BalikBayani République | Tony Alabastro
“For the first time, napa-ilaw (lighted up) 24/7 ang Kalayaan (Island Group off Palawan). More than 40 families have power supply. This reinforces our claim in the area. China can’t claim the area is theirs,” says Virginia H. Benavidez, spouse of Engineer Pio Joson Benavidez, Napocor president/chief operating officer.
Beijing is claiming 90 percent of resource-rich and disputed South China Sea, including West Philippine Sea, the country’s exclusive economic zone.
On June 12, 2021,123rd anniversary of Philippines Proclamation of Independence, National Power Corporation (Napocor) turned on its PHP33million power plant in Pag-asa island at West Philippine Sea as the Armed Forces of the Philippines raised the Philippine flag.
Ten days after Araw ng Kalayaan, God called Pio J. Benavidez, 69, home on June 22, 2021.
Quick, sudden and painless, it was the best way to go.
A pioneer in geothermal engineering and energy resource development, Pio Benavidez joined Napocor in 1974 and retired as senior vice president.
“When President Duterte in 2017 invited Pio to be Napocor CEO/President, he was hesitant at first. The private sector was quick to get him. But it was his dream to lead Napocor, where his father was a plant operator,” says Amba Gee.
Pio: “Do you want to live in Ayala Alabang? It’s at the tip of a ballpen.”
Amba Gee: “ ‘We don’t need it.’
“That never happened. He was never tempted.”
After over a year of being locked up in their respective bubbles, on June 12, 2021, Filipino-inspired decors, colors and food dominated the festive table the fully-vaccinated Benavidez family shared.
Son Alex and daughter-in-law Jo visited the Benavidezes in Quezon City.
Daughter Dr Bianca, over chicken inasal and halo halo, celebrated the Philippine festival in Wellington, New Zealand’s Bulwagan.
Amba Gee’s 40-year foreign service career includes being first Philippine woman ambassador to Brunei in two tours of duty of 13 years, 10 months and eight days with a gap of three years.
“In every Philippine Independence Day everyone enjoys a Filipino fiesta. Pio is the wind beneath my wings,” Amba Gee says.
Once a year, low-profile Pio Benavidez, then Napocor senior vice presi-dent, air flew in fresh Camiguin sweet mangoes,mango and ube ice cream, Cebu danggit and other Filipino regional delicacies for the dinner receptions and diplomatic functions Bruneians, Royal Family members, diplomatic mission heads, diplomatic corps members, business sector, invited guests and Filipino community shared.
Until Amba Gee’s retirement as ambassador to New Zealand including Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Cook Islands, Pio Benavidez continued his Independence Day supporting role in silent anonymity.
Word Community Church and Life Group members describe Brother Pio: Affirming. Anchor. Approachable. Bag carrier. Big-hearted. Burden bearer. Caring. Cool. Engaging. Everybody’s Lolo. Funny. Generous provider. Gentle. Giver of fatherly, CEO wisdom. God’s Protocol Officer. Happy. Huggable. Humble. Incorruptible. Joker. Mentos-like: Hard outside, soft in-side. 100 Percent Listener. Patient. Problem-solver. Quiet. Secured. Serving. Simple. Smiling Face. Stern-looking but very accommodating. Welcoming.