A tribute to Rosalie Gracia-Mendoza

13 April 2013

Shrine of St. Therese of the Holy Jesus

 

Note: This is draft that will be finalized based on your comments.  Photos will follow later.  For this reason, a Q&A session will be held after my short talk (Do not deliver this line. Not appropriate in a church. Attention: check against delivery.  Spontaneity ahead). 

Malapad si Rosalie; malapad ang katawan, malapad ang pang-unawa at kalooban.  Kaya di iPad ang dala ko para basahin ang eulogy para sa kanya kundi  isang 15-in wide-screen laptop.

Your thoughts, Rosalie?

Your thoughts, Rosalie?

ROSALIE (aka Ka Lisa and Ka Grace): Loving wife, proper but most caring mother, comrade-in-arms, most solicitous BFF not only to me but to many others, a ready shoulder to cry on, most constructive critic, ardent, nay passionate lover (of food, coffee, and laughter and of Bong) [she would always tell me that since revolutionaries are fiercely committed to the cause, then they are equally passionate about their loved ones], and a very beautifully authentic human being.  Totoo siyang tao, hindi siya Orocan, ika nga ng mga badaf.  Kung agree siya sa iyo, ipapakita niya.  Kung hindi man, alam mo rin.  Sa madaling salita, siya ay transparent at ‘di plastic.

Naka-isang paragraph na ako pero kailangang itanong ko pa rin ang tanong na ito.  HOW DOES ONE WRITE AND DELIVER THE EULOGY FOR THE PERSON YOU LOVE MOST?

Since 1994, writing and delivering eulogies had apparently been my assigned role.  I did the eulogies for my mother Trinidad (the first female civil engineer and district civil engineer of the Philippines) in December 1994, my mother-in-law Esther in June 2003, my sister Daisy in June 2006, my father Amado Sr. in October 2006, my brother-in-law, Romulo Jr., in May 2010, and Manong Chris in March 2011.  While I was not able to personally deliver the eulogy for my uncle, the retired Gen. Reynaldo Mendoza, I got the eulogy published in my e-column in inQ7.net in June 2001.

In all these eulogies, my delivery was flawless save for my brother-in-law’s and Manong Chris’.  I saw Manong Mulito struggle for life and he suffered greatly  in the process.   I could barely finish Manong Mulito’s eulogy in Santa Lucia, Ilocos Sur because I cannot seem to stop from crying.  I was able to see Manong Chris in California before I proceeded to a conference in Nevada in late February 2011.  He was looking good.  Dumalaw uli ako sa kanya bago ako bumalik sa Pilipinas. Medyo bagsak na ang katawan niya.  Manong Chris died two-three days after I arrived back in Manila.  A eulogy was solicited; I did it through Skype.  However, I broke down in tears afterward and Rosalie was there to comfort me.

Yung karanasan ko sa eulogy kay Manong Mulito at Manong Chris ang pumipigil sa akin ngayon.  So noong nag-pla-plano para sa necro ni Rosalie, I innocently (dead-ma) asked my children: who will deliver the eulogy for their mom?  Umasa ako na mag-vo-volunteer si Arlo o kung sino man sa kanila. Nag-tinginan sila at sabay nilang sinabi: syempre ikaw Papa. No brainer question yan.

SO HERE GOES:  Like Manong Chris and Manong Mulito, Rosalie suffered and struggled for life.  However she enjoyed life with me before her great pain.  Before she passed away, we planned grand plans.  We wanted to travel, especially to New York so we can take care of her elder sister, Manang Linda, who also has cancer.  It would have been perfect since I am on a sabbatical leave from UP Diliman up to May 30, 2014.  In hindsight, it was indeed a good thing we visited Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City in 2011.  We made the mistake of booking flights and hotel reservations before obtaining our visas so we were unable to visit Beijing also in 2011. 

The very day she was to be admitted to the hospital for her Whipple surgery (the nature of Whipple’s is discussed in a footnote of this eulogy)[1] last 2 August 2012, she was at the US Embassy for her visa interview.  The admitting physician, Dr. Michael Tee (then our neighbour at UP Hardin ng Rosas) was harassing me: he said “I can’t hold the room any longer; where is the patient?”.  I was in turn harassing Rosalie through calls and SMS about the same issue.  But she took her sweet time; she was quite ecstatic she got the visa. Hindi alam ni Dr. Michael ito at wala akong balak ipaalam pa sa kanya.  Kung malalaman niya, sigurado may mga tsismoso/a dito.  She treated herself and our niece to a nice lunch at the storied Emerald restaurant in front of the embassy.    And I was told that she bought some pieces of clothing appropriate for GETTING DISCHARGED FROM THE HOSPITAL!

