made by the Philippine Honorary Consulate to the CNMI and the Arago family.
“The Lord almighty has blessed our uncle with so much goodness in life that he shared them not only to us, his family, but to everyone whose lives were enriched by his generous heart and, most of all, the wisdom in life through his experiences, of his hard work, and love of life,” the Arago family said in a statement.
In an internal email circulated within TanHoldings Corp., where Arago was a key executive and a pioneer employee, corporation president and CEO Jerry Tan said the Tan family, and the whole Luen Thai and TanHoldings group of companies are feeling “an immense sense of loss” with the sudden passing of Arago.
“He meant so much to so many within our organization as well as to thousands more of his countrymen,” said Tan. “While so many of us knew Eli in different ways from the many different roles he played in our lives, we all share gratitude for having known him and carry the heaviest of hearts due to his passing. He will always be admired and remembered for his genuine kindness and generosity, his love for his family and loyalty to the company.”
A news release from the Philippine Honorary Consulate to the CNMI described Arago as having lived a life devoted to service to his countrymen and as one of the very few accomplished Filipinos in the Asia-Pacific region. He was a recipient of the Bagong Bayani Award in 2000, one of just 10 to have been given the award among 7.5 million Filipinos working overseas that year.
Love for his compatriots
The rest of the Philippine Honorary Consulate to the CNMI statement said:
“Even with an incredibly successful life, Arago was there next to the many lives he helped with and cared for in so many ways. Family, close friends, and those who knew him well said this is because of his indefatigable love and genial disposition in life coming from his humble beginnings.
“Born and raised in Mabini, Batangas, in the southern province of the Philippines, Arago graduated college with top honors. Immediately, he was hired to work for one of the top Manila-based foreign firms, Richardson Merrell (Phils) Inc., and then for the Philippine National Bank prior to joining the largest private sector employer in the Pacific, TanHoldings Corp.
“He came to Saipan in 1986 to work for TanHoldings as an internal auditor. For 35 years, he served in various capacities and was the senior vice president and chief financial officer at the time of his passing. Arago also had various overseas assignments, in particular in Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, and California.
“Arago was also actively engaged in different activities involving both the Filipino and local communities. His desire to lead programs that help advance and protect the welfare of Filipino workers and residents on the islands and strengthen the Philippine and NMI relationship encouraged him to take on the challenge of being the Philippine honorary consul for the CNMI.
“He accepted the mantle of leading the Philippines consular mission in the CNMI during one of the islands most challenging times. He was appointed in 2015, three years after the Philippine Consulate General-Saipan closed its doors following the federalization of local immigration.
“He was reappointed twice over the six years that he served as honorary consul, with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. reappointing him for a full second term effective Sept. 13, 2021, and to expire on June 30, 2024.
““It has been an honor to serve alongside…Arago. …We accepted his invitation to work alongside him… because we feel his genuine love to serve and help others,” a statement of his core team members, Ulysses Torres Sabuco, Ariel Mariano, Annamae Adaza, and Mario Mayuga read.
““He is a hero to us; a hero to many Filipinos whom he not only served but also genuinely loved and cared for especially in times of need and difficulties,” the Philippine Consulate to CNMI members added.
At the time of his passing, Arago was working on an initiative that he considered his “legacy project” in the CNMI: linking young Filipinos from various professions and disciplines with their counterparts in the U.S. mainland through a core program under the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. and two other principal organizations.
Last year, Arago was credited with the establishment of the Philippine Consulate-CNMI Support Office, which was done in partnership with the Tan Siu Lin Foundation and TanHoldings Corp. The support office is designed to give Filipinos on Saipan, Tinian and Rota ease of service.
Outside his consular duties, Arago was an active officer and member of numerous organizations in the CNMI. He was the president and founder of TanHoldings Football Club, which was established in February 2009 and currently has over 100 active players and coaches.
Life of service
He was sought after for his expertise and knowledge in finance and administration but what defined him was his incredibly big heart.
Diocese of Chalan Kanoa Bishop Ryan Jimenez remembers his late friend for “being sensitive to the needs of others; a man with genuine care for everyone.”
“Consul Eli is a dear friend,” said Bishop Ryan in a statement. “Eli gives unconditionally; he gives from his heart.”
His family, friends and colleagues describe him as having a big heart and with infinite generosity.
When Saipan was struck with two destructive natural disasters, super typhoons Soudelor and Yutu, he was among the first to initiate action, even using his own personal resource to initially mobilize immediate food assistance and other provisions to the affected countrymen and community members.
“Eli has been a valued and well-loved member of our team, our community and our personal lives, and we miss our friend already,” Tan said.