Dina Abad’s ‘short story’
Early last February, I went to Medical City to have what turned out to be a fractured hip checked out. Looking at the X-rays, my orthopedic doctor decided to have me confined and scheduled an operation for the next day. On the way to the admissions section, who did we bump into but former budget secretary Butch Abad and his wife, congresswoman Dina.
When I asked what they were doing there, Butch just shrugged and said they wanted to consult with Medical City chairman, former health secretary Alran Bengzon, because of the findings of some tests done on Dina.
Some months later, in the final stages of my physical therapy sessions, I was being wheeled out of the X-ray department after some follow-up procedures when I saw Dina standing by the hospital entrance. She looked rather tired, but seemed otherwise okay. We had seen each other on one or two occasions since the night I was admitted, but never got to talking about what exactly brought them to Medical City that evening. “How are you?” I inquired. “Ay Rina,” said Dina, “it’s a long story and I’ll tell you next time in better circumstances.”
Ay Dina, your long story turned out to be very short indeed. And that “better” occasion never took place for here I am writing about your passing last Sunday due to cancer. No more chance for more “chika,” even if in the course of our years of friendship, there had been many occasions for swapping views and opinions and tidbits about absent friends. The latest of which we had discussed, with other members of Pilipina, was the disheartening state of the nation.
But it turns out your “short” story is but the coda to the longer, richer, more vibrant tale of your life of service, the final years of which had been spent battling impossible odds in the House of Representatives.
Actually, I had heard of you before I even met you. My sister Chona had been part of a group of idealistic students from various institutions who, working from a base in Ateneo, would spend weekends traveling to rural areas and spending time with farmers and farmers’ groups, as part of an overall effort for social reform and rural development. It was Chona who told me stories about you, and by the time I had joined the women’s group Pilipina and met you, a friendship with you and Butch seemed a natural progression.
For all these years, it seems, your life had been a busy and full one, for aside from being the wife of the congressman from Batanes, you yourself had been quite the advocate for the development of the small group of islands at the northern tip of the country. I remember your stories of making trips every day for several days to the airport waiting to see if the plane filled with relief goods for typhoon-devastated Batanes could be allowed to fly.
Memorable was a visit I paid to Batanes as part of Mandy Navasero’s photo safari, and sharing coffee and snacks with you in your beautiful stone house, with an awesome seascape as backdrop. No wonder your voice filled with wonder when you talked about your adopted home.
Much later, when you had taken over Butch’s congressional seat, you bemoaned how your being part of the staunch opposition Liberals had led to Batanes being “punished” for having you as a congresswoman. The Arroyo administration then made it a point to cross out all budget items for districts represented by political opponents, so poor Batanes got no development assistance at all during GMA’s term.
But you were always consistent in your advocacy for causes that lay at the heart of your — actually our generation’s — youthful advocacy: rural development, women’s rights including reproductive rights, anti-corruption measures, social and economic equality, good governance.
And throughout your career in politics, you remained simple in bearing and appearance. You had packed into your life more accomplishments and success than many of your colleagues, all while under the radar. But we, your friends, will always remember and relish your true worth.
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