Page last updated at 12:37 Asia/Manila, Wednesday, 11 April 2012 PH
My mother, Dra. Isabel Malvar Villegas, joined her Creator last February 15, 2012 at 9:09 a.m. at the Makati Medical Hospital where my brother-in-law Francis and Tessie, my sister, brought her after she complained of being unable to breathe. In less than two hours after arriving at the hospital, she departed from this world. She literally just stopped breathing, with the least of suffering. For this peaceful death, we thank God. She was one hundred two years, four months and six days old. With her ends the era of General Miguel Malvar, the last General to surrender to the Americans. My mother was the only surviving child among the eleven children of one of the country's national hero. She herself left six surviving children, thirteen grandchildren and seventeen great grandchildren. To all of us, her descendants, and to all her relatives and friends, she was simply "Lola Chabeng."
I would like to use this column to express our deepest gratitude to the hundreds of relatives, friends and acquaintances who expressed their condolences by being present at the wake in my parents' house in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, sent flowers and Mass cards, and showered us her children and close relatives with numberless signs of affection. I was literally overwhelmed by the countless individuals who told me that my mother had a special love for each one of them. How many times I heard from those who attended the wake: "Mahal na mahal ako ni Lola Chabeng." I do not think they were exaggerating. My mother had a special talent for manifesting her love and concern in very concrete ways to each of the persons who crossed her path. She made deep and lasting friendship with literally hundreds of persons: common people, professionals like her (she was a dentist), priests and bishops, nuns and especially her fellow members in the Catholic Women's League for whom she had a predilection.
She knew how to love with deeds. Whenever she traveled abroad, her luggage would always be overweight because of all the objects she brought home as "pasalubong" for scores of her friends. There were Rosaries, medals, statuettes, cosmetic items, chocolate candies, etc. She had such a photographic memory that she knew which item belonged to which person. Even in her simple visits to "ukay-ukay" sites or Divisoria, as one of her friends recounted to me, she had a list of the sizes of shoes or dresses of the people she had in mind. As my sister Tessie recounted in her eulogy after the Funeral Mass, all the way up to her late nineties, she would organize excursions to far-away places like Ilocos Norte or Cagayan Valley with her barkada, picking them up in a rented van and as a good cook, would prepare sandwiches and other food items (she was an expert cook) to make those trips enjoyable. For her large number of special relatives and friends, she kept a record of their birthdays and never failed to send her signature gift, honey cake, on the birthday of each of them.
Her cheerfulness and humor were contagious. She would pull the leg of her friends, including high ecclesiastical officials. She never failed to shock people when upon being asked how she had managed to live a long, long life, she would always retort that the secret is to eat everything, e.g. lechon, chicharron, kare-kare, dinuguan and all sorts of food loaded with cholesterol. When asked what was the most important sense she did not want to lose, she replied that she did not mind losing her sense of hearing and even eyesight but would dread losing her speech because her longevity could be explained by her propensity to scold at least one person a day. Like a good Batanguena, she could give an erring person a really colorful reprimand. She could also be quite noisy while playing with some of her close relatives the Spanish card game called "tres siete." She complained that as she got older, there were fewer and fewer persons alive who could play this equivalent of poker with her.
Her love for the Pope, the Bishops and priests, nuns and religious and for the whole Church was unflagging. She led the fund campaign to rebuild the parish church of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, traveling far and wide to solicit donations. She also facilitated the building of the National Shrine of Padre Pio in Barrio San Vicente of Sto. Tomas by donating land for the road to the Shrine. She was one of the very first Cooperators of the Prelature of Opus Dei in the Philippines. She had a deep devotion to St. Josemaria Esciva, Founder of Opus Dei, to whom she prayed ceaselessly for all types of favors, material and spiritual, for her relatives and friends. She rarely prayed for her own intentions but was always hounding Heaven for favors for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as well as for her numerous friends. We, her loved ones, are convinced that she went directly to Heaven, having been given by God all the time as well as Sacramental resources to prepare very well for her final encounter with her Creator. We, her children, are very happy that all these good things said about her after her death, had already been communicated to her when she was still on earth with us. We did not wait until the eulogies in the Funeral Mass to say how much we appreciate everything she did for us. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.