The Department of Health is aiming high: By 2040 they want a cervical cancer-free Philippines.
I have received three gifts from two persons I truly admire which have become even more meaningful now.
One is a black cashmere blouse and another is a pair of black leather gloves which came from Mrs. Carmen Guerrero Nakpil.
The third item is a silver rosary blessed by the Pope from Ambassador Jun Lozada.
We were in Portland, Seattle on Nov. 4, 1993 to cover the first summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation at the Tillicum Village in Blake Island, Washington State the next day. I was part of the Malacañang Press Corps and the president then was Fidel V. Ramos.
Mrs. Nakpil was special guest of then Press Secretary Jesus Sison.
I was not fortunate to be included in the pool of media people chosen by drawing lots. But Mrs. Nakpil, who was then a columnist of the same newspaper I was working for, Ang Pahayagang Malaya, was in the pool. I contacted her and asked if she would be going to Tillicum Village and she said, “No” and that she was really thinking of giving up her slot for me. (Members of the reporters’ pool had to leave the hotel at 4 a.m. to travel to Blake Island as the leaders were expected to arrive at about 8:30 a.m.)
I was so happy to be able to be part of the media pool to cover the important event. We notified the Media Center of the change.
Mrs. Nakpil was concerned how I was coping with the cold. She asked for my hotel room number and said she will be sending something for me.
When I got to the hotel reception past midnight from the press center, I was handed a neat package. It was a beautiful long-sleeved cashmere blouse and a pair of black leather gloves with a Saks Fifth Avenue tag.
Needless to say, I felt good covering the APEC summit in what I imagine to be an expensive cashmere blouse and leather gloves.
I thanked Mrs. Nakpil for gifts when I met her the next day. “I’m glad it fits you,” she said. “It’s Gemma’s but it doesn’t fit her anymore.”
The more that I got overwhelmed by the gift.
When I met Gemma (Cruz-Araneta,1964 Miss International), I told her that I have her black cashmere blouse courtesy of her mother. She said she was glad that I was the one who got it and she talked about the beauty of cashmere:so light yet warm.
Actually, I’m not the only one who is a recipient of Mrs. Nakpil’s generosity. She also gave several lovely scarves to the late Nelly Sindayen, the Time Magazine correspondent.
I was always in awe of Mrs. Nakpil, whose Sunday Times column (Consensus of One) I used to compile. I was pleasantly surprised to find her warm and down-to-earth in our twice-a-month gathering at Havana’s Restaurant at Greenbelt. She was, as always, elegant.
When she became unable to come to Havana, I visited her in her place in Makati and she was the epitome of old school grace and manners:she was dressed and coiffed. She even served me ice cream.
Her command of the English language is impeccable and her incisive wit shows her intelligence and healthy ego. I was amused with her “heinous hairdo” description of the hairstyle of Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez who was convicted of the heinous crime of rape and murder of UP Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and her boyfriend, Allan Gomez.
And who can top her description of the Filipino people: “300 years in Convent and 50 Years in Hollywood ” which was erroneously attributed to Teodoro Agoncillo in one expensive coffee table book.
Gemma said her Mom said thatin an interview with an Indian journalist in the 1960s.
Mrs. Nakpil’s writings are gems. She has left us plenty of them. In addition to that,I have my cashmere blouse andgloves to always remember her.
In Jun Lozada’s glass cabinet in his home are a stack ofsmall boxes containing rosaries, blessed by the Pope – mementos from his stint in Vatican whenhe was a junior career foreign service officer. He gave me one when we visited him in his house one weekend many years ago.
I first met Jun when I covered the foreign service beat in the 1980’s. He was a good source - patient and thorough in his explanation. He was most helpful when he headed the team that gathered the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu in our talks with Malaysia over Sabah.
He was also a big help in our coverage of Malacanang when he was FVR’s appointments secretary.
In Dec. 2014 (he wasthen adviser to Vice President Jejomar Binay on foreign affairs), he called me up asking if I was interested to cover a forum at Fuda Hospital in Guangzhou, China. That’s when I learned that he was being treated for prostate cancer.
He was one of those who gave a testimonial on the Fuda’s 3C+P cancer treatment through cryo surgery (cancer cells are killed by freezing it at minus 160 degrees temperature). He was declared cancer free.
I would meet and call him every now and then for his views on foreign affairs issues.
When I learned abouthis passing last July 31, I said, he had almost four years of bonus from God. And knowing his generosity, I imagine he used it to make life more meaningful not only for himself but also for others.
The rosary that he gave me, I shared it with a friend who has cancer.