People still ask me where I learned to walk and how I prepared for the Miss International title which I won 50 years ago. Those questions never fail to surprise me. Who else could have taught me how to walk but my mother? And because she also taught me to be proud of being Filipino, that was the best preparation a Philippine representative, to anywhere, could have had.
My siblings and I have this private joke—we are graduates of the “Carmen Guerrero Nakpil Finishing School,” where classes were held 24/7; in fact, they may still be going on.
As a mother-teacher, CGN was meticulous about good manners and right conduct, respect for elders and for one’s peers.
She is disciplined, and punctuality is one of her obsessions. She taught us the importance of self-reliance, of economic and emotional independence. She stressed the value of honesty, integrity, courage, self-respect and dignity, and compassion for the less privileged. Of course, we had to get good grades in school.
CGN must have learnt a lot from her own parents and grandparents, who were products of the Revolution and the First Philippine Republic. Lessons in Philippine history and culture permeated our daily lives; we were domestic tourists, we patronized local products, we enjoyed those historical commemorations at Luneta and other national shrines. Inevitably, she imbued us with “sentimiento nacional” (to use Rizal’s words) which simply means that one has to strive for excellence in school and at work for the sake of the country, for the common good, for national unity.
We were taken to the theater, to art exhibits and concerts of Filipino artists, and sent abroad, whenever possible, to broaden our horizons.
We had to learn to analyze and discuss current and international affairs, to converse with our elders without fear of expressing our own opinions, always with respect.
CGN may sound irreverent to those who do not know her, but she is God-fearing, compassionate and just. She has a marvelous sense of humor, an unusual talent for irony.
She is the best writer in English, of the Philippines, though humbly protests that her late brother, Ambassador Leon Ma. Guerrero, was the most outstanding.
CGN never learned to cook but is an expert at planning meals and banquets. She is not an affectionate mother but is, surprisingly, a doting grandma and great grandmother. However, we, her offsprings, have never doubted that she loves each one of us deeply.
Thanks to her, the zealous, indomitable mother-teacher, we know we are Filipinos, are proud of it, and do not wish to be anything else.