To LJM’s grandkids, she was just their doting ‘wowa’
She may be a giant in Philippine journalism, but for the grandchildren of the late Philippine Daily Inquirer editor in chief Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, she was just an ordinary doting grandmother at home.
Maria Domenica “Monica” Magsanoc, the eldest grandchild of the journalist who led the Inquirer for 24 years, said that while the country honored her grandmother as the keeper of the Edsa flame and bedrock of Philippine journalism, she would always remember her as her “wowa” who never grew tired of watching her grow from a child fascinated with dollhouses into a young woman who loved dresses.
In a eulogy on Tuesday night, the 20-year-old University of the Philippines fine arts student fondly recalled her grandmother as someone who kept separate her professional and personal lives. She admitted that till her grandmother passed away on Christmas Eve, she knew little about her career and contribution to Philippine journalism.
“I’ve never known so much about her career until she passed [away], after all the articles and front-page stories had been published. My lola (grandmother) kept her work life separate from her family life, but somehow managed to treat each with an infinite amount of love and importance,” she said.
Magsanoc—LJM or Letty to her colleagues in the Inquirer—was the editor of Panorama magazine till she was forced to resign after publishing an article critical of the Marcos dictatorship. She then worked with Eugenia Duran Apostol for the Mr. & Ms. Special Edition, which was considered part of the “mosquito press” that defied press censorship at the time.
Apostol and LJM would put up the the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 1985, with LJM taking the helm at the paper in 1991 as its editor in chief.
Monica disclosed to the hundreds of her grandmothers’ friends and colleagues and news-makers who gathered for the last night of tribute to LJM at Heritage Park in Taguig City on Tuesday that her grandmother seemed to change personalities whenever she was with her family.
“She would be a complete force in the office and then come home to Valle [Verde in Pasig City] and shift all her attention from the issues [facing] our country [and from] exposing corruption to the issues [involving] her grandchildren: ‘[Are] there still Taylor Swift tickets available?’”
Despite the rigors of her job, LJM always made it a point to attend the Jimenez clan’s family reunions, said her cousin, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. But he said there would always be talk about what time his “wonderwoman cousin” would arrive for the celebration.
“She was always late, but she was always there,” Jimenez said of LJM, who is one of his 54 first cousins. “We never resented it because we understood that it did not mean career came before family but that duty came before everything else and that she served herself and her needs last.”
For Maria Angelica “Mica” Magsanoc, LJM’s second eldest grandchild, her grandmother would always be someone who was not only generous with her compliments but also never failed to encourage her grandchildren to pursue their interests.
She recalled that when she showed her grandmother a compilation of her essays and short stories titled “Part of Me,” she told her that she would someday become a writer.
“I didn’t know how to react. Part of me knew she was saying it because she was my lola but another part of me [was smiling and feeling so happy] and proud since she was a big-shot journalist in the Inquirer,” Mica said.
She said, however, that she regretted not showing some of her other works sooner to her grandmother, who “could’ve guided me, mentored me and [written] notes [in the margins] with her green pen I hear so much about.”
She added: “I’ll never get to experience that. I’ve heard so many stories of how wowa [helped so many journalists] and how she gave so much guidance that literally changed [their lives]. That’s what I’ll miss most about her. How she saw the potential in everyone of us no matter how small, lost or hopeless we were. She believed we would achieve greatness and provided us with everything to possibly get just that.”
Remembering the time she took ballet classes and later went into cheerleading, Mica said her grandmother “didn’t care what you did as long as you loved what you were doing.”
She described her grandmother as someone who was “behind you 100 percent and never ceased to be the fuel on your road to success.”
Maria Sabine “Maysa” Magsanoc, LJM’s youngest granddaughter, said that since her grandmother passed away, she began to call her the “saint of surprises” for the many surprises she had given her, such as Disney’s Elsa, which she gave her for her birthday.
She compared her grandmother to a “rock full of trust you can never break” it and to “a drawing that looks easy to draw but is actually hard to draw.”
“It seems easy to copy wowa’s action but it’s really hard. She’s like a role model to all of us. She’s like an angel we pray to,” Maysa said.
Mariana Eugenie “Ariana” Alikpala, another of LJM’s granddaughters, remembers her grandmother’s generosity, especially to those who have less in life.
She recalled that every time her grandmother attended Mass at Edsa Shrine, street children who noticed her would call her name, their faces lighting up. And she would give them food and clothes, Ariana said.
“They all loved her there and she really loved to give everything to everyone,” she said.
Ariana said her grandmother was deeply religious, to the point that even when doctors told her mom that she would never bear a child, her grandmother refused to accept it and relied on the power of prayer.
“When the doctor said mom would not have a child after chemotherapy, you weren’t fine with any of that. You immediately turned to prayer and always told my mom that prayer was always the first option, not the last resort,” she said, addressing her departed grandmother. “And here I am, one of your greatest answered prayers.”
Ariana said that because of the many things that her grandmother embodied, it was “impossible” for anyone to come close to who she really was.
Monica, however, said that after she learned more about her grandmother through the people who had worked or had crossed paths with her, she could not help but find figments of herself and her family in the stories about her grandmother that had been shared.
Shades of ‘wowa’
She said she saw her grandmother’s compassion in her aunt, Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, who “comforted hundreds who have visited this wake”; “selflessness” in her dad, Nico, and “thoughtfulness” in her uncle, Marti.
She added that in herself she saw her grandmother’s “passion, creativity and constant pursuit of innovation,” and in her sisters Mica and Maysa, her grandmother’s “hardworking and no-nonsense attitude” and “eternal cheerfulness.”
Her cousin, Ariana, she said, possesses her grandmother’s trait of “striving for nothing short of perfection.”
“I am honored to have even the tiniest bit of her in me, and I hope and pray with all of my heart that I will live up to her expectations of me. She will be my patron saint of integrity, humility, of late nights and black coffee,” she said.
With the outpouring of love and support to the Jimenez and Magsanoc families over the past week, Monica recognized the fact that her grandmother was within those whom she had touched and interacted with.
“I see her in all of you. She puts so much love into this world and what a feeling it is today to witness her receive it back. Her legacy lives on not only through our family but through the hundreds she has inspired with her powerful words and actions,” she said.
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