A Vancouver urban-planning expert and co-author of a landmark book on Filipino Canadians has died. Aprodicio Laquian was 88 years old.
According to Canadian Filipino Net, he passed away in St. John’s Hospice at UBC after a long illness.
Laquian was born in Pampanga, Philippines. The son of a tailor, he married a journalist, Eleanor del Rio, with whom he co-wrote Seeking a Better Life Abroad: A Study of Filipinos in Canada 1957-2007. They had two children, George Edwardo and Agnes Helen.
In retirement, Laquian became founding editor of Canadian Filipino Net, which is published by Maple Bamboo Network Society. He was also president of the society. Meanwhile, his wife, Eleanor, is vice-president and author or co-author of seven books.
Known as “Prod”, Laquian attracted widespread admiration for his community service and academic work.
“Growing up in Manila’s slums and squatter colonies, it was probably not surprising that I became a professional urban and regional planner with a passionate commitment to poverty alleviation, community-based activism, urban management reform, and the exciting world of national-local politics,” Laquian wrote for the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, where he served as a scholar in 2002-03. “Happily, in the Philippines of my day, it was possible for someone from a poor family to get a good public education.”
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of the Philippines in 1959. From there, he won a Fulbright grant to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1965, he earned a PhD from MIT.
“Flying directly to Boston from the slums of Manila (my first plane ride ever), I thanked my early addiction to Hollywood movies for cushioning my culture shock to life in the United States,” Laquian noted. “Taking urban studies at MIT, I became very interested in the problems of very large cities.”
Laquian spent a decade at UBC
Laquian wrote and edited nearly 20 books. They included Beyond Metropolis: The Planning and Governance of Asia’s Mega-Urban Regions, published by Woodrow Wilson Center Press in 2005.
In addition, Laquian was a UBC professor emeritus of community and regional planning. During his 10-year stint at UBC, he was also director of the Centre for Human Settlements.
At other times, he was a consultant to the United Nations and a lecturer in York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. He was also a senior specialist at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii and professor of political science at the University of the Philippines.
Occasionally, he showed up on Canadian newscasts. For example, CBC interviewed him in 1988 about China’s one-child policy.
In 2000, the then president of the Philippines, Joseph Ejercito (“Erap”) Estrada, hired Laquian as his chief of staff. However, Laquian only lasted 41 days on the job. He resigned after making a joke about Estrada at a luncheon hosted by the Manila Overseas Press Cub.
At the time, a journalist asked Laquian if being a teetotaler put him at a disadvantage. The scribe noted that the president had a reputation for making key decisions when he was drinking at night with friends.
Laquian replied that if he were in Canada, he would be the “designated driver”. Moreover, he cited the benefits of going home in the evening and arriving early at work.
“It’s the best thing working for me because at 4 o’clock in the morning, I am the only person sober in the room,” Laquian quipped.
He later acknowledged that he had never witnessed the president being intoxicated.
Offering context on Erap
According to Philstar.com, Estrada was not amused.
“I’ve been off alcohol for such a long time that I no longer even know how it tastes,” the former actor said.
In 2002, Laquian and his wife, Eleanor, co-wrote The Erap Tragedy: Tales from the Snake Pit. The publisher, Anvil Books Ltd., emphasized that it was “not a disclosure of the wrongdoings of Estrada to settle old scores nor an apologia for his personal shortcomings that damaged his leadership”.
“Rather, it explains how Erap struggled with the exercise of power,” the book’s summary states. “It places Erap’s presidency in the context of Philippine political history and Filipino values and culture.”
In addition, the summary notes that the Laquians’ book “explores the implications of Erap’s removal from office on the prospects for economic development and democracy in the Philippines”.
“The strength of the book lies in its inside stories about live in the Malacañang ‘Snake Pit’ and the authors’ analysis of events from their unique insider/outsider perspective.”