Now I think I know now the eulogy that’s appropriate for Rosalie: a person who drunk fully from the fountain of love and life and who unselfishly shared these same gifts not only with me and our children and relatives but to all.  Kilabot siya ng kasambahay. Ng security guard. Ng taxi driver. Ng elevator girl. At maraming iba pa.  Siya ang number one crowd drawer ni Manong Mulito noong nasa pulitika pa si Kuya.  Tinanong ko siya kung balak niyang pumasok sa pulitika sa Ilocos Sur.  Ang sagot niya hindi kailangan. 

Maraming siyang nailigtas na mga estudyante ko sa failing grade (5.0).  Papayuhan niya ako na pag-isipan kong mabuti kung talagang kailangang bigyan ng 5 ang isang estudyante.  Ang paliwang niya: ang 5 ay isang trauma. Maaring wake-upper ito pero puede siyang major downer.  Kaya siguro maraming nag-boluntaryo sa mga mag-aaral ko na mag-bigay ng dugo para sa kanya.  Tantiya ko, wala masyadong gagawa noon kung ang identity ko ay naka-focus na kabilang ako sa mga “M” na supposedly dapat daw iwasan sa UP Political Science (Ka Pepe Miranda, Alex Magno, at ako).  Buti nga nabawasan na raw; dati nan-dyan pa si Noel Morada.

Of course, Rosalie is no saint; may kagalit din siya (madalas ang inyong abang lingkod). Pag galit ka niya, ladot! (Tulad ng sabi ng aming apo na si Luc(t)as)  Pero, hindi nagtatagal ang galit niya lalo kung ikaw na naka-galit niya ay kusang lalapit sa kanya para makipag-bati.  Ang aking peace offering? Brewed coffee, breakfast (scrambled, not fried, eggs at buttered pan de sal), panood ng sine, foot and back massage, at yung alam nyo na.

Mahilig si Rosalie sa kuwentuhan tungkol sa buhay-buhay lalo ang love life hindi lamang ng artista kundi pati ng mga kamag-anak at kaibigan.  Nalulungkot siya pag may nag-hiwalay o namatay.  It is always left unsaid; umaasa siya na baka mag-kabalikan ang mga nag-away at nag-hiwalay.

So papaano naman kami nag-kakilala?.  UP ako, FEU naman siya.  It was the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship which brought us together, bound us together.  We were both full-time activists when we first met at the Political Science Department (coincidence,  coincidence), Faculty Center (c/o Ed Maranan or was it Temy Rivera or Rolly Yu?) in mid-1972.   Rosalie was actually a ‘stow-away’, the term activists then used for those who either left their homes to work full-time or were cast off their homes because her parents did not approve of her political activity.  She was living in the regional headquarters of the Kabataang Makabayan, a kilometer or so away along Quezon Avenue (opposite the studio of Wow-willie).

At the time, I, together with some others, was operating in Tuguegarao City and had the entire province of Cagayan as our area of responsibility.  We went to Manila to recruit more seasoned activitists and Rosalie and Tess readily joined us.  It was not love at first sight.  For both of us.  Her impression of me was that of a typical intellectual-activist from UP who supposedly looked down on activists from lesser schools, e.g., FEU or the generic University Belt. In short, I had no warmth.  I was supposed to accompany her to Tuguegarao but she did not agree.  Hindi pa naimbento yung nose bleed pero yun na ang pakiramdan niya.  Ano naman daw ang pag-uusapan namin sa mahabang biyahe ng mga 12 oras? Nose bleed talaga!

Eventually, si Jimmy na ka-klase niya sa FEU ang sumundo at nag-dala sa kanya sa Tuguegarao.  Pero may blooper siya. Major major.  It’s laglagan time!  Hindi ko alam kung bakit nagka-mali siya e laking probinsya naman siya, cacique nga lang (private joke namin dahil tisay siya at ako’y isang Indio).

