Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc said, “Send a gorgeous photo.” That was three weeks ago, when I still had hair. Thank goodness we had a shot to remind me of how things can turn on a dime. So now I am almost totally bald again.
Some of you may have heard that I am in the hospital with cancerous lesions in the brain. Yes, it is true, and the outpouring of prayers and love soar to me through time and space. But I would prefer to defer writing about that now, as I promised to give Tina Monzon-Palma an exclusive interview on her “Talk Back” show on ANC, which should air Tuesday, April 2, at 7 p.m. I am, after all, a creature of media, and I hope that my little witness will help affirm the glory of God.
I texted Letty that, as corny as it sounds, I wanted to call this column “Shine.” There have been so many wonderful and radiant moments and, more importantly, persons who shine through our lives and cast a glow through the haze of our times, and I would so like to share them with you.
The two brightest and most loving don’t even know I am writing about them today (boy, am I going to be lagot!). I guess you could say that they are “BFFs,” and have been forever.
There’s my “enang Moicy,” godmother, dearest friend, shopping buddy through the second-hand flea markets of Rome, and the mud of 168’s streets (you haven’t lived till the icky green slime washes over your sandaled feet in the December rush!), balikbayan box sharer, prayer partner, known to others as the indefatigable H.E. Ambassador Mercy Tuason.
AND—gee, she is going to kill me—her best friend, THE Bea Zobel.
These two are the wackiest bright lights I know, and they have been through such scrapes together—loving, laughing, crying, reaching out to others to radiate with God’s love without trumpets or fanfare.
I first met Mercy during the coup attempts that took place in Makati. She had joined our Center for Peace prayers, and I thought, “Wow. Big fish.” I was totally cowed—covering it up, of course—by this beautiful woman, who was one of Manila’s 400 and always on the best-dressed list.
But I was on fire, and all I could think was, “Another one bites the dust,” and in my loud American way, pushed my way to her.
She would cry at our prayers, and I could sense the pains of her heart. She would attend all my talks. Sitting in the front row with tears running down her cheeks, she would whip out the prayer card at the end and hold it up to remind me to consecrate the audience to Mama Mary. Most of all, through the years, she loved me, tolerated my loud voice, bent her head silently at my arrogance, and was just there.
She is 82, and my kids marvel at how weak I am compared to her. “Maaa. Look at Tita Mercy!”
Today she is still a whirlwind, having been given the sole responsibility by the Vatican of bringing the relic of Sta. Clara to the Philippines. She is traveling the breadth of our archipelago: Basilan, Cebu, Betis, Lipa, Tarlac. She got sick from eating too many shells in Zamboanga, and was up at 3 a.m. to fly somewhere.
She was begging priests and nuns at midnight to allow our people to be able to touch Chiara, the Light of the World. This is the first time in 800 years that the relic has left Italy. And, it has come to us! Go figure. Nothing is by accident. We are meant to be a light.
Mercy and Bea became friends when Bea came to embrace our land and our people. Let me tell you that Bea literally did! Lepers, runny-nosed children, old toothless hags, maids, young mentally challenged inmates of Elsie Gaches village—anyone would be gathered in that all-encompassing embrace and hear that great booming chuckle of her heart.
With great glee she would be like a child, enjoying the benefits of their wealth, even as she never forgot that she is there for others.
“Gels. Gels. Look at this!” Excited about the yacht they got because she had an easier way to transport her beloved Mangyans from Mindoro to the hospital in Manila.
She once dragged me, in hopes of helping me lose weight, to blood tests, but of course we had to stop first at the room of some poor old couple she picked up from Tarlac, and she swept the old lady into her embrace.
She even made bantay in a London hospital over her maid, who was sick, and received a reprimand from some wealthy Asian who said she was setting a bad example. Upon returning home from a trip, I heard her boom, “Flaviana!” and saw her sweep her maid into her arms. She has traveled to Ilocos to check that the money her maids send home is properly used for construction. She is, to me, a true Filipina.
The scrapes these two have been in! There’s a photo of these two wacky ladies when they went to help those nuns who had been captured by the rebels. The promotor, Mercy, had the brilliant idea of dressing as nuns (she does this from time to time, you know); hence, that image of two meek ladies who couldn’t hurt a fly. HA!
Another incident taught me a great big lesson on how we are all really part of a supernatural plan.
We were in Italy, and I was so excited to expose Bea to Padre Pio. We had just a few hours to drive to San Giovanni Rotondo, do a quick tour and drive right back. But when we got there it was noon, and everything shuts down for several hours for Italians, so I wanted to skip the Mass so Bea could see the museum and room of Padre Pio.
But Mercy insisted we go to Mass, and I was exasperated. Then Mercy came excitedly to say she got a Pinay nun to ask the friar if we could still go up to the museum. So we went into the elevator when this pompous woman in a great cloak demanded we leave, as she and her friends were to use it. Bea, of course, quietly left. Needless to say, I seethed, and said to myself, “Did she know she just threw out one of the richest women in Asia?”
We got to the museum, and as we approached Padre Pio’s room, a great big monk and an old lady were allowed into the room by a friar who had the key. Immediately, Mercy went into full operational mode! With great charm and in silence, she pointed to us, begging to be allowed in. The friar raised his eyebrows, and Bea immediately whispered, “Oh no, I am not worthy! I snapped, “Bea, shut up!”
We got in, touched his shoes. His bed. The sink. Everything. And I was so ashamed. Had we not gone to Mass, had Bea not humbly stepped out of the elevator, we would not have been granted that unique and singular privilege of grace.
There is more about these two. There was the time Bea packed all her shoes, and had to beg the front desk clerk to sell her the shoes off her feet, and so much more. But these two glow, and what radiates from their hearts helps light our way. It’s time to shine.
A piece of candy. A sandwich for a poor child outside a fast-food window. A smile. These will help dispel the darkness, and will fulfill the promise of who we are meant to be—a light to the world.