Llita Logarta: Our memories of a wise mother hen
Friends and protegés remember the much-loved Lifestyle editor as a prayer warrior, traveler, and kind soul who ‘never stopped giving’By Vangie Baga-Reyes, Alex Vergara
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Llita Logarta was Inquirer Lifestyle editor from 1987-1994. She passed away at dawn last Sunday, April 7.
“Mrs. L., that was what we fondly called her when she became Inquirer’s Lifestyle and Entertainment editor. She was like a mother to us—Susan de Guzman, Vangie Baga-Reyes and me—doting, caring, loving, understanding. We were her three staff reporters, yes, all girls.
“I remember when her youngest son, Nicky, died, she was really down. Even when she went back to work, she would cry in the middle of closing the pages and work hard to come to a halt, albeit only momentarily. But that went on for days.
“And yes, it took a long while before she stopped wearing Nicky’s black diver’s watch, never mind if it was really big for her. Never mind if she was wearing a dress. Days after he died, she got to write a long essay about her dear Nicky. Months later, she got to take care of a baby boy whom she lovingly named Nicky, too.
“Now that she will surely get to see Nicky again, Mrs. L. cannot be happier. She certainly missed her youngest son. And for sure, Nicky will only be so glad to see his mom again.” —Leah Salterio, publicist and former Inquirer Lifestyle staff
“Mrs. L was such a sweet, caring and nurturing person everyone loved to be with. She was the reason I became a reporter for the Lifestyle section 22 years ago, and I’ve never looked back.
“It’s easy to relive the good old memories I had with Mrs. L, which was made more special by my friendship with Susan de Guzman and Leah Salterio, her two other angels.
“In my three years under Mrs. L, I never heard her bitch. She was always gracious to people—columnists, contributors, callers, PRs, colleagues, delivery boys, messengers.
“She would always exude wisdom and confidence in every good, bad or unexpected happenings in the office. She was such a cool boss.
“Every time she would travel, local or international, she’d always bring home three identical pasalubongs— bags, skirts, shirts, bracelets, earrings, trinkets.
“Her wedding gift to me and Marc was a pastel painting of a window overlooking a garden which Mrs. L painted on one of her trips to New York. Aptly dubbed ‘A View from My Window,’ the painting still hangs in our living room.
“I also remember Mrs. L texting me, not once, but twice when I wrote about her grandson being a successful celebrity chef in 2008. I simply cited that chef Niño Logarta is the grandson of former Lifestyle editor Llita Logarta. Mrs. L texted me the day the story came out: ‘Thanks my dear for mentioning my name. I never thought I’d see my name again in Inquirer.’
“Today, Mrs. L, you see your name again. In big bold letters. We thank you for all the happy memories and the break, which triggered a series of fortunate events in my life. Rest well. We know you’re in a better place now with your Creator.”—Vangie Baga-Reyes, Lifestyle staff
“I first met Mrs. Lita Logarta (she was still just using one letter ‘l’ for her first name then) in Journalism class at the University of the Philippines in the mid-1980s. Our teacher in feature writing, Ms. Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, had asked Ms. Logarta to substitute for her that afternoon.
For the better part of three hours, we listened to this genial woman as she related her experiences working for different publications and answered questions on how to develop stories. One classmate, decades later, would always recall how Ms. Logarta ran her fingers over her pearl necklace as she talked to our class back then. It was an indelible image of her quiet elegance.
“Little did I know that just a few years later, that same gracious lady who dressed well would become my boss. As editor of the Inquirer’s Lifestyle section, she would assign stories for us to write and, from Monday to Saturday, we would ‘close’ the pages together, checking the layout and making sure that the periods and commas were in their proper places. The hours were long, the work challenging, but it all paid off when we won a Catholic Mass Media Award as Best Lifestyle Section.
“But more than just our editor, Ms. Logarta was a second mother to us. At no time did this become more apparent than when the big earthquake of 1990 struck. We ducked under our desks as the ground shook and the glass windows began to creak. She began praying, and we joined in. When things had settled and our work was done for the day, she declared that she would be taking us home.
“But Leah Salterio lived in Las Piñas and I lived in Novaliches, on opposite ends, so both of us assured her it was okay, we could just go our separate ways. But the mother hen that she was, she insisted, and we didn’t have the heart to turn her down, as she wanted to bring us home to our parents safe and sound.
