Photo by Patty Pasion/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Red ribbons tied to poles and loved ones in varying shades of red shirts warmed the breezy Friday morning at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City, where people gathered to remember and honor the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.
Friday, September 29, marked the first year since the celebrated public official died in her sleep at the age of 71.
Among the early birds was her younger sister, US-based physician Linn Defensor, who flew to Manila to attend the memorial rites.
In a brief chat with reporters, Defensor shared what she missed about her Manang (older sister) Miriam, whom she was very close to despite their distance.
“We talked to each other every week. She would call me every Saturday at 8 in the evening, LA time. So if my phone rings on a Saturday, I know it’s manang,” said Defensor.
“I miss her a lot... I miss her voice and when she calls me. We don't talk about politics; we talk about all kinds of stuff,” she added.
Defensor said now no one can rival her older sister when it came to stock knowledge. The senator was a walking encyclopedia. (READ: The Smartest of Them All)
“One of the things I really miss is I don’t have an encyclopedia anymore. So if I wanted [to know] something, I used to call her. She is so funny because she would not let anything pass without telling me what it was," Defensor said.
She said Santiago used to fill two to 3 balikbayan boxes with books whenever she traveled. "She reads them, she just doesn’t collect books,” Defensor said.
Santiago is best known for serving all 3 branches of government. She entered public service as a judge in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court before serving the administration of Corazon Aquino as immigration commissioner, then as agrarian reform secretary. She was first elected to the Senate in 1995.
Of all her roles, Santiago is most dearly remembered for being a mother to the people close to her.
Mechel Santiago, her daughter-in-law, said the senator’s grandkids sorely miss her since she used to visit them every day even after she had a long day in the Senate. Merchel and her son, Narcisco Santiago III, have 5 kids
“Maghahanda iyong mga bata. Magdadamit sila nang magaganda – parang aalis sila papuntang mall pero actually nasa bahay lang sila tapos maglalaro lang sila sa den (The kids would dress up as if they were going to the mall but actually they will just play in the den inside our house),” Merchel recalled.
“Na-mimiss nila parati kasi siyempre parte sya ng buhay nila… Lalo na 'yung panganay ko, napapanaginipan niya si senadora kinakausap daw siya (They always miss her because she was a part of their lives. Especially my eldest child who even dreams of the senator talking to her),” she said.
Members of her Youth for Miriam volunteer group also experienced Santiago's maternal side. (READ: Miriam Defensor Santiago: 'God is not out there but in you')
“Mamimiss ko sa kanya ang pagiging ina niya sa amin. Sa aming mga volunteers, lagi niya kaming kinakamusta everytime na makikita kami, lagi niya pinapaalalahananan na lagi kayong mag-aaral. Mag-aral kayong mabuti dahil iyan 'uung inyong babaunin sa inyong kinabukasan,” said Vincent Jerome Agustin, an officer of the Youth for Miriam movement.
(I'll miss how she was like a mother to us. She always checks up on us volunteers everytime we saw her. She always reminded us to study hard, study hard because that would be our investment for the future.)
Agustin is the vice chairperson of the Youth for Miriam movement which did the groundwork for her campaign during the 2016 presidential race. To this day, the youth volunteers strive to live by the ideals they learned from the senator known for her anti-corruption advocacy.
“Malaking kawalan siya sa ating lipunan lalo na sa mga nangyayari ngayon. Minsan pumipikit na lang ako at ini-imagine ko na darating siya sa Senado, maglelecture, magtuturo kung ano ang dapat,” he said.
(She’s a big loss to our society, especially with what's happening now. Sometimes, I just close my eyes and imagine her entering the Senate, lecturing them. teaching them on what should be done.)
Aside from family and her youth supporters, VIPs also attended the memorial Mass for Santiago.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio arrived shortly before the mass started.
Presidential daughter & Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte attends the memorial mass for Miriam Santiago's 1st death anniversary. pic.twitter.com/ZyqJBgwtC5 — Patty Pasion (@pattypasion) September 29, 2017
Frmr sen @bongbongmarcos arrives in the middle of the Holy Mass for Santiago. Marcos is Santiago's running mate in the 2016 elections. pic.twitter.com/mikskHwfWq — Patty Pasion (@pattypasion) September 29, 2017
Former president now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada also paid his respects to the late senator.
Another program would be held in the same venue later in the evening, to be attended mostly by Santiago's youth supporters. – Rappler.com