Last Sunday, I found out quite by chance that my dear aunt, Elena Roces Guerrero, widow of my late uncle Dr. Mario Xavier Guerrero, an elder brother of my mother, had passed away last 8 July, and no one had the kindness to tell me. I was not out of town, my cell phone has not been maliciously blocked by any of my Guerrero, Roces, and Cruz relatives. Yet, I received no message from any of those three branches of our extended family.
I happened upon one of my nephews, Fernan Guerrero, at the Manila Polo Club last Sunday. He is the grandson of my Tita Morita (her nickname) so I asked, “How is your Lola? When can I visit her? (She was in isolation since early this year.) As you know, I reminded Fernan, she visited my mother frequently and would bring her favorite food, she would even sing to Mommy. I want Tita Morita to feel that I love her dearly; I want to return the kindness she showered on my mother. I told Fernan that his Tita Cookie (Tita Morita’s only daughter) had promised she would arrange a visit, I’m still waiting, I insisted.
Fernan began to speak in the past tense and I was sort of wondering why, has he forgotten his grammar? He said it was his Tita Cookie who wanted to keep everything quiet; to keep “it” a secret, not to inform anyone. Only then did the full pathos of the situation sink in. Oh, my God, my dear aunt is gone and no one even hinted that she was dying! The Swan of my childhood is gone, cremated, turned to dust and I couldn’t even kiss her goodbye, embrace her for one last time. How cruel can people get!
Tita Morita was a born artist, her paintings were dazzling like her very presence thatshowed up the shabbiness of this world. She rebelled against the false pieties of society. She was a born controversialist and I think it was because her childhood was a wreck. Oftentimes she would tell us how her father, Don Ramon Roces, sent her to England at a very tender age, hired a life-time nanny and never once wrote or called her during those 20 years of virtual exile. When she was called back to the Philippines, it was the Japanese Occupation and she was quickly married off to my uncle Dr, Guerrero. Her life may have looked like a history of frivolity but only to those who did not really know her. Good-bye, dear Tita Morita, I will miss your inexplicably cool turbulence.
This footnote is directed at partylist Congressman Lito Atienza who keeps describing the Botong mural replica at Manila City Hall as a “cheap tarpaulin, a poor copy” of the real mural which is now properly cared for in the National Museum of Fine Arts. Like the restoration of the Botong mural, the replica was financed by the TIEZA, thanks to former Secretary of Tourism Ramon Jimenez. It was made by Mr. B. Toda (an expert in the field) using a hi-tech digital technique and special photographic paper. IT IS NOT A CHEAP TARPAULIN NOR A CHEAP COPY. You will be surprised at how much it cost. I confess it was my idea to have a “certified true copy,” so to speak, because I did not want to leave the walls of Bulwagang Villegas (later Bulwagan ng Katipunan) completely bare. Mr. Toda made a faithful copy, the colors may be a tad brighter than the original, but it is an exact copy, nonetheless. If the City of Manila wants it back, there are very vital requirements to fulfil because the Botong mural is a declared National Cultural Treasure. End of story, I hope.