“Ms. Logarta was very creative and enjoyed craft-making. On several Christmases, she gifted us with holiday logs that she had handmade herself. The logs consisted of dried twigs that her household staff had gathered near her home. She would string these twigs together with pieces of twine on both ends, then decorate the log with assorted ornaments like miniature doves, poinsettia , holly berries and real pine cones. These charming logs would remain fixtures in our home for many Christmases after.
“Our boss also loved to sketch— flowers, mostly. Later on, she would take up painting lessons, too, and even hold a few exhibits of her works. She loved giving us sets of cards with her floral design printed on paper handcrafted by the special kids of Cupertino. Those cards have become precious keepsakes, as I just can’t bear the thought of writing on them and giving them away.
“For the bridal shower of a writer, she took charge of the decoration. She brought a bunch of pink umbrellas cut out from cartolina, each of which she’d attached to a strip of pink ribbon. She then asked us to tack the ribbons onto the ceiling so that the umbrellas would hang over the buffet table. It made a pretty picture. But clueless, I asked, why umbrellas? “Because it’s a shower,” she beamed.
“She may have had a gentle demeanor, but Ms. Logarta had a hearty laugh. If she found something really funny, that laughter would ring out. She was such a cool boss, she would go along with our occasional whims. When the three of us, her staff writers had a “hat phase,” we asked her to bring a hat to wear, too. The next day, that’s exactly what she did. She brought her hat and posed with us for pictures with a ready smile.
She knew when to be serious, but she also knew when to lighten up and have a bit of fun. It may have been a silly moment, but still, we have those pictures to look at and remember her by today.
As we bid farewell, we take our hats off to one of the kindest and warmest people we have ever met, our beloved boss and second mom. Thank you, Mrs. L, for all the wonderful memories! You are already missed.”—Susan de Guzman, freelance media consultant and former Inquirer Lifestyle staff
“Twenty-five years ago, in December, 1987, Tita Llita Logarta, then Lifestyle editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, gave me my first column which she called ‘Purely Personal.’ It was a personal experience which related the miracle of Our Lady of Manaoag in my life in April, 1985. The PDI offices then were in the Banco Filipino Building in Intramuros. Little did Tita Llita and I know that that first column would trigger an avalanche of 200 letters a week asking for novenas to Our Lady of Manaoag, patroness of Pangasinan.
“The novenas were free; all the readers did was to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. On that small table in my room at the Guerrero Apartments, I would answer every letter coming from all over the country in the next five years.
“In the meantime, the shrine in Manaoag in Pangasinan was filling up with people, which impelled the Dominican Fathers to build a Pilgrim Hall, a building housing religious artifacts.
“And so it was that the column grew, which helped poor seminarians get benefactors through my column and become priests. Churches were built because generous readers would respond to the call for help.
“Thanks to Tita Llita for giving me the column which, through the grace of God, transformed me spiritually, as well. I became very close to her, and she treated me as a member of her family. I became close to her daughters Michele and Nanette. Even when Tita Llita retired from the Inquirer, I would still meet her for lunch, talk to her on the phone.
“Then, she got very sick. The last time I saw her was at the Capitol Medical Center months ago, where she was confined. The angels came and fetched her at 4:35 a.m. on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, and brought her to heaven. Tita Llita, pray for us here on earth.”—Josephine Darang, Inquirer columnist and good friend
Taking to painting
“I met Tita Llita in the early ’80s. Her daughters Nanette and Michelle were schoolmates at UP Diliman. I became particularly close to Nanette since we were both members of the UP Repertory Co.
“By sheer proximity, the Logartas resided on Ifugao Street, La Vista. At that time, our gang would always hang out in their well-appointed home. Initially, we were intimidated whenever she was around. We considered their family ‘bigshots.’
“Tita Llita was the Inquirer Lifestyle Editor and Nanette’s dad, Mariano Logarta, was a Marcos-era assemblyman. In time, she became used to our constant hangouts in their home, and we always looked forward to their yummy garlic chicken.
“We were always awed by her stories whenever she got home—what function she attended, who she saw, talked to, what stories she was working on. We were very impressionable kids at that time and everything she said seemed so worldly and sophisticated.