Sa rice fields ng Nueva Vizcaya, excited niyang ginising si Jimmy at itinuro yung bagong tanim na palay na kulay green at abot halos sa bundok.  Aniya–bermuda grass, ang dami at ang ganda.  Sabagay, grass din naman ang palay.

Hindi nga love at first sight.  In my case, she will grow on me.  She is an acquired taste.  Her courage, determination, and kind heart won me over.  Of course, her external beauty and smile were bonuses. The acquisition though did not take a long while.  I asked that she be my love on her birthday, Sept. 27 (a few days after the imposition of martial law) and she accepted me as a birthday gift.  Tanong ni Cuz Mini:  papaano niligawan at napa-ibig ng isang suplado ang isang Rosalie?  Under the strained circumstances of the first week of the declaration of martial law, I courted her through letters.  Ang sabi niya sa akin–hindi daw niya nakikita ang simangot ko kapag binabasa niya ang mga sulat ko.  Persuasive daw; I was a good advocate of myself.  Dagdag pa, yung kaibigan niya, si Mareng Tess, na kapwa aktibista ay boto sa akin at pine-pressure siya ng husto na tanggapin ako.  Kaagad!

We were almost arrested in Tuguegarao City in April 1973.  We retreated to the metropolis and was sheltered by my fraternity brothers in UP Alpha Sigma who also treated her as a sister.  We could have stayed in safety with the brods but we wanted to continue the struggle.  We were assigned to Barrio Magsaysay, Tondo, Manila in September 1973.  I was captured by a composite Manila Police-Metropolitan Command team on 16 September 1973.  I heaved a sigh of great relief when I learned she was able to get away. 

In hindsight, my capture was a great blessing.  We did not know at the time that she contracted tuberculosis from Ka Flor, the comrade who sheltered her.  Both of us then were malnourished and so stressed out.  If I was not captured, she would have languished in the slum areas and the possibility of losing her and Tricia was quite great.  When I was placed under custody, Rosalie found her way to her relatives and transferred to the care of BFF Manang (aka General) Tessie Mendoza who nourished her and provided vital pre-natal care.  Manang Tess also provided a nom de guerre and safe house since Rosalie was still wanted by the minions of the Marcos dictatorship.

Tricia was born while I was detained and I saw her and Rosalie two weeks after her birth.  What a happy occasion!  Afterwards, a news black-out. My mother Trinidad was in charge of black out and cover-up operations.  They intercepted Rosalie’s letters and gave me good news all the time.  Of course, Rosalie and I were very frustrated.  Tricia battled whooping cough and almost died during the first five months of her life.  I could just imagine Rosalie’s agony–a husband detained and a daughter fighting for her life, a daughter she cannot take care of since she has tuberculosis. 

BTW, Rosalie cannot visit me at the detention center because we’re not married officially.  Girlfriends or even fiancées cannot visit detainees.  We got married through the help of family and relatives and I was escorted out of the detention center by six fully-armed and uniformed Philippine Army soldiers.  We thought that would alarm Rosalie’s neighbours in La Loma.  But the word got around that I (or my father or mother) was a big shot and the soldiers were my security detail. 

After my release from detention, we persisted in underground political work.  We had to build our legal fronts; we went back to school to earn our bachelor’s degrees.  We led two lives: above-ground with legitimate employment and under-ground with clandestine activities.  For this reason, we had to transfer residences (cum safe houses) every now and then.  Our first two daughters thought that was normal.

During much of this period, Rosalie had to deal with a constant irritant.  She was always referred to as the wife of Bong, not as Rosalie, who is a person and comrade in her own right.  This is compounded by a rule in the underground that couples need to work in the same line or unit for security reasons.  In all cases, the male cadre ends up the supervisor of the female cadre. 

The situation changed and was remedied after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino and EDSA 1986.  Our political assignments became more and more above-ground and Rosalie found herself in the human rights and feminist fronts.  Unfortunately, when I  and other comrades ran afoul of the Gods of the underground, she became collateral damage.

