By Enrique Francia
Family and friends, thank you for gathering with us tonight for the third night of prayers for my mother, Beatriz Romualdez Francia. Many of us are understandably in mourning for the loss of her beautiful, compassionate and creative presence in our lives. However, I believe my mom is in a better place, free now of the suffering and physical hardships which beset her during the last 15 years of her life. Let us now remember and celebrate her wonderful life with joy and help her on her journey to the light.
These are some of the many roles my mother played during her lifetime: Poet, artist, sculptor, writer, journalist, Cambridge student, Philippine Women’s University high school graduate, graduate of St. Theresa’s college, fellow student and confidante, intellectual, semi-orphaned daughter of a Romualdez, historian, granddaughter of two framers of of the Philippine Constitution (Justice Norberto Romualdez and Conrado Benitez), clothing designer, composer, playwright, furniture designer, businesswoman, innovator, cultural trendsetter, patron of the arts, philanthropist, loving wife and mother, daughter, older sister, friend, mystic: my mom was a veritable fountain of creative energy, a Renaissance woman who played all of these roles and more during her life. Although I am only her son and my memories of her life are necessarily incomplete (since many of you knew her in various capacities which I was too young to comprehend), and although I didn’t completely understand all the varied hats my mom wore during her long and productive life, I will now attempt to recall some of our selected memories of my mother as she played these roles.
For many of you, my mother was a dear older sister, encouraging to her younger siblings, providing much encouragement and love. The other night I listened to your memories of my mom. Tita Tess remembered how my mom, a talented artist in her own right, lavished praise upon her first attempts at painting. My mom was very encouraging of other people’s creative efforts, especially those of people close to her such as her family and friends. Tita Charito recalled how my mother encouraged her to write poetry and became upset when Tita Chat threw away her poems during a moment of self-doubt. For my mom, self-expression was a gift which was to be encouraged not just in herself but in other people as well.
My mom used to recall to me the particular tragedy of her early life, growing up without a father (Francisco Romualdez) who disappeared without a trace during World War II. I think my mom sublimated this early loss in her life and in turn lavished her love on others without expecting anything in return, a way of compensating for this void, this lack of her biological father during her early life. For example, Tita Ditas recalled to me how my mom started the
Many of you will recall that my mom was the founder of two of
When my mom married my dad, Tita Tess recalled how my mom designed her own costumes, a fantastic lace creation recalling the character “Little Bo Peep” of the nursery rhymes. Apparently, besides being a dress designer, my mom was also somewhat of a fashion trendsetter during the 70’s, helping to popularize various colorful styles of the soon-to-be omnipresent “hippie look.”
During the 1970’s my mother was a pioneering journalist who wrote several important articles predicting the imminence of Martial Law, for which she was imprisoned. The Martial Law regime of the Marcoses raided her café, falsely accused her of various crimes, briefly imprisoned her and shut down her once-flourishing business, a trauma which was to impact her for the rest of her life. My mom used to recall to me how my dad brought me to the jail where they were holding her in an attempt to have them take pity on her and release her. Apparently I was a pretty cute child, because this tactic seems to have worked and she was released soon after. My mom and dad were among the very first plaintiffs to file a human-rights violation lawsuit against Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, a pioneering action which attempted to win a measure of justice for many of the victims of the vile Martial Law regime. Unfortunately, in this country that Ninotchka Rosca aptly labeled as “amnesiac,” the travails of the Martial Law victims were to be later forgotten in endless legal battles in the courts of the
Never one to rest on her laurels, my mom became a playwright soon after her arrest by the Marcos regime. This is where I begin to enter the picture. I recall crying as a child when my parents “borrowed” my plastic menagerie consisting of various zoo animals. These animals were used as models and later became reincarnated in larger forms as the carousel on the set for “Mahal,” the
My mother and my late father Henry Francia also established the Manila Film Society, an institution which showed classic films of Filipino and world cinema to local audiences. This institution was so popular that it was copied and coopted by Imelda Marcos, an action which was unfortunately repeated many times during my mother’s life. A creative person who was not very interested in copyrights and ownership, my mother created and created, and gave away much to others, rarely thinking of trying to reap from what she had sowed.
As a way of compensating for what she felt had been her accidental role in helping the “Iron Butterfly’s” rise to power as a journalist, my mom wrote a massive biography of Imelda titled “Imelda and the Clans.” This book is not only a biography of one individual, it is also an insightful study of Filipino culture, particularly some of its anti-democratic tendencies toward clannishness and oligarchy, tendencies which I hope can be partially addressed through working to understand them deeply as my mom tried to do.
Later I lived with my mom, dad and sister in the
In 1993 my mom suffered the catastrophic brain tumor, the angioblastic meningioma which rendered her bedridden and partially paralyzed for the last 15 years of her life. This was a tragedy which indelibly left its mark on my late father, myself and my sister. My mom bore her suffering very well, considering the full magnitude of her debilitations. My dad lovingly took care of her for 11 years until his untimely passing in 2004. We were fortunate and eternally blessed to have Mercy Sapong enter our lives. Mercy, her beloved Visayan caregiver and constant companion for the last 5 years of my mom’s life, was (and still is) optimistic and cheerful, not only providing excellent physical care but also wonderful psychic and emotional support, even until the last few minutes of my mother’s life. Mercy was courageous and resourceful enough to slip in unobserved into the hospital room during the last few minutes of my mom’s life, ensuring that my mom departed this world feeling loved and supported, an action for which I will personally be forever grateful. Maraming maraming salamat Mercy para sa inyong mahusay, mabait at walang-kapagurang pag-aalaga sa aming ina.
Ngayon, sa sandaling ito, susubukan ko’ng manalumpati ng sandali sa ating wika. Ipagpaumanhin po ninyo