“But she always had an air of ease and nonchalance. After college, I would accompany Nanette to the Inquirer offices on Romualdez Street, Manila, to visit her. When I told her that I had decided to pursue a career in fashion and costume design, she immediately arranged an interview and photo shoot in my teeny, tiny shop. It was the biggest thrill of my life! My first media article, Inquirer pa!
“Looking back, my answers were so juvenile and naive. I can imagine that she was probably amused, but she was never condescending, always supportive, with kind words, a gentle nudge.
“I saw another side of her persona when her son Nicolas died in a tragic vehicular accident. They had moved to Marymount by that time, and she was inconsolable. That event really affected her and it took her a long time to get her groove back.
“I think her painting became her therapy, and when she retired, she built a small studio in her home. She became prodigious in her art, so much so that she was able to mount quite a few exhibits. I feel guilty that I wasn’t able to visit her in her later years.
“Nanette had moved to the US, and we were caught up in our respective lives. I finally visited her last year, but she was already confined. It was hard to see an icon of one’s youth ravaged by time and age.
“I came with Rory Quintos and Amy Uy. Nanette had come home, and we thought Tita Llita was at her deathbed already. But resilient as she was, she recovered and the family was able to bring her home after a month or so. Now, she is really gone.
“As our UP gang awaits Nanette’s arrival, we shall all bid farewell to our Tita Llita. I can only hope to live a life as full and well as she had. Goodbye, Tita Llita, I hope I didn’t disappoint you. I hope I made you proud. Thank you for believing that the pudgy boy had potential. Thank you po!” — Eric Pineda, fashion and costume designer
“Tita Llita. I remember her most for her serene presence in media functions. Her quiet elegance stood out. In our little conversations, she would gush about her children and their promising careers. ‘They are my real gems and they keep me whole,’ I remember her emphatically saying.
“Tita Llita was forthright about her paintings, often wondering aloud if her brisk sales meant her works were, indeed, worthy to acquire or people were just returning the kind favors she bestowed on them. Nevertheless, she had an eye for colors and composition, which was evident in her chic La Vista home where her cow collectibles gleefully adorned her kitchen.”—Mag Cruz Hatol, Anak TV secretary general and National Council for Children’s Television Chair
“Love of travel is what first connected Tita Lita and me. She adored discovering places and culture and writing about them; while my passion is putting these kinds of experiences together. We hit it off at our first encounter. She was genuine, sincere and had great respect for the PR profession in which I worked at the time.
“Our first trip to Bangkok in 1994, where we spent five days together, confirmed to me the wonder of a woman she was. We snaked through the alleys of Chatuchak market looking to buy a Siamese cat for her daughter Michele. She sifted through silk scarves as pasalubong for her office mates, and picked out orchids for her friends.
“She talked about her children, beaming with pride, and she was all ears to my starry eyed narrative of Michael, the man I was going out with then.
In one of our jewelry shop stops, she handed me a tie clip and suggested that I buy it for Michael to let him know that I thought of him. I wasn’t sure, but she was convincing. ‘It’s a small thing,’ she said, her words filled with wisdom, ‘but he would appreciate it.’ And appreciate, he did. Michael and I got married a few months later!
“In time we had a family. We moved out of Manila to Hong Kong, and Tita Lita’s thoughtfulness crossed the seas. She’d send handmade greeting cards or her beautiful paintings or Philippine-theme T-shirts for my sons. She never forgot. She never stopped giving in so many ways.
“On a trip to Singapore in 1997, she asked me to call her daughter Marge and to introduce myself to her. That call was magic and opened new doors. Marge and I became very close friends, professionally and personally; I felt I was one with the Logartas, and Marge linked me up with her friends who became my best friends. Truly, all good things lead to Tita Lita.
“On her visits to Hong Kong, she would stay with us and brighten our home with her gentleness and kindness. We’d sit in our balcony watching the ships sail by and would talk at length. She had beautiful stories of her travels, remembering people and faces and what’s behind those smiles. She’d transport me to places she’d been to, her words filled with colors and amazing details.
“The last time I saw Tita Lita, her body was frail, her words few. But her mind was at work. She held my hand, looked me in the eyes and smiled.
“A beautiful soul has passed, but the memories shall never fade. Tita Lita gave us friendship, love, kindness and gentleness. She has now traveled back home. Blessed are we who were part of her beautiful journey.”—Tina Di Cicco, close family friend