Cast off the political movement to which we gave our youth and best years, it took a while before we found our full bearings.  Both of us continued to take care of our children.  I decided to concentrate on my academic work and studies.  Meanwhile, Rosalie found refuge in the feminist movement (particularly through ISIS).  However, she also had to move on because of health issues (the Bakers’ cyst). Later on, she started a business-cum-advocacy centered on Ilokano products (the usual foodstuffs like bagnet, langonisa but also pushed Ilokano blankets and the inabel or abel (believed to be used as sail cloth for Spanish galleons).  After ISIS, she was drawn to electoral work with IPER.

I will say that we survived the Marcos dictatorship and the purges within the Communist Party of the Philippines.  Famously.  I will say they are minor irritations.  I can honestly and proudly assert that WE managed to raise a very beautiful, strong, and caring family.  The extreme stresses of leading a double life, the dangers of getting captured did not prevent us from co-producing three daughters and a son.  She lightened the load.  It is known that I am worrier.  She is actually older than me but it does not show since she smiles a lot.  That’s why she’s beautiful and I look like the family driver. To this day.

Her younger brother copied us–producing three daughters in quick succession.  Then they pulled a surprise on us–their son Iggy!  PRESSURE.  We had to scour the books and scrolls of the ancients for a reliable formula to produce a son.  When Arlo was still inside, I asked her: suppose it was still a daughter, do we go for the fifth one? She said NO.  She said, if ever, you will learn to live with five (5) females (including her).  That’s not so bad.  Those of you who have all sons–you know the house as an athletic gym with stinky rubber shoes and socks all over the place.  If you had daughters, then you have a congress. The house is in order but everybody, just everybody is talking and you cannot have your say.

So what was the formula?  It was an ancient Chinese formula.  What did it say?  None of the usual like do it in the morning rather than at night or do it on the dining table rather than under it.  It had only two related bilins:  Change your gynecologist.  Change your maternity hospital.  Voila:  Aarlo reported for duty in May 14, 1991.

I guess all of us have fond memories of Rosalie including those of the difficult times she went through in the PGH.  Before I close, I like to pay homage to the professional skills and acumen of  the PGH medical and nursing staff, esp. of the Central ICU, and thank them (esp. Dr. Bautista, sister of my former student and Facebook friend Ken Bautista)  for caring for Rosalie until the last second.  Special mention to Dr. Michael Tee (her admitting physician and internist) and her surgeon, Dr. Anthony Perez, who performed the Whipple and the tracheaotomy.  Dr. Perez was assisted by his wife as anesthesiologist and his residents. 

The difficult time she went through since 2 August 2012 to 6 April 2013 is a very small fraction of her happy and productive life.

Let’s please remember Rosalie not as a cancer victim but as a beautiful human being who has touched our lives with her good cheer, grace, and concern.

I was with Rosalie from 27 September 1972 to 6 April 2013–close to 41 years of bliss, treasures, and lessons in love and life.

One of my Facebook post over the past two weeks ran like so: Love is life and versa.  I did not write that alone.  Rosalie helped me do it.

Till we meet again, my darling,  my baket Rosalie.


[1] A tumor was found in the head of Rosalie’s pancreas.  The preliminary diagnosis was the tumor was not benign and thus surgery was immediately needed.  If the tumor was in the pancreas’ tail, the surgery would have been simple.  Just lop off the tail together with the tumor.  Since the tumor was in the head, a more complicated surgery was needed since the head of pancreas touches several organs. So a Whipple surgical procedure (named after the surgeon who invented it) involves excising the head of the pancreas (with the tumor), the entire gall bladder, part of the stomach, and part of the duodenum and then putting what needed putting back together again.

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Comments
  1. bongmendoza says:

    Reblogged this on bong mendoza's blog.

  2. My condolences, Sir. I love husbands who always have an abundance of melodious words for their wives. We deserve that- in life and in death. You and your wife lived a very purposeful and productive life and because of that, you both shall not perish, even if your physical bodies do. Stay strong, Sir.

  3. leilanipm says:

    What a moving tribute… Hand over heart, Bong. You know that your beloved expects you to keep strong as you now carry on for both your hearts. Blessings upon you.. Hugs to you and your family.

  4. Magandang talambuhay ito. Nakaka-relate ako. Sana wag lang madapuan ng kanser. Mabuhay ka Bong!

  5. Michael Eusebio says:

    Please accept my condolences sir. Pakatatag ho kayo at ang mga anak niyo.P

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