Hail and farewell, Letty
W-H-A-T?! I said, and sat up when my husband told me the newspaper headline. “ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED,” I texted Lorna.
Years ago, I met Father Aveni, an Italian priest. He was old when I met him, but never seemed to grow older as the years passed. I believed he was going to live forever. Such was the way I felt for Letty—unsinkable and meant to be at the helm of the Philippine Daily Inquirer forever.
It took all my focus to continue saying my rosary and instinctively include Letty in my decade for my beloved dead, and more self-discipline to continue my lumbar strengthening exercises for a spinal condition, before dashing to the newspaper to get the details. “Lumbar 1 and 2 fracture in spinal column” drew me to her. My problem lay in lumbar 4 and 5. Every now and then we must have been sisters in pain. But that was not the tie that bound.
Letty was College ’60 from St. Theresa’s College (STC), Manila, which meant that 58 or 59 years ago she once sat in my classroom. Looking at me benignly from the front page, memories floated back. Let me reminisce for Letty. Bear with some uncertainty for we speak of more than half a century ago.
It was rumored that one reason young ladies chose to take “College” at STC was the good-looking college uniform, and it really was. But Letty, I think, didn’t care much about a spanking neat, “ladylike” look as our dean would have it. Her skirt hung slightly loose around the waist, such that her blouse threatened to hang out over her skirt, whose pleats did not look “electric pleated.” Only in her graduation photo was she the demure young lady with cropped hair with a slight pouf on top.
In my class she was not the type who soaked in everything that fell from my lips. Not once did she sidle up to teacher’s desk, as many did, for small talk. She was not exactly restless, but what could someone who knew she knew how to write get from a fledgling Miss David? What could English 1 with its qualities of diction, unity-coherence-emphasis, the four forms of writings, the term paper, etc. really teach her who could learn in a jiffy?
When she did speak, which was not often, she did so in a somewhat raspy, low voice. Because she was no showoff who would make her presence felt, not even in her compositions which I suspect she too easily dashed off, I failed to see that she was one of the rare, gifted types who would “surpass the mentor” beyond imagination.
A hint of guts and the knack to critique, if not to rebel, did show. Asked to write on the legacy of her alma mater, she wrote, besides the “friends … for life,” on “the elitism, the ‘ridiculous’ discipline, as when I coughed in the chapel and a nun turned her head and looked at me.”
The second time I saw Letty was in 1987 at the Catholic Mass Media Awards night. She, Doreen Gamboa Fernandez and myself were finalists for Best Feature Writer. At the end of the event, she sought me out, took my hand and said: “I must congratulate my teacher….” She was then Eggie Apostol’s collaborator at Mr & Ms. And the Philippine Daily Inquirer was soon to go daily.
The third and last time I saw her was at the Ateneo, when ALIWW (Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings) honored Eggie. There, gathered rarely, were Theresian writers. Grabbing the chance, I said, “Picture, picture,” for “Remembrance: St. Theresa’s College Manila 1915-1980,” which Lorna Tirol and I were then editing.
The picture was captioned, left to right, Gloria Garchitorena Goloy, Sylvia Mayuga, yours truly, Angelina Goloy, Lorna K. Tirol, Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc.
From 1992 to 2014 I wrote commentaries for Inquirer Opinion. Never did I bring up the connection to Letty, or ask a favor. Only once, when I wrote “Let’s Lapu-Lapu Together”—Lapu-Lapu being a small eating place right beside the Marquez de Comillas gate where every Theresian hung out between classes for chismis and chichiria—did I mention to editorial assistant Tintin Ang to try Letty, “also a Theresian,” if the column without national significance might be rejected. Never once, too, did I venture to even visit Letty, for who pops in on a VBP (very busy person) just like that? Maybe I should have. I wish I had.
Hail to you, Letty, especially for the Inquirer’s hard-hitting editorials—unbeatable in terms of relevance of topic, background data, and implications, and an A+ for excellent writing! Editorials may be a round-robin thing, but written by you or not, your mark shone through, as it has throughout the paper.
Farewell; too fast, too soon.
Asuncion David Maramba (firstname.lastname@example.org; fax 8284454) is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist.