HISTORIAN and economist Benito Legarda, Jr., a man widely known as the authority on the Second World War and the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines and former Deputy Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, died at the age of 94 on Aug. 26.
“Dr. Benito Justo Legarda, Jr. was a historian, economist, newspaper columnist, and one of the finest scholars the Philippines has ever produced. He had an impressive array of focus for his scholarship, spanning colonial church architecture, the Philippine-American war, and 19th century economic history,” Ian Rosales Casocot, a professor at Silliman University and deputy director of the Dumaguete City Heritage Council, said in a post honoring the life of Mr. Legarda on Aug. 27.
“After the Galleons was a revision of his Harvard University doctoral dissertation. Many critics consider his account of World War II in the Philippines as having provided an important Filipino perspective of the Japanese Occupation,” Mr. Casocot added.
Born on Aug. 6, 1926, in Manila, he was the son of Benito Roces Legarda and Trinidad Fernandez-Legarda, the former head of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. His great-grandfather, Benito Legarda y Tuason, was involved with Emilio Aguinaldo in the early days of the short lived first Philippine Republic. Mr. Legarda earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Science from Georgetown University in 1948, going on to earn a Master of Arts in Economics from Harvard College in 1950, and a PhD in Economics from Harvard in 1955.
Mr. Legarda served as the Deputy Governor for Economic Research of the Central Bank of the Philippines and was a founding member of the Philippine Statistical Association and the Philippine Economic Society; he also served as the president of the latter.
He was also an avid collector of maps since the 1960s and wrote many articles about Hispanic-Philippine art, church architecture, economics, and finance. He also wrote many books, some of which were After the Galleons (1999), The Hills of Sampaloc (2001), Occupation ‘42 (2003), Occupation: The Later Years (2007), and the Eight Rizalian Miniatures (2011).
Mr. Legarda was also a trustee of the National Museum from 1999 to 2001, a board member of the National Historical Institute from 2003 to 2010, and one of the members of the board of advisers at the Ayala Museum.
“Rest in eternal peace, Tito Beniting Benito Jr. Legarda – eminent historian, gifted writer, and most of all – a wonderful friend and mentor. We will miss you in our meetings at Memorare, and I will truly miss our almost weekly phone calls. Glad though that I was still able to talk to you last Sunday. Thank you for visiting me in my dreams last night, the details are hazy now, but I know you were saying goodbye,” Desiree Ann Cua Benipayo, founder of the Philippine World War II Memorial Foundation, said in a Facebook post on Aug. 27.
While many people remember Mr. Legarda for his wealth of knowledge on history and economics, JC Punongbayan, a teaching fellow at the University of the Philippines Diliman School of Economics, remembered Mr. Legarda for his “signature bow tie, brown suit jacket, and explosive laugh,” in a Facebook post on Aug. 27.
On his Facebook page, Mr. Legarda kept up a constant stream of commentary on a variety of timely topics including the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law where he pointed out that while the President said that he would abide by any ruling of the Supreme Court, the country’s “judicial decisions are not always based strictly on the law,” and that 11 of the 14 sitting members of the Supreme Court were the President’s appointees.
His last Facebook post was on Aug. 7 about the Philippine ownership of the West Philippine Sea. — Zsarlene B. Chua