While his achievements are acknowledged worldwide, younger Filipinos might not have any idea who the United Nations calls as “Mr. Population.”
The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), launched the biography of Rafael “Mr. Population” M. Salas on August 9, 2019 at the Department of Foreign Affairs building in Pasay City.
Multi-awarded Jose Dalisay penned the biography with Menchu Sarmiento.
“Every biographer dreams of working on certain people and I don’t think any Filipino won’t put Salas on top of a very short list,” Dalisay said at the launch, with friends and family of the late Salas who came over.
Sarmiento, meanwhile, said she grew up hearing about Salas’ exemplary work from his father, who taught the young Salas at the University of the Philippines College of Law.
“[It’s impressive] that for an international politician, he has this artistic side — he’s the kind of guy who can work in Malacañang and write great events in three lines,” Sarmiento said, impressed with Salas’ collection of Haikus.
Entitled “A Millennial Man for Others: The Life and Times of Rafael M. Salas,” the book chronicles his life from his childhood days, and his achievements until his untimely death in 1987.
Salas earned the moniker, being among the first Filipino advocates who made the crucial links between population and development, sexual and reproductive health, and rights, globally and in the Philippines.
He was founding executive director of United Nations Fund for Population (UNFPA) in 1969. UNFPA grew from a small trust fund into the world’s largest multilateral provider of population assistance.
As UNFPA Executive Director, Salas carried the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, the highest UN office accorded to a Filipino even up to today.
“It is an honor for us to carry on Rafael Salas’ legacy at UNFPA in this historic 50th anniversary year of UNFPA and the 25th anniversary year of the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), where Mr. Salas’ vision became a global consensus when 179 governments including the Philippines agreed on a call for all people to have access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including voluntary family planning, and safe pregnancy and childbirth services,” UNFPA Representative in the Philippines, Iori Kato, said.
Before he became internationally active, he was chief action officer of the National Rice Sufficiency Program during the Marcos administration.
Salas succeeded in transforming the Philippines from a rice importer to a rice sufficient country, and was credited in solving the country’s annual rice production.
The book launch marks the 91st birth year anniversary of Salas and is a venue to continue his legacy.
Copies will be distributed to select public schools and offices. (Christine Cudis, Philippine News Agency)