‘Beloved, I’ll not really say goodbye’
(The author is the widower of veteran journalist and UP professor Lourdes Chit Estella-Simbulan who died on May 13 and was cremated on May 17. Her urn will be brought to San Agustin Church in Intramuros today, June 21, the 40th day after her death.)
You were snatched from us “as swift as the wind” while you were on your way to meet your high-school batch mates on that fateful evening of May 13, 2011.
As eulogized by so many, your life and character personified you as “gentle as a forest, fierce as fire, firm as a mountain,” to borrow from Sun Tzu. Just the other day, I read a note from one of your journalism students thanking you “for teaching us how to dream.” Another wrote that “you were not only our professor, adviser, but a mother to the youth who helped us strive for goals that could not be bought.”
To me, you are all these, but more.
How excited you were as we read your horoscope for Leo that morning of the fateful day. It said, “Today, you are going to experience something that is not only evolutionary, but something that is very revolutionary. It will be a life-changing event.” Notwithstanding that it was Friday the 13th.
I remember your eyes sparkling that morning as you remarked that, finally, this may be your lucky day for you were going to win with your lotto ticket. And when I kissed you goodbye to leave for a meeting, I was looking forward to being welcomed by your hug and kiss that evening, the way we usually did.
How can I not miss you when we had known each other for 34 years?
Remember when we first met as undergrad students in the Philippine Collegian during martial law? And then we became seatmates in the Modern Political Theory class of Dean Dodong Nemenzo? For me that was no coincidence—it was fate—as we became inseparable since then.
We had even lately been making travel plans for our coming 30th wedding anniversary this October. I even recall you saying that we should be planning on what more socially meaningful things we could do together after our retirement.
How can I not miss a soulmate like you whose intellectual growth I had come to get used to, growing up with you as my wife, best friend, adviser, critic, fellow advocate in national and social advocacy, but most of all, as my beloved?
I will miss your reminders for me to give bigger tips to underpaid waiters or watch-your-car boys. There was so much good in you.
Remember when on Dec. 25, 1999, we were jointly composing “21 Ways to Sustainable Living in the 21st Century” you added an item on top of our list: “Always try to do a good deed for someone every day, especially those who can never pay you back.”
And I remember your modesty when you embarrassingly laughed after I dedicated one of my books “To Chit, beloved inspiration.”
I will miss having breakfast with you every morning and enjoying the aroma of our brewed coffee with freshly crushed beans that perfumed our morning air. I will miss having your favorite Razon’s halo-halo with you.
I will miss our long walks together while discussing anything under the sun and under the moon: At the UP Diliman oval every Sunday, and during what we both in jest called our “Kennedy walks” on the undisturbed beaches of Masinloc Bay in Zambales.
I shall sorely miss your frequent and very sweet texting any time of the day even just to ask how I was or what I had for lunch. And I will really miss, after long hours of work, our occasional foot spas together to relax, even as you endured my snoring.
I will miss the favorite dishes you liked to specially cook for me during weekends, like my favorite pasta, chicken rosemarie, beef or lamb caldereta, and your vegetable salads with fruits and nuts. I will miss our dinners, coffees, lunches out, just us together, or with long–time friends or relatives who happened to be visiting Manila.
I will miss giving you flowers even when it was not your birthday, or even when it was not Valentine’s Day. I will miss announcing on our white board in our Tandang Sora house that waking up every morning and every day with you was like heaven on earth.
Yes, I will miss courting you every day.
In my private moments of grief, I listen and reflect on the lyrics of your favorite Filipino singer Noel Cabangon, “Ang buhay nga naman hindi mo maintindihan, hindi mo alam ang hanganan… hindi ka malilimutan… ikaw ay pag-uusapan sa iyong paglisan… O, kay ganda, ang mag-alay sa iyo.”
And yes, I will be strong, keep healthy and will take good care of myself for you so that I can continue what we dreamed together for our nation and people. Thank you for sharing so much of you with me, the love, the laughter, the heartaches, even the disappointments.
‘Sharp as grace’
It was as if just like the other day—you were with us so full of life and energy, then you left us “swift and sure and sharp as grace,” as Katherine Mosby in the Book of Uncommon Prayers would write.
A friend whispered to me, “Hindi mawawala sa aming puso at isip ang mga kabutihan ni Chit sa kanyang mga kaibigan at ang dedikasyon niya para sa bayan.” Oh, how we all miss your smile, your voice, your presence.
Chit, you are alive in all of us whom you have touched with your example, your nerves of steel under fire, and your acts of kindness.
I will see you in every courageous reporter or editor whose mission and zeal is to write and print the TRUTH, no matter what powerful forces are offended. I will see you in every student and journalist you have taught to be upright, honest and who knows the meaning of what you call “the right thing to do.”
Mahal, I will see you in others who will continue what you stood for. I will see you in every Filipino who fights for sovereignty, good government and the welfare of this country you loved and served so well. I know that they will fight harder to honor your memory.
Many say that even if your life was cut short by this tragedy, “you lived life to the fullest” with the power of your pen and the genuine respect that you gained from your peers and students.
As a journalist, editor, teacher and friend, you touched so many lives. And they expressed their outpouring of love, gratefulness and respect for you and our family these past few days. Your life is emulated by so many who strive to live by your ideals and example.
I will see you—a beautiful human being whom I will always love, respect and adore—in every brave Filipino who, like your favorite Prometheus, takes fire and knowledge from the gods to share it with the common people so that the latter can be empowered. You live in the hearts of those you touched—the hoi polloi and the oppressed especially.
Beloved, I will not really say goodbye.