‘Terrific’ praise makes her husband emotional
The outpouring of love and praise for the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago continued for the second day on Saturday, with many fondly remembering her as Asia’s “Iron Lady” who owned one of the region’s sharpest legal minds.
Her widower, Narciso Y. Santiago, turned sentimental when approached by reporters at the late senator’s wake at Immaculate Conception Cathedral Grottos in Cubao.
“The love and praise showered on her should have been shown when she was still alive,” Santiago said, noting that like President Duterte, his late wife “devoted all her life serving the country and the people.”
“But when she was still alive, there was nothing,” he lamented.
The former interior secretary said the outpouring of love, admiration and support was making him “somewhat emotional.”
He said the sentiment was partly because she lost thrice in her bid for the presidency. Her last attempt was in May, when during the grueling campaign period her health showed signs of faltering.
“That was part of it. We did not even have the funds,” he stressed. “She was deserving like President Duterte. They both have the intention and desire to serve the country, even if people do not agree with their methods.”
Santiago also mentioned the tributes published by major newspapers such as the Inquirer, describing the amount of praise she received as “terrific.”
Santiago’s husband later apologized to the press for being too emotional, and said that he had read the tributes for his wife. He, however, did not take back what he earlier said.
Mechel, Santiago’s daughter-in-law, described the senator as a very hands-on matriarch, doting on her grandchildren despite her often busy schedule.
“Grandma takes care of them from the diaper to the undergarments to clothing, everything, even choosing what attire to wear. All of that, we will miss,” Mechel said.
Of her five grandchildren, only two were at the wake—Mea, 8 and Maria Madison, 5.
“The three others are very young. They just know that she is in the hospital,” Mechel said, adding that the senator had once told the children she was just on a study leave in another country so they would not miss her.
“She was a great grandma, very thoughtful of the kids. She’s very smart and intelligent. She’s like a walking encyclopedia or a walking computer. Every time we ask her something we don’t have to look for a computer. Because she already knew the answers,” Mechel said.
“We always told her we wanted her here for the kids so she can guide them,” she added.
Santiago, who famously said she ate death threats for breakfast, died in her sleep on Thursday morning after a two-year battle with lung cancer. She was 71.
Her death was mourned by friends and foes alike in the noisy political establishment, where she was touted as one of the country’s outstanding leaders.
Hailed as a no-nonsense graft-buster, she had also gained a huge following among the youth for her witty remarks that were later compiled into two books.
Santiago served in all the three branches of government—judiciary, executive and legislative. She was a three-term senator beginning in 1995, and thrice contested the presidency. She nearly landed the top job, but narrowly lost to Fidel V. Ramos in her first presidential election in 1992.
Raul C. Pangalangan, a judge at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, praised the senator as having “reached the highest levels of success through the sheer power of her intellect and personality.”
“She will remain a shining example to the youth of what they can achieve through personal striving and daring,” said Pangalangan, who was Santiago’s former student in constitutional law.
Pangalangan described the late senator as a “strict but caring teacher.” He recalled appearing in a Quezon City court when she was the presiding judge and remembered how she “ensured that all lawyers were on top of their game when they appeared before her.”
“Finally, the Philippines would not have signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) had it not been for her guidance during the ratification process, which eventually led to her winning a seat as ICC judge that, had it not been for her failing health, she would have filled with distinction,” he said.
The internet was also awashed with sympathies from grieving ordinary netizens, colleagues, celebrities and even her political rivals as soon as the news of the senator’s death broke out.
On Friday, home-schooled children from Catholic Filipino Academy performed songs at her wake, including “Amazing Grace” and “Ode to Joy.”
“We wanted to play here because it’s nice to serve for the person who also served the public,” choir master Ford Pundamiera said. The group was founded in 1995 by preacher and best-selling author Bo Sanchez. TVJ
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