Filipino Languages Preceptor Position Endowed by Nephew of Former Dictator Ferdinand Marcos
Cambridge School Committee Candidates Talk Standardized Tests, Superintendent Transparency at Forum
Cambridge City Council Votes Against Changes to Affordable Housing Overlay Amendments, Citing Time Constraints
Cambridge City Council Hopefuls Talk Affordable Housing at Second Candidate Forum
Cambridge City Council Votes for Reports on City Expenses for Lawsuits Involving Cambridge Police
Martin G. Romualdez, the speaker of the Filipino House of Representatives and a nephew of the former Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has committed $2 million to endow the Filipino (Tagalog) preceptor position at Harvard, according to a source familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Romualdez’s first cousin and Marcos’ son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is the current president of the Philippines.
The news was first reported late last month by FilAm, a magazine for Filipino Americans, which reported that Romualdez had donated $1 million to the position.
FilAm reported that Romualdez was identified as the donor to attendees at an April dinner he attended at the home of Geraldine Acuña-Sunshine ’92, a Filipina American member of the Harvard Board of Overseers — the University’s second-highest governing body.
In March, the Harvard University Asia Center announced it would allocate $1 million to fund three preceptors in Filipino (Tagalog), Bahasa Indonesian, and Thai, marking the first time the University has offered instruction in Tagalog, the fourth-most spoken language in the United States.
But funding for the preceptor position wasn’t guaranteed to last longer than three years — until Romualdez’s pledge.
Jonathan Palumbo, a Harvard spokesperson, and James Robson, the director of the Asia Center, both declined to comment on the donor’s identity, citing a policy not to comment on individual donations to the school.
“Harvard is excited to offer our students the opportunity to study Filipino as part of our comprehensive offerings in East Asian studies,” Palumbo wrote in an email. “As a matter of practice, Harvard does not discuss the terms or specifics of individual gifts, and in line with Harvard’s gift policy, donors have no role in the establishment of the courses that are offered.”
A representative for Romualdez did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
An April 20 press release from Romualdez’s office confirms that Romualdez attended “a gathering of Filipino community in Massachusetts” that included Harvard students. During the trip, he also spoke at a Harvard Kennedy School event. The press release includes quotes from Romualdez lauding the creation of the Filipino (Tagalog) course, but does not reference any donation to the school.
“Our language is our pride! And learning about Harvard’s new Tagalog language course, I am expressing my full support for the program,” Romualdez said at the April gathering, according to the press release. “I hope and pray that the Harvard Tagalog course will flourish and grow in the future to include many aspects of Filipino culture!”
The FilAm article was posted Aug. 29 and was republished on Aug. 31 by Filipino news site Inquirer.net, according to Cristina D.C. Pastor, the article’s author. But just a day later, Inquirer.net had deleted the article, according to the Philippine Center of Investigative Journalism.
The CEO of the Inquirer Group of Companies, which owns Inquirer.net, is Sandy Prieto-Romualdez, the sister-in-law of Martin Romualdez.
Sandy Prieto-Romualdez could not be reached for comment, and Abel Ulanday, the editor-in-chief of the Manila bureau of Inquirer.net, did not respond to requests for comment.
Rene Ciria Cruz, the former U.S. editor of Inquirer.net, wrote in an email to The Crimson that he resigned from his position as a result of the article being taken down.
Romualdez’s uncle, Ferdinand Marcos, is widely regarded as a repressive and violent dictator who instituted martial law in the Philippines. His regime saw the mass imprisonment, suppression, and murder of political dissidents. The Filipino government estimates that Marcos and his family stole up to $10 billion while in power.
Critics have accused Romualdez’s father of illegally amassing wealth during Marcos’ rule, but Romualdez has denied such claims, saying in 2016 that his father “wasn’t a crony” of Marcos.
Romualdez is currently implicated in American litigation that alleges he was offered bribes by a Japanese entertainment company to pressure the Supreme Court of the Philippines to side with them in a business dispute involving a Manila casino.
A representative for Romualdez did not respond to requests for comment on the litigation.
Robson, the Asia Center director, said in an interview that center programming would not be influenced by any donor, regardless of their background or political agenda.
“There’s a clear separation between any fundraising that’s done, and how the Asia Center operates,” Robson said.
In 2022, the Asia Center hosted a “Philippine Lectures” that featured speakers who were strongly critical of Marcos and his legacy, including former Filipino Vice President Maria Leonor G. “Leni” Robredo and Sheila S. Coronel, a co-founder of PCIJ.
For Jose Marco C. “Marcky” Antonio II ’25, a co-president of the Harvard Undergraduate Philippine Forum, the focus should be on the existence of a Filipino language course at Harvard in the first place, not the source of its funding.
“I’m just really, really grateful for the fact that the Filipino language is being taught at Harvard,” he said. “And it’s just really frustrating that this is sort of detracting from the fact that it’s such a major achievement.”
—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.