Friends, colleagues and former students gathered for a memorial recently in Makati, paying tribute to the wit, passion and delightful quirks of the late writer, author and mentor Norma O. Miraflor who wrote “30” in Sydney on May 2.
Miraflor, 69, succumbed to breast cancer at Mona Vale Hospital in Sydney’s northern suburbs, leaving behind her war-historian-journalist-publisher husband Ian Ward; sisters Zenaida, Araceli and Yolanda; brother Demetrio Jr.; in-laws, nephews, nieces, and her faithful assistant, Lot.
The memorial started with the 6 p.m. Mass at Don Bosco Chapel, after which the attendees congregated at the Bel-Air Makati home of journalist Elizabeth Reyes and her husband Hans Springer.
On the menu were Miraflor’s favorite Spanish cuisine of paella, callos and chorizo; dimsum and Australian red wine.
A Powerpoint presentation from her sister Araceli Miraflor Reyno and photos from her brother Jun provided an insight into Miraflor’s family life, favorite songs and achievements.
Writer Gregorio Brillantes recalled that his first conversation with Miraflor at Sunburst Publications in the early ’70s was to remind her of the magazine’s deadline, to which she retorted, “BS!”
“We know, of course, that there was nothing ‘BS’ about Norma,” Brillantes said, noting her straightforward manner, no-nonsense approach and integrity.
Being both Palanca awardees, Brillantes said he could reread Miraflor’s short stories and enjoy them each time.
“She was the best produced by UST’s Philets,” he said, referring to the University of Santo Tomas’ Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, from which Miraflor graduated magna cum laude in 1966.
Food editor and journalist Norma Olizon-Chikiamco remembered Miraflor disliked people who were pretentious, citing examples the attendees seemed to agree with.
No turning back
Chikiamco recalled that for Miraflor, there seemed to be no turning back when she left the Philippines for Singapore in the mid-’70s to take up her post as editor of Female, the island republic’s most prestigious magazine for women, and subsequently as editorial director of the magazine’s publisher, MPH Publications.
In Singapore, Miraflor met businesswoman Emma Matias, with whom she shared regular contact. Matias would be instrumental in bringing the biggest change to Miraflor’s private life.
“I introduced Ian, who happened to be a friend, to Norma,” Matias proudly beamed.
(Another friend, at the time in Singapore and now based in Amsterdam, Elsa Buenaventura noted in an e-mail of how Ward and Miraflor seemed to complement each other—“They were inseparable.”)
Book editor Elizabeth Reyes also worked in Singapore for Diners Club and she recalled that, between her and Miraflor, they were running the best-quality magazines on offer then.
Her former students at St. Theresa’s College-Quezon City—Concepcion Dalupan, Elenita Porciuncula, Brenda Reyes, Evelyn Romero, Rosalie Roth and Evelyn Opilas—remembered their teacher in Poetry for her long red nails; her mastery of the subject; and her fashion sense.
STC-QC had just opened its college department in 1966, and as freshmen they were among Miraflor’s first students on her first year of teaching on campus.
They recalled that no one in their batch seemed to cut Miraflor’s Poetry class; that her favorite phrase, “in other words,” in hindsight, referred to her favorite song, “Fly Me to the Moon”; and that she was deeply engaged with her students, even with their seemingly naughty interpretations of poetic lines.
Roth, who is president of Makati Medical Center, linked Miraflor’s choice to go the way she did with the philosophic discussions on death many years ago between 16- to 17-year-old college freshmen and their 19- or 20-year-old teacher, little realizing the impact poetry would have on their future lives.
Miraflor notched second place in the 1972 Palanca Memorial Awards for her short story in Filipino, “Kumpisal”; and in 1979 for her short story in English, “The Other Woman.”
Her books include “Available Light (The Life of Ela Cruz)”; “Remembered Songs and Other Stories”; and “Island of Wives.”
She co-authored books with her husband: “De La Salle: The Tradition, The Legacy, The Future”; and “Slaughter & Deception at Batang Kali.”