May 27, 2010
I wish I could write about this topic in the context of the controversial health care reform but now is not the time. Though it’s a word that sends a lot of smoke to people watching what’s going on in Washington these days, I’ll take my chance at waiting till the smoke clears up and the solution to health care reform is more predictable and firm and there- fore, no longer vulnerable to political maneuverings.
Actually, I’d like to talk about the going away party for Consul General Blesila C. Cabrera last Wednesday night, February 10, held at Doubletree Hotel in Oakbrook. The event was efficiently organized and coordinated by two formidable community leaders, Dr. Elenita Rubio and Ms. Norma Manankil, with the support of many others who would gladly do anything for a Consul General who is loved by everyone.
Despite the bad weather ( it snowed 10 to 12 inches the previous night, thus making some of the roads treacherous and the night after much too cold for travel), people who confirmed to come did come. It didn’t matter that they had to drive 3 hours from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to reach the hotel as the couple, Dr. Rodrigo and Mrs. Leony Mata had done. They all came and were obviously happy they did!
Unlike most community events, this party wasn’t a fundraising. It was a simple celebration of love for and appreciation of a government official who came quietly to Chicago on a “bitterly cold and snowy winter evening like this one” as she recalled albeit nostalgically in her speech, and touched her people in more ways than one.
The program was nothing fancy; it was in fact unpretentious, effortless and almost free-flowing. Two songs (or was it 3?) from Dr. Sanchez, a dance exhibi- tion from Drs. Greg and Melinda Tolentino and a special “Chicago Broadway number” from a group of mostly past beauty queens, among them: Lourdes Livas, Luz Nunez, Margie Boerema, Letty Freihaut and prominent community leaders like Anita Rosa, Carmen Estacio, Lucy Macabenta, Imelda Cuevo and two others I’m trying to remember as I write but sorry, I can’t.
There were speeches, of course: Mr. Gene Lee from the Mayor’s Office, Pat Michalski from the Cook CountyTreasurer’s office and Carmen Estacio from the Secretary of State’s were among the firsts to speak. In addition to the organizers, Dr. Elenita Rubio and Norma Manankil, a few select community leaders and two newspaper publishers paid tribute to the Consul General, among them: Adeline Fajardo of Philippine American Cultural Founda- tion, Joy Manuel of the Philippine Independence Week Committee, Merle Perricone of the Philippine Week Committee and Philippine Nurses Association of Illinois, Met Castelo of the PIWC Foundation, Dr. Evelyn Natividad of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, Rene Abella of FACC Kasarinlan. Veronica Leighton of Via Times and my husband, Bart Tubalinal of FilAm Weekly MegaScene spoke for the FilAm media.
All gave glowing but certainly very much deserved testimonials, extolling Congen Cabrera’s qualities and virtues as a government official or simply as a person they have come to admire. Every speaker praised her humility, kindness, fortitude and sincerity and recounted their personal memories of the woman who arrived unnoticed on a cold winter night in Chicago and “would have wanted to leave the same quiet way” but couldn’t. Not without a big going away party like this one, or small, intimate send offs as she might be prevailed upon to accept from those that cared deeply for her. Oh no, she can’t leave without the echoes of her achievements following her…
That evening, Congen Cabrera begged to talk longer. And talk longer she did, in fact, the longest one of hers I must have listened to. And everybody listened like they had never listened before. In closing, Congen Cabrera recited her favorite Irish quote:
“May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon your fields and, Until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
After dinner, dance and song numbers and speeches, everybody took the chance to have a photo opportunity with Consul Cabrera. I had fun just watching everyone trying to squeeze into the ever expanding frame of people posing for a picture with the good Congen. Driving home, Bart brought up something he saw at the party. He began his conversation with a thoughtful observation of former ‘political enemies’ who sought each other out to shake hands and talk. It was an unscripted and just straightforward reconciliatory act we would never have imagined happening eight years or so ago. But there they were, like good sports and friends from a not too distant past, Atty. Al Bascos and Dr. Virgilio Jonson shaking hands, smiling and talking and get this, even posing for a picture!
Bart and I have burned a few bridges ourselves. More often than not, we thought they were out of principle that we did so. And I still do. But unlike before, I recognize now that reconciliation will never happen if we wait for the other party to make the first move. People who are passionate at what they believe in and do are often stubborn and proud. If they believed they had done nothing wrong, they would never offer to make peace.
Sometimes, regardless of the principle we think we are fighting for, it isn’t such a bad idea to bend over backwards and accept things as they are. Accep- tance is not necessarily submission but a willingness to work things out by invest- ing self-restraint and faith in the other person’s ability to do the same someday. On this note, I wish to make a public offering of peace to Veronica and Via Times, NaFFAA IL, viz. Jelly Carandang, Evelyn and Ely Natividad and Jerry Clarito.
May you find it in your hearts to forgive me for things I have said or done to hurt you. I ask for no special gesture of forgiveness, just a readiness to accept my hand with a smile when I extend it on our next meeting. Until then, I wish you well!