Forever in our thoughts, forever in our hearts”
When we lose our well-loved ones, no words can express our feelings. Auntie Muriel, you are one of those who have significantly touched my life and your death has jolted me to recall one of the good messages going around in social media: “At my death, do not come and say that you love me for those are the words that I want to hear while I am still alive.” I did not visit you when we could still chat and laugh; to tell you that I am grateful for your care when my kid had to go through a series of operations starting at four months until he was about three years old.
To us Igorots, especially those from the Mountain Province, St. Luke’s was a term that conjures up an image of a healing and spiritual center, where our sick would go and return healed or dead, and where our boys (boys only then) would go and come out clad in white robes, grey shirts, and white collars. It is also the social and cultural center of Igorots in Manila, especially students. To us who frequented it almost weekly in the 70s, we looked at the whole 21 hectares of the property of the then Episcopal Church in the Philippines as the Mountain Province of Quezon city, This was our Manila.
In all my dealings with you, I never saw you raise your voice nor show displeasure. You were hosting graduation parties of the children of relatives and friends. Knowing the hassle of preparing and cleaning up your house for events like these, you patiently attended to all. You also hosted many patients who came for treatment in St. Luke’s. This is what has significantly touched me. My family enjoyed your care when my son needed to undergo a series of eye operations at St. Luke’s and other hospitals. You fed us, you provided us space and most of all, you were there to say, “How is he now?” I am sure the exam-takers, travelers, etc., who supped at your table would be as amazed as I am that you never lost your sunny disposition and patience. You were the quiet assurance at the point where we so stressed life.
When uncle, then Rev. Manuel Lumpias, was assigned to Manila from the far-away Masla, Tadian in Mountain Province, you both joined the Igorots acting as surrogate parents for many Igorot students in the big city. As a promdi high school student in the late 60s in Manila, your family became our family. As Uncle Manuel assumed bigger and bigger responsibilities, like overseeing the process of dissolution of the Joint Council of the Philippine Episcopal Church and the Philippine Independent Church to becoming the first bishop of the new Diocese of Central Philippines, the one constant anchor in his life was you, his beloved wife. Since you started knowing each other in the early 50s, you dedicated your life as a partner in the mission and ministry of the church your husband served.
Interestingly, you are both from Besao but only got to know each other well after you asked Uncle, your boarding housemate, to be your escort to your school event in the early 50s in Baguio. After you graduated in 1954 as an elementary school educator, you spent your time helping Alapo Alimayo in her sari-sari store business in Kin-iway while waiting for your fiancè to graduate from the seminary. Since then, your life journey had been intimately linked with that of the Bishop. “Behind every successful man is a woman” is not a cliche to the retired Bishop. “I could not have done all my work and meet all my responsibilities without the dedication of my wife. She was a good wife, good mother to our children and good grandmother to our grand- and great-grandchildren; a fighter for her life; partner in meeting my mission and ministry.”
Despite the perks of being able to travel with the Bishop to his overseas engagements, you did not crow about the many places you went, nor the personalities you met. You did not name-drop in conversations nor be flashy in your get-up. You were the humble, dignified woman that you are.
We know that as the Bishop’s responsibilities grew, so also were your role as the wife of a church personality.
As an Episcopalian, you were an active member of the Episcopal Church Women, becoming an officer at certain times. You also served on the St. Luke’s Women’s Board as part of the hospital’s corporate social responsibility.
However, your most fulfilling role was that of being a mother and a grandparent. Losing two children, your second at 41 days old and the other, a teenager, you nurtured the three surviving children and so treasured their growing up. You have brought them up all well. All are successful in their respective careers, with two having their own families. In Igorot culture, the prayer for couples is to have as many children [well, this might be under question nowadays] and for long life to be able to see one’s children and grandchildren. Seeing five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren surely fulfilled this. We salute you for bringing up all these children so well.
In the end, your story is also your husband’s story but this is your happiness and fulfilment.
Mea culpa Auntie! I am guilty of not having told you how you touched my life while you can still hear me and smile. You are gone but you will be forever in my heart and thoughts. I know you are in a better place. I will strive to emulate your goodness among the people who come my way. Rest in peace!