By Florangel Rosario Braid
This is a belated tribute to three remarkable women – Susan Aguila Flavier, Flerida P. Romero, and Basilia Avelino Malonzo – who recently passed away. All three are accomplished and talented professionals, entrepreneurs, homemakers. But beyond these traditional criteria of success, they also possess attributes that do have a profound impact on all those that they encounter. Intuition, self-confidence, sensitivity, elan, a sixth sense, a drive for perfection.
The late Senator Juan Flavier attributes his success to Susan who, through her sacrifice and hard work, afforded him the luxury of being the idealist he has become. It was Susan who had taken care of the family’s needs and allowed him to pursue his mission by unburdening him of many obligations. Johnny Flavier started as a rural doctor was later appointed Secretary of Health where he gained national popularity with his “Let’s Doh it” slogan. Thereafter, he became a senator of the republic. He admits that behind a great man is a greater woman – that if my career and life blossomed, it was because Susan tended to everything else our family needed. Susan ventured into small business enterprises and finally, into real estate and property management.
Susan was the fifth of six children of the late La Union Governor Doroteo Aguila. Among his children were two of my good friends, Dani, an internationally known cartoonist, and lawyer Dave who used to be a board member in La Union. Susan and Senator Flavier met while they were students at the University of the Philippines where Susan obtained a degree in social work. They met during a Valentine party at the UP campus, and got married after a brief courtship. Their four children, Jondi, Johnet, James, and Joy, are all successful professionals and businessmen.
Flerida Pineda Romero’s illustrious career started at the University of the Philippines where she obtained her law degree, first at the UP Labor Education Center, then as professor of law and director of the UP Law Center for 22 years. She had spent most of her time working on human rights, especially on the rights of Filipino women and children, and was instrumental in drafting the Family Code of 1987, and several other legislative works, including the Administrative Code, the Local Government Code, and the Consumer Code. She established the Asian Labor Education Center which later became the School of Labor and Industrial Relations. She was also the first labor administrator and author of numerous scholarly works as well as a recipient of several professional and civic awards. We worked closely when she was secretary-general of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. She was later appointed to the Supreme Court and distinguished herself as one of the most outstanding justices. Flery headed the Philippine delegation to the International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico. She was married to lawyer Orlando Romero. A disciplined vegetarian, she practices meditation.
Jurgette Honculada writes this tribute to the late Basilia Avelino Malonzo, her mother-in-law, who passed away at age 106. Here, the author describes her as an aesthetic who had always infused her style in everything she created; a person of deep faith who has kept her family from harm because of an uncanny ability to foresee events. Here are excerpts:
In the 1940’s, the young family with four small children, started on its long march from Davao City seeking refuge from Japanese troops through rough and forested terrain with Mlang (now North Cotabato) as final destination. The 600-kilometer trek would take them six months. Whenever they reach a dead-end, Popsing, the husband would turn to her, and ask, Which way? She would fall silent, awaiting the counsel of “voices” known only to her, and would lead the group to safety. One poignant account had the family hiking for days, hungry and exhausted and in dire need of rest and sleep. Spending the night in the forest was too risky. They came upon a house which was overflowing with evacuees like them. Popsing turns again to Momsing and ask, House or forest? Taking a deep breath, Momsing said the voices counseled them to leave the house. Shortly after, bombs rained on the structure: no one survived. A dozen or so events similar to these happened thereafter.
The other outstanding attribute, her defining trait, was her keen sense of beauty, manifested in the mini-Paradise of a family home that she first envisioned in a mind’s eye, factoring in color and texture, size and shape of various flora. She would not settle for second best; her narra saplings, lavender lotus blooms, and fragrant weeping willows attested to her elan. As with her flora, so with her fruits – Bangkok santol, guavas, cherry, apple, chico, and mangoes. In 1973, Bong (Ibarra Malonzo) and I took to cooking and selling jams and jellies when penniless activists, we were, fleeing Manila’s martial law.
Beauty meant she would not speak ill of anyone or descend to gossip. And she would not countenance dirt or sloppiness. What the family lacked in money, she made up in memories of songs emblazoned in the heart, poems, imprinted in the soul, and stories built into the DNA. If she could not enter into the worlds that beckoned, she would create her own universe, as she did, filling it with song and verse, the magic and mystery of fruits and flowers, the majesty of trees. Of course there were “what might have beens”. But woman of class that she was, she kept her counsel. And that I think is her greatest gift – keeping whole and staying the course in the face of life’s tantalizing “what ifs?”
My email, Florangel.firstname.lastname@example.org