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98-year-old matriarch passes away in Bacolod City

/ 09:51 AM November 07, 2011

The matriarch of the Osmeña clan, Lourdes dela Rama Osmeña,  passed away  yesterday  at the age of 98 in Bacolod City.  She was  in a private hospital  there  for the past four years, after suffering pneumonia.

The widow of former senator and Cebu City mayor Sergio “Serging” Osmena Jr. was  known  by her  pet name  “Inday” in Negros and Cebu.


Her five children –  Sen. Serge Osmeña III,  Maria Victoria “Minnie” Osmeña-Stuart, Esteban “Stevie”, Cebu City Rep. Tomas Osmeña, and Georgia  – were on their way  to Bacolod for the vigil wake as of press time.

Funeral arrangements are still being discussed, but Georgia, the youngest daughter, said her mother didn’t want cremation and may be buried in the Osmeña mausoleum in Cebu City with her late husband, Serging.


“She was a gracious lady, who never interfered in the political affairs of my Dad,” said Georgia.

“She was old school about staying out of the limelight.”

Packed in Georgia’s luggage was one of her mother’s  vintage gowns, a 1950s Ramon Valera terno in deep violet raw silk  and butterfly sleeves for the late matriarch to wear as she lies in state  at the Redemptorist Church in Bacolod.

The couture gown was a memento of  the privileged life led by Lourdes, who was born in Molo, Iloilo to a wealthy family with extensive landholdings in Negros Occidental.

Her father Esteban was a Philippine senator and founder of the Dela Rama Steamship Company, the country’s largest shipping firm at the time.

When Lourdes, the middle of five children, married at the age of 29, Serging who was 26, was a rising political star.

While she never joined the campaign stomps of her spouse, (the only exception was during Serging’s run for the presidency against Ferdinand Marcos in 1969), she led  an active social life in Manila  and Cebu.


“She loved to dance,” recalled Georgia –  ballet, jazz, Filipino folk dances and  ballroom dancing.  The Bayanihan Dance Troupe would celebrate her birthday with a performance “and mommy, of course, was the star.”

In her 50s, Lourdes was still devoted to ballet classes and had a private trainer and a practice room at home, according to her daughter.

“She was very disciplined about her figure.  She’d just have broiled fish and vegetables for lunch. When we’d travel together, she would bring along an exercise mat to do stretches,” she said.

Georgia, a realtor, ran for Cebu City mayor in the May 2010 elections, an unsuccessful bid.

“I didn’t tell her I ran. She was very much against it,” Georgia said, recalling how her mother would repeatedly advise her against joining politics.

Elder brother, Congressman Osmeña, said he was relieved that  he and wife Margot did not proceed last Nov. 3 with their travel plans  to the United States for his bi-annual medical checkup. Otherwise he would have had to swing right back for the funeral.

“She was 98.  Not many can reach that age.  Lig-on gyud siya,” said the former mayor.

He described his mother as a very private person, who shied away from the limelight even as she belonged to one of the wealthiest clans in Negros.

“I don’t really like to discuss this too much because my mother had a very private life even when my father was in different positions in government,” he said.

“Not many people know that she was the daughter of a senator, and that their family owned the De La Rama Lines during the pre-World War II era,” he said.

Serging Osmeña served as Cebu governor, three terms as Cebu City mayor,  and as congressman of Cebu City. When Martial Law was declared, the family  was forced to live in the United States.  He died at the age of 67 in March 26, 1984 at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

According to Georgia, their mother developed business acumen when her father exposed her at an early age to the family shipping business.  She was overseeing their farm and other properties in Negros until her health became frail.

Up till then, the Osmeña matriarch was “strong”, very talkative and curious about what was happening around her, said Georgia, who would visit Bacolod.

Lourdes was hospitalized on Dec.  9, 2007 for pneumonia and osteoporosis. She remained bedridden  for four years.

In the last year, she was less responsive. It was an ordeal for her to talk because of tubes attached to her throat.

In a recent visit to Bacolod, Georgia said she whispered to her mother, “Mom, you know what, you can take a rest already. Don’t worry about me.”

Yesterday, while nurses were bathing her, the matriarch made  a deep sigh and stopped breathing. She died at 9:30 a.m. at the Riverside Medical Center in Bacolod City.

“It was a peaceful death.  I guess it was just old age,” Georgia told Cebu Daily News.

She said she would  e-mail her children and Lourdes’ other grandchildren who are out of the country to inform them about the family loss, even as news bulletins flashed on the Internet hours after the  death of the former senator’s widow.

Tomas and wife Margot, with their son Miguel, were scheduled to  take the 6 p.m. flight from Cebu to Bacolod, the same flight as Georgia.Marian Z. Codilla, Eileen Mangubat and Correspondent Edison delos Angeles

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