One night in May 2014, I caught a glimpse of Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc in the newsroom on my way up the iconic Inquirer stairs to the research department where I was an intern.
I was starstruck. There is quite a distance between Zamboanga City, where I come from, and Makati City where the Inquirer is located, so up until then, I had seen LJM’s face only in photos on the Internet.
Toward the end of the internship, LJM invited us interns to attend an editorial assessment meeting so we would learn more about news writing and have an idea about how things worked in the editorial department.
She was welcoming and kind, to an extent that she gave each one of us Inquirer giveaways like umbrellas and read-along shirts. She also gave me a beautiful blue dress, which always reminds me of her exquisite taste in fashion everytime I see it.
I am not sure if it is safe to say this, but from my internship days up to her last day, LJM had shown that she cared about me.
She always responded to my inquiries, text messages, and e-mails. She knew how to make my little achievements sweeter by telling me things like “I wish I could have spent more time with you but our pork barrel series kept me busy… I congratulate your parents for having a daughter like yourself,” “I will try my best to put you on our [Inquirer] scholarship as you do seem deserving,” and “Thank you for crediting the Inquirer in your time of triumph. You are a girl after my own heart!”
I do not completely know the reasons behind her trust and love for me. I still ask myself, how could she tell that I am a committed writer? How did she find something in me that I myself could not see (yet)?
On May 26, 2015, I came back to Inquirer for my first day of work. It was a very special day for me as it marked another stage of my life, a new challenge, a new beginning. And LJM was definitely a big part of it.
I was an editorial production assistant at first. Now I am an editorial administration assistant of the News Daydesk. And each day has been different.
My bylined stories have come out in the Inquirer. I love what I have been doing, and I love the people I work with and for.
I will never forget how LJM, as smart, brave and respected as she was, could be so appreciative about the work of the people in the newsroom. She would always say “thank you” every night.
Having a different religion from the rest of the editorial staff (I am a Muslim), I can say that her attention and care were not reserved for any one class, religion or social status.
My last conversation with LJM was on the phone. When she learned that I would spend the holidays here in Manila, she invited me to dinner or noche buena on Dec. 24. She said she would introduce me to her family.
I got excited and gladly accepted the invitation. I knew that was a rare chance.
Dec. 24 came and we in the editorial staff finished our tasks earlier than usual because everyone wanted to go home for Christmas.
As for me, I waited in the lobby for 8 p.m., which was the expected time I would be picked up at the office to go to LJM’s home.
At 8:20 p.m., I tried to contact LJM again to follow up on the car pickup, but her number could not be reached.
I waited and waited but no one came for me. At 10 p.m., I left for home. I texted her “Thank you for the invitation.”
When I arrived home, I received a text message from a colleague that LJM had passed away that night. I did not want to believe it, but when I checked my Facebook news feed, I broke down as there were too many posts about her passing, including one on the Inquirer.net Facebook account.
I had missed a chance to spend time with her and tell her how thankful I am for everything she has done, not only for me but for the country. I was also not able to hug her the way she hugged me from the back after I gave her a poem I wrote for her on her birthday last September.
Ma’am, thank you for everything you have done for us. I will always remember you, the things you taught us and our moments in the newsroom.
Though it was the “last chapter” of your life, I am happy that I became a part of it.
May we adopt your ways and courage so your legacy can live on.