Till the end: Miriam’s youth army helps in her wake

MANILA, Philippines – They sported red shirts emblazoned with the face of former senator Miriam Defensor Santiago during the elections. They campaigned for her in the provinces when her physical condition prevented her from doing so. They are the Youth for Miriam volunteers.

The Youth for Miriam (YFM) movement proved that their admiration and loyalty for the late senator goes beyond elections and politics.

Just as they served the former senator pro bono during her presidential bid, these millennials also volunteered for free to help the family prepare the wake of their beloved idol. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Youth volunteers' street party for Miriam Santiago

One YFM member, Vincent Jerome Agustin, said he did not think twice when the family sought their assistance on the day the senator died.

“We are here to pay our last respects to Senator Miriam Santiago,” he told Rappler in an interview.

“We were assigned to help in the arrangements of the wake up until her burial,” he added.

No words 

Agustin was very active in campaigning for the late senator – from the provincial sorties they initiated to most of Santiago’s speaking engagements. He said Santiago inspired him in so many ways and that rendering his services to her is not enough.

“Eto na ‘yung huling ano namin sa kanya. ‘Yung pagmamahal namin sa kanya ibang-iba. Sa dami ng [naturo] niya sa amin hindi ito sapat bilang sukli.”

(This is our last service to her. Our love for her is very unique. Given all the things she taught us, this is not enough to repay her.)

For EJ Clamor, it seems surreal making arrangements for her wake with his fellow YFM members. Back in the election period, they used to happily gather, optimistically campaigning for Santiago. 

“[Hindi] namin expect na dito kami magsasama-sama, [kung kailan] iiwan na kami ni ma’am,” he said, almost in tears.   

(We did not expect that we would again gather here now that ma’am is already gone.)

“No words can express my feelings right now,” he added.

The mom and the ‘President we never had’

It might seem unusual for these youth to be so affected by Santiago’s death when they are not part of the family. But to them, it makes perfect sense because she was never a stranger to them.

“Iba siya, kumbaga ang tingin sa kanya ng mga tao, terror siya. Pero sa amin, nanay siya, nanay siya, lola siya. Feeling namin, nawalan kami ng pangalawang nanay, pangalawang lola, 'ung titingalain namin,” Akira dela Peña said.

(She’s different. People may see her as a terror. But to us, she was a mother, a grandmother. We feel that we lost a second mother, a second grandmother – someone we look up to.)   

“’Yung galing niya, tumatagos sa puso ng mga nagmamahal sa kanya,” she added. (Her greatness touches the heart of those who love her.)

Michael Seloso, who idolized Santiago since he was in elementary grade, will not forget the senator’s lessons about greatness but also the rare chance he had to work for her in the campaign.

“I was so lucky because I joined her last campaign, that’s the best memory of her that I will treasure,” he said in Filipino.

“[She was] the greatest president we never had,” he said. – Rappler.com  

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.