When I was little, every time someone bullies or hurts me, without second thoughts, I would look at that person from head to toe, and admonish them in the presence of other students who are eating their packed lunches.
I became notorious for using fiery words during my elementary and high school, even until my college days though I became a bit demure and meek. My inspiration and model back then was Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Let me tell you a story.
I was in Grade 3 when I first ran as a Senator in our class elections. My adversaries back then were from Grades 5 to 6. I was the youngest and the smallest at that time—perhaps due to malnutrition. Thus, I was the last candidate to deliver my platform. I told the electorate:
“Behold, promises are made to be broken. I am asking the sky now to hit my opponents with lighting, if they are lying.”
Then a lightning struck, disturbing the solemnity of the miting de avance. On the next day, I found out that I won. Again, my inspiration then was Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Even during the toughest times, my faith to the Lady Senator did not falter. When there’s no food to eat, I think of it as a sign of climate change affecting food security. When there’s no electricity in our house, I think of it as a manifestation of the government’s incompetence in addressing energy problems. We seriously didn’t have proper supply of electricity until I graduated from high school. Despite all of these, I know that Sen. Miriam was with me—pushing me to study harder and not surrender.
Here’s another story.
I was ambitious, that’s why when I was in high school, I ran as President despite contradictions because I was only in my sophomore year. There were three of us competing for the highest position in the school. I was afraid then; I was still the smallest and the thinnest. But I saw Sen. Miriam in the horizon.
I knew I needed to win.
It was a bloody speech.
At the end of the canvassing of votes, I was proclaimed President. I know that it was Sen. Miriam who made me win. However, just to note, it was my friend Alfred Dicto who became the Fidel Ramos of my life, defeating me in my second attempt for re-election.
For sure, without Sen. Miriam in my head, I wouldn’t be able to surpass all the trials in my life. She was the only person—despite the absence of many—who remained at my side. I even memorized all her speeches and I impersonate her perfectly, gaining awards by doing so.
Why am I doing this?
I already learned my lessons. Before I pursued development work, I was a nurse, taking care of critically-ill patients. I have witnessed both life and death almost every day. I learned that while you still have the chance, go and say your piece—do it now, because time is a bitch. Today, you could be sleeping in bed; tomorrow, you could be inside a coffin.
My dad passed away last year due to lung cancer, just two hours before I reached home. It was the most painful experience I’ve ever had. In my hand during that time was a poem. I wrote it while I was en route to Iloilo. I never had the chance to hug him. I failed to deliver the best care for him.
This time, I don’t know how, but I want to care for Sen. Miriam. Not only because she is a previous Senator, but because she is someone who influenced me in so many ways. I want to give her the most meticulous care she deserves. I will provide her adequate oxygenation like how she provided life and excitement in the Senate. I will monitor her electrolytes, like how she monitored the financial spending of our country. Feed her if necessary, like how she fed students with wisdom. Give her bed bath, like how she made “sabon” corrupt public officials during hearings.
And once she is already comfortable, I want to read the Constitution to her, before she sleeps.
I may be sad right now, praying ardently that the Lady Senator will soon fully recover. That God will help her because she contributed a lot to this country.
Nevertheless, I know inside of me that the Miriam spirit will always be alive—burning like a torch, ready to share the fire with everyone else.
I hope that my little story will reach you, Madam. Like how you touched my life back when I was in Grade 3.
Thank you so much.