An Appreciation of Philip Fernando: Journalist, Town Planner …. A Man Versatile

Arnold De Silva

It is with profound sadness that I write this appreciation of my dear friend, Philip Fernando, who departed from us on January 14. He hailed from Koralawella Moratuwa, the son of Cyril and Anne Fernando.

Philip entered the University of Ceylon (now the University of Peradeniya) in 1956. Two of his classmates who also got in that year are Shirley Mendis and Philip Cooray. A third person who studied with Philip at. Sebastian’s was Derrick Mendis but he entered the University from St. Joseph’s. I first met Philip in our freshman year but we became close friends only after we signed up for an honour’s degree in Economics.

After graduation in 1960, Philip embarked on a career in journalism by joining Lake House. He was assigned to do political analysis and world events. These are areas in which Philip already had considerable expertise and he was able to immediately create a favourable impression on Esmond Wickramasingha who took him under his wing. Others who appreciated his work were his immediate supervisor, Ernest Corea who later ended up as the ambassador to Canada and the US and Lakshman Jayawardena, who later served as Chairman of Lake House. Philip moved up fairly rapidly ending up as the Deputy Editor of Daily News and Sunday Observer. His job involved a considerable amount of travel and maintaining close ties with presidents, prime ministers and other celebrities. He once told me that when President Mahinda Rajapakse visited Los Angeles, he had immediately recognized Philip at an official reception and called him by name. Philip was extremely delighted to find that the President still remembered him even after a long period of absence.

In 1977 Philip migrated to the US with his family in search of greener pastures and Iin order to provide a good education to his children. As to be expected, the initial years were hard on Philip because jobs were not easy to find especially for new immigrants. He had to acquire new skills but after taking courses and upgrading himself, he was able to secure employment as a city planner in Torrance, California. He bought a beautiful house overlooking the ocean and was able to send his children to some of the best schools in the country. Over time he achieved success in the new job rising to the position of manager of city planning.

Philip was a good family man who took great pride in talking about the achievements of his children. All five of his children are well educated and doing well in their chosen professions. Every year the children and the eight grand children gather at Philip’s home to celebrate his birthday and after every one had left, he would always send me a photograph of the family. .

I regard Philip as one of the finest people I have ever met. He was kind, generous, unpretentious and had an extremely warm and easygoing personality. in addition, he had a great sense of humor and was a good story teller especially with his campus jokes. His was a life well lived and it was my great fortune to have enjoyed his friendship. I would like to convey my condolences to Celine and the children.

Dr. Arnold de Silva Ottawa


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