29th September 2019 marks three years since Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago passed away at 71, upon surrendering to Stage IV lung cancer.
The moment I opened Facebook that day, news of her passing flooded my feed. Deep sorrow over-poured from all generations, the young and old. She is indeed a common household name. From her elaborate display of intellect during Senate hearings, to her sharp-witted insights, pick-up lines and "hugots" throughout speeches (Hugot means “to pull out”, “to pull from”, “to draw”, etc… although it basically means to unleash feelings in a heavily emotional context). She is a darling, a crowd favorite, a choice speaker at commencements.
Miriam Palma Defensor was born and raised in Iloilo. She had a judge (Benjamin Defensor) for a father and a schoolteacher (Dimpna Palma) for a mother. She was the eldest of seven children and grew up in a household that championed academe and excellence. Discipline was the watchword in the family; contribution was motivation, and simplicity was a way of life.
Having served the judicial, executive, and legislative offices of the government, she is a woman who undeniably has her everything together. I used to sit on the couch watching her give out a privilege speech, waving her hands in the air as if her words were not enough to emphasize her point, and I remember thinking, "This lady sure as heck knows what she's talking about." I actually enjoy watching her. Her interviews will always leave you contemplating yet wanting more. She was known to be an advocate of anti-graft and corruption; poking her nose everywhere, to an extent where some people often regarded her as delusional. She always had select words over the quite knotty politics in the Philippines.
To this day, whenever I get a whiff of less than desirable news headline about our government, I often find myself thinking about the late Senator.
“How would she have dealt with the matter?”
“What would she have had said?”
“What would have been her stance?”
She was in battle with cancer for two years after having been diagnosed in 2014 before she finally gave in; yet nobody ever saw the struggle in her physique. How, you ask? Because her entire career was dedicated to fighting an even more powerful type of disease - the cancer of our nation. She was one of the first to open the eyes of the youth - that we are not mute or incapable; that we have the power right in our hands. That we have technology to back us, and we must utilize its evolution to speak out against adversities, specifically in terms of the government. That social media serves a much higher purpose than posting selfies (although I am not one to judge! I like posting some myself from time to time.)
It is such a shame that an illness took her away before she saw the dawn of the Philippines rising. Nevertheless, she has served our country well, and we have indeed lost one of the best public servants of all time.