by Dinah Ventura
Rotary Club of Downtown Manila
The Legend Lives On
When the members of the Rotary Club of Downtown Manila (RCDM) look back at the last 30 years, they often refer to certain record-setting events, starting with the birth of their club, to the many achievements they have notched with pride in the pages of their colorful history.
Dubbed as “The club with a legend,” RCDM was conceived in the old downtown area of Manila on February 9, 1979. Then and there, with 26 charter members present at the old Grand Hotel in Echague St., Quiapo, Manila, a new club was born — on its very first meeting.
Such a thing was previously unheard of in Rotary, but in the years that followed RCDM proved that its lightning birth was only a sign of things to come.
RCDM is a club that wastes no time putting into action its goals and objectives. This is primarily the influence of then district governor, RIDE Paing Hechanova, who was known for his expeditious leadership style.
Organized in February, the provisional club of RCDM was accepted into the membership of Rotary International just three months later, on May 23, 1979. The following month, on June 11, RCDM received its official charter. On this same date, its original membership of 26 grew to 33.
It was the Rotary Club of University District Manila (RCUDM), one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the district, which spawned RCDM. Then RCUDM president Rosito “Chito” C. Manhit thought it would be a good idea to form another club in their area. At the time, the District Governor Felix “Bing” N. Limcauco, Jr. had called on all clubs to promote membership through club extension. Thus, an Extension Committee was created, with the following RCUDM members: Sonny T. Ventura, DGSR & Chairman; Jesus T. Gesolgon (+), Leon T. Santos Jr., Angel C Sepidoza (+), Jolly L. Ting, Jesus Perez, Ronnie Asuncion, Willie Limqueco and Amang Samson.
Rotarian Sonny Ventura, who was the club secretary of RCUDM when he was appointed by DG Limcauco to be the district governor’s special representative, was elected charter president of the newly-born RCDM. He acknowledges the late PDG Pepot Barredo, who had invited him to join Rotary in the first place, for encouraging the club to undertake the extension of Downtown Manila.
Charter officers and directors of RCDM were:
Juanito “Sonny” T. Ventura — Charter President
Johnny “Johnny” C. Aruego — Vice President and Director, Community Service A
William “Willie” N. Sato — Secretary and Director, International Service
Nemesio “Nemy” G. Co + — Treasurer
Louis “Louie” T. Yang — Director, Club Service
Godofredo “Godo” N. Orosa — Director, Community Service B
Jesus “Jess” R. Rivera — Director, Vocational Service
Zosimo “Susing” U. Angeles — Sergeant-at-Arms
Edmundo “Ed” J.O. Rimando — Auditor
Nemesio “Jun” A. Aranzaso Jr.– Legal Counsel
Taking to heart the fact that Rotary is an action-oriented service organization, RCDM pursued expansion with a zeal that could only translate to positive results. Under its wing has sprouted seven new clubs: R.C. Manila Midtown, R.C. Manila East, R.C. Manila Metro, R.C. Quiapo Manila, R.C. United Nations-Manila, R.C. Lubang Island and R.C. Maynilad Seafront.
Foreign matched clubs from Japan also sprung up through the initiative and dedication of PP Willie Sato. Others soon followed from the United States, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hongkong, Pakistan and Korea. Local matched club relationships with clubs located in almost all the 10 districts in the Philippines were also developed.
As for its own membership, RCDM has grown over the decades, continuing to welcome new faces even as its pillars — headed by its “Twin Towers,” past district governors Sonny T. Ventura and Johnny C. Aruego — continue to provide the inspiration to keep the club strong, solid and successful.
The current RCDM Officers and Directors are:
Alejandro Rodriguez, Jr. — President
Lucenio Tagle — Vice President
Pedro Kho — Secretary
Fernando Cheng — Treasurer
Gonzalo Co — RCDM Rotary Foundation
Johnny Cheng — Club Administration
June Dy Ning — Membership
Peter Uy — Public Relations
Arsenio Ong — Service Projects
Willie Yu — Service Projects (International Service)
Henry Kho — Immediate Past President
It has been with tireless dedication that RCDM has gone from one accomplishment to another, forging new roads and trekking well-traveled paths — all leading toward its motto, “Service Above Self.”
Beginning with the leadership of PDG Sonny (who was the first district governor of R.I. District 3810), this Rotary club has enjoyed a series of “firsts” — from the formation of a provisional club in its first meeting, to the establishment of the first RCDM Center in Manila. And in between there have been endless opportunities to make life better in their communities and beyond.
Among others, RCDM pursues health and oral hygiene education through its various projects and activities. Aside from conducting at least three regular free dental missions every year, RCDM also supports three day care centers through milk feeding programs projects: Craig Day Center in Manila spearheaded by PP Arsenio Ong, Chamberette Day Center and Yakap Day Center supervised by PP Peter Kho. Other projects are gift giving to the “Batang Quiapo,” the donation of baseball equipment to the Little League, a tribute to high school valedictorians in Metro Manila every April, book donations to needy public elementary schools for their libraries, dental hygiene seminars and youth exchange programs with D-2820 Japan.
Of note is RCDM’s 100% attendance in the District Conference every year. Bonded by a common cause and camaraderie, the RCDM family makes it a point to celebrate together with their spouses and the club’s Scholars during Christmas, Chinese New Year and the Mooncake Festival. The RCDM members also participate in the District Alay Lakad every year, after which a Mooncake Celebration is held with RCDM Scholars. The Club also conducts out-of-town educational field trips with its Scholars every December.
The RCDM Scholars are the products of the RCDM Charitable Foundation.
The RCDM Charitable Foundation was conceived 16 years after the Club was chartered. It started with RCDM’s hosting of the 1992 D-3810 District Conference, a huge success under the leadership of then District Governor Johnny C. Aruego, DISCON Chairman Nemesio G. Co and RCDM President Gonzalo Co.
From the proceeds of the DISCON, a total of PhP900,000 was set aside as initial fund to realize the Club’s dream of “establishing a foundation that would serve purely humanitarian, benevolent, educational and philanthropic causes.”
On Feb. 18, 1994, the Foundation’s Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws were registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The RCDM Charitable Foundation was born, with PP Gonzalo “Along” Co as chairman.
RCDM conducts numerous programs and activities founded by matching grants from The Rotary Foundation with the help of its partner clubs overseas.
The Foundation aims to promote, support and maintain social welfare, civic, charitable and humanitarian projects to help the less privileged in our society. It also establishes scholarships and professional chairs in the colleges and universities of good standing in the Philippines for the advancement of education, agriculture, science and technology. Only the fruits or earnings of the initial fund are spent to meet the Foundation’s expenses in pursuit of its mission.
The Foundation’s leadership changes hands, and this year the new set of officers are PP Along Co, Chairman; PP Willie Yu, Vice Chairman; PP Johnny T. K. Cheng, Treasurer; PP Peter Uy, Auditor; PP Peter O. Kho, Secretary; and PDG Juanito T. Ventura and PDG Johnny Aruego, Trustees.
As the Rotary Club of Downtown Manila celebrates its 30th year of Service Above Self, its members, past and present, will always be guided and inspired by the legend that was born like a whirlwind amid the hustle and bustle of downtown Manila.