Farewell, dear Dina
(This piece is a shortened version of the eulogy delivered by the author at the necrological service for Batanes Rep. Dina Abad, in the form of a letter to her husband Butch Abad and their children, at the Ateneo Chapel on Oct. 10.)
It is with heartfelt sorrow that I express our condolences to you and the children. We have prayed for Dina during all the time that your family accompanied her in sickness and in pain. Though now I am certain that she is with our Lord who absolutely loves her, nevertheless for the loved ones she leaves behind the pain persists, and, we will feel her absence for the rest of our lives.
I first met Dina even before I knew you, Butch, at the Ateneo Social Action Center. She was engaged in raising awareness, and made the tasks of organizing and mobilizing people both an art and a science. I had just come back from Latin America, and Dina was eager to learn from other experiences of social change, studying lessons drawn from that continent of revolution and counterrevolution, of social movements and profiles of courage.
It was on campus and in the streets that we forged our friendship as we and other companions marched to the beat of an alternative parliament—that of the streets in an endeavor far larger than ourselves. It was a different time, when steadfast leaders such as Diokno, Tañada and Salonga inspired the youth and galvanized our resolve. We found support from Jesuits at the Ateneo and brave members of other religious congregations who helped us better understand the deeper meaning of our faith. At the same time, Dina kept faith with her convictions and showed unwavering loyalty to you and the children whom she loved more than herself while serving her people.
I recall the evening the dictator fled and the repressive regime fell in 1986. We were together then thinking, “Now the harder part begins.” We shared an aspiration to craft a new way of doing politics. That was why we put our lives on the line. Then, we had no idea that we were embarking on a task of generations.
Dina was always reluctant to stand for office in electoral politics. It somehow went against her grain. Though she was the founding director of the School of Government, there was something in the rough and tumble ways we do politics in our country that felt strange to her. She set the bar high, and compromise was not her cup of tea.
She told it the way she saw it—her principles were her northern star, her manner at times professorial, her approach unrelenting. She felt more at home in the classroom or while working to improve the lives of others, rather than engaging in endless debates in Congress.
But there she was, taking it all as part of the territory, a modern-day female version of a gender-sensitive Don Quixote de la Mancha tilting at the windmills of Batasan Hills. In a sense, her untimely passing was part of her ultimate sacrifice in a life full of giving.
It is one of the heartbreaking and unintended outcomes of our efforts that often we are led to travel paths that put premium on service to others at the cost of time spent with family, and our normal quest for personal happiness. If there are occasions when doubts cross my mind, it is during periods like this when we mourn the passing of people we have learned to love, knowing that precious time has been taken away from them which they could have better enjoyed in the embrace of their loved ones. I saw Dina happiest during your brief visits to family in London, as in Pio’s wedding to Frances where Dina looked splendid, truly and really happy, or, during your academic spell at Harvard in Boston, where the image of little Patsy on a swing outside your apartment—or was it in a park?—is still crystal-clear.
We will miss Dina, more than we can imagine. She was one among the few in our legislature who practiced a “brave brand of politics.” She was principled, and a woman of courage, allowing us to recall what we once said of another woman who broke ground: “Sometimes, the majority is one woman with courage.”
Again, I want to say how sad I am and wish to assure you of our family’s pledge of prayers. There are so many memories that beg to be shared, and one of my regrets is that we were unable to spend more time together to enjoy Dina’s laughter and her banter, her stories, and her dreams.
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Ed Garcia, a framer of the 1987 Constitution, taught at Ateneo and UP, worked at Amnesty International and International Alert in London, and now serves as consultant on the formation of scholar-athletes at FEU Diliman.
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