The Philippine American Foundation for Charities, Inc. (PAFC) lauded the achievements of the late Ambassador Willy C. Gaa on learning that he passed away last December 7 in Manila.
Past and present PAFC leaders described Gaa as a consummate diplomat who energized the cause of Filipino World War II veterans for official recognition for their service. They paid tribute to Gaa, a career diplomat with long and dedicated service to the Philippines and overseas Filipinos. In 2006, he began a five-year stint in this nation’s capital by calling a meeting to unify community advocacy organizations. He also provided government leadership and support in Washington, D.C., which helped result in the vote in Congress for the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation in 2008. Leaders remembered his gentle but effective manner in responding to the needs of the Filipino American community in the U.S.
PAFC Chairman Sonny Busa said, “Ambassador Willy Gaa will always be remembered as a kind and gentle advocate for the interests of the Philippines. His soft manner belied an inner fire that he brought to bear in the defense of diplomatic initiatives that ultimately benefited the Philippines and Filipinos. During his tenure in Washington he oversaw a tumultous foreign policy debate over the extent of American military power in the Philippines as the war on terror was blazing white hot. That he handled this with finesse and grace is a testament to his adroit and savvy application of diplomatic power. He will be missed not only by his many friends in the Washington, DC area but by all Filipinos. Ambassador Gaa was a national treasure.”
Ador Carreon, who served in several capacities as Chairman and Past President of PAFC also remembers Ambassador Gaa for his humble ways and sense of humor. He recalled with pride and joy receiving the invitation to the Ambassador’s residence. Ambassador Gaa presented a recognition award to PAFC for its efforts in helping the local Filipino American community, and its work in assisting the less fortunate in the Philippines. “We will miss him. He was always ready to support us or any other Fil-Am organization.”
Former PAFC President Becky Pagsibigan, who became a personal friend of the Ambassador and his wife Linda, remembers him fondly. “On his retirement here about four years ago, the community turned up for his despedida party to express its affection and appreciation to him. The party room at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel overflowed with attendees to send their best wishes and gave him standing ovation. This time, we bid him a final goodbye. We mourn his passing and pray for the repose of his soul, and for his wife Erlinda Gaa and their two sons.