MANILA, Philippines – They had long wished to see their idol and source of inspiration. When they finally did, they were swept by an overwhelming sense of regret that it didn't happen sooner.
Past noon, groups of students began flocking to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral to pay their respects to the late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago who, they said, had touched their lives.
"Talagang idol ko po si Senator Miriam and it saddens me na nakita ko po siya kung kailan wala na siya (Senator Miriam is really my idol, it saddens me that I saw her only now when she's already gone)," said senior high school student Mary Loraine Natividad, who went to the wake with her classmates as soon as their classes ended.
Santiago even inspired her to to be a lawyer, said Natividad.
"I'm taking humanities and social science because I also want to be a lawyer just like her. And I think her legacy that I want to apply in my life [is] her love for our country. As they say, she is the best president we never had," she added in a mix of English and Filipino.
Another student who was at the wake believed that the youth should not only take to heart what Santiago preached during her lifetime. They should actually put it into practice it as well.
"For me, she has influenced a lot of youth. We can really absorb her teachings and practice them," said 16-year-old Timothy Ramos.
Young educator Alonzo Peralta, for her part, draws inspiration from Santiago in mentoring his students.
"She is a good model for the youth because you can really see her passion and she shows how really important the youth is in making the future especially in building the nation," he said.
But it is not only the youth that Santiago has inspired. Older people, especially educators, were also touched by the feisty senator's attitude towards government service.
Retired Polytechnic University of the Philippines dean, Professor Avelina Bucao, considers Santiago a model for both students and teachers in promoting the best quality of education.
"She has been an honor student ever since and her Masters degree, doctorate degree, she really made good – it is inspiring to any teacher," Bucao said.
The long-time legislator is known for her stellar academic record, having attended top universities such as the University of the Philippines, the University of Michigan, and Harvard University, among others. (READ: 15 things to know about Miriam Santiago)
Santiago had also spoken to students, especially during the campign period, about the importance of education and upholding its highest standards. (READ: Miriam Santiago: Memorable quotes, lines, zingers)
Since her 24-hour wake opened late Thursday evening, hundreds of people have gone to her wake to honor her memory.
Her lawyer and the family's spokesperson, Rissa Ofilada, said that they'll continue to accommodate all those who wishing to say goodbye to Santiago for the last time.