Carlos P. Romulo, 86, the last surviving signatory of the United Nations charter and perhaps the Philippines' most accomplished statesman, died of circulatory collapse Dec. 15 at the Kidney Foundation of the Philippines Hospital here after emergency intestinal surgery. He died as a result of complications of a kidney ailment.
During his long career, Mr. Romulo was a soldier, journalist, author, educator, diplomat and legislator. He served as aide-de-camp to the American General of the Army Douglas MacArthur during World War II, rising to the rank of general. He then spent 40 years in government service, including 16 years as foreign minister.
He retired from that post on his 85th birthday in January 1984, but continued to write and to promote the major interest of his life, the United Nations. He was the author of 18 books including a novel.
Mr. Romulo signed the U.N. Charter in 1945 and became the first head of the Philippine mission to the U.N., a post he held for nine years. In 1942 he became was the first non-American to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism. He was also the first Asian to serve as president of the U.N. General Assembly, a post to which he was elected in 1949.
In a statement issued yesterday, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos called Mr. Romulo "a great and beloved compatriot." He went on, "men of his stature survive even their own mortality. History already amply memorializes his monumental contribution to the making of an independent and respected Filipino nation."
The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Stephen Bosworth, said the American government was deeply saddened by the death of "one of the truly great statesman of the 20th century." Mr. Romulo was "a giant of our time," Bosworth said.
Mr. Romulo was born in Manila on Jan. 14, 1899. He grew up in the early years of American colonialism in the Philippines following the takeover of the country from Spain in 1898. He was a 1918 graduate of the University of the Philippines and earned a master's degree at Columbia University. In 1942, he won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles based on a trip he had made through the Far East before Japan attacked the United States.
During the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, Mr. Romulo served as aide-de-camp to MacArthur on Bataan and Corregidor and later in Australia. He wrote about his experiences in his autobiography, "I Walk With Heroes," and his book, "Last Man Off Bataan." During the war, he rose from major to brigadier general and accompanied MacArthur when U.S. forces landed on Leyte in the central Philippines in October 1944 and later liberated Manila.
He is sometimes credited with having suggested MacArthur's famous vow of "I shall return" when U.S. Forces evacuated the Philippines in 1942.
A diminutive man, only about five feet tall, Mr. Romulo splashed ashore behind MacArthur at Leyte as the tall allied commander in the Southwest Pacific made good his pledge to the Filipinos. A newspaper account of the landing described MacArthur as wading to shore in waist-deep waters, prompting Mr. Romulo to quip later, "If Gen. MacArthur had waded in waist-deep waters, Romulo would have drowned."
Mr. Romulo served as information secretary under two Philippine presidents before signing the U.N. Charter and beginning his diplomatic career. He served as president of the U.N. Security Council three times, was an ambassador to the United States and served as foreign minister from 1950 to 1952.
Mr. Romulo, who was affectionately known as "the general," became foreign minister a second time under Marcos at the age of 70. He served for 14 years before retiring because of age and poor health. Before his retirement, he expressed deep disappointment over the assassination of opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr. and the damage the murder did to the Philippines' international reputation. A month before he retired, he refused to sign a statement that the Marcos government wanted to place as an advertisement in foreign newspapers to exculpate the military and the killing.
In 1979, at the age of 80, Mr. Romulo married American author Beth Day. She survives him, as do three sons by a previous marriage. His first wife died in 1968.