Miriam Santiago laid to rest beside son
“Sleep in peace, but pray for us.”
Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani made this plea in his homily yesterday during Mass before the burial of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.
“Our country, as you very well know, needs much more correcting and reforming,” Bacani said at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao, Quezon City.
“What she’s not been able to finish in life, please help us when you stand at the side of Lord Jesus in Heaven,” he added.
A crowd of about 1,000 followers swarmed the normally quiet Lantana Street outside the church, and waited by the side of Aurora Boulevard and Barangka Drive as Santiago’s funeral cortege took her to Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City.
Around 500 relatives, friends and political associates attended the hourlong burial rites marked with a 21-gun salute and a shower of confetti from a Philippine Air Force helicopter. A dozen doves and 71 white balloons were set free during the ceremony.
Santiago was buried beside her son Alexander, who died in 2003.
The former judge, immigration commissioner, agrarian reform secretary and senator died on Thursday after a two-year bout with lung cancer. She was 71.
Thousands of her mostly youthful followers had filed past her casket during the wake at the church, where colleagues in the Senate paid tribute to her at a memorial service on Saturday night.
Duterte at wake
President Duterte went to the church yesterday to pay his final respects.
In a statement, the Palace said Mr. Duterte arrived at 1 a.m. and relayed his condolences to Santiago’s loved ones. It said the President expressed his deep sorrow in the passing of the senator, his rival in the May presidential election.
“Senator Santiago has left a sterling career in public office. She is best remembered as a graft-buster ‘eating death threats for breakfast,’ earning her (renown as) the Iron Lady of Asia. A constitutionalist, she has always been an advocate for the rule of law,” the statement quoted Mr. Duterte as saying.
“Rest in peace, Madam Senator. May your legacy continue to guide this nation for many years to come,” he said.
The statement pointed out that the President and Santiago shared a mutual admiration for each other and this could be seen during the presidential debates.
During yesterday’s Mass, Bacani comforted the widower, Narciso “Jun” Santiago Jr., in response to his lament on Friday that the senator should have been shown this outpouring of love when she was still alive.
Bacani noted that Miriam’s name meant “princess”—a princess in the hearts of Filipinos. “This is what I wish to assure you,” he told the husband.
The bishop recalled one of the speeches made by Santiago when she was the agrarian reform secretary. In that speech, she outlined her credo that “because God is good, the good will always win in the end,” he said.
“I think it was because of that creed that she fought, and she was a fighter. She wanted to fight for the good and she fought with her lips, yes,” Bacani said.
But he stressed that Santiago was refined and never crass even when she famously used her sharp tongue to take political figures to task for perceived acts of incompetence or stupidity.
“You know, when she fought with her opponents, even when she spoke vitriol against her opponents, she did not drive you to the gutters. She sent you instead to the dictionary or Google,” he said.
Bacani highlighted Santiago’s adherence to rule of law and said that even when she prosecuted fiercely, “she always wanted the process to be fair.”
“No one can deny that in this imperfect world, Miriam stands out really as a princess. A princess stands out not proudly but with dignity,” Bacani said.
The last day of Santiago’s funeral was simple, with no speeches delivered aside from the thanks given by sister Nenalyn Defensor to her doctors and nurses and her “Red Army” of volunteers.
Relatives and prominent personalities, including her vice presidential running mate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his mother former first lady Imelda Marcos, former Sen. Francisco Tatad, and actress Heart Evangelista, were mostly clad in mourning colors of white and black.
The Mass, as well, was colored by a wave of supporters who were clad in the same red T-shirts used during her third and last presidential campaign in May.
On Saturday night, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III paid tribute to Santiago as “the best President our country never had.”
“I think Ma’am Miriam would prefer to be remembered as the best teacher we’ve ever had,” he said.
As a law professor at the University of the Philippines where he was her student, he said Santiago was “the best teacher we’ve ever had.” As a colleague in the Senate, he said he still looked up to her as teacher and learned from her by listening intently to her speeches.
“She doesn’t know that she’s the reason why I keep a dictionary app in my phone,” he said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she would remember Santiago as a “champion of women’s rights.” With reports from Cynthia D. Balana and Christine Avendaño; and Frances Mangosing, Inquirer.net/TVJ
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