Late last December, my cousins gave me some specialty soaps for the Holidays. It turns out that this project was long overdue. My aunt, Thelma V. Leelin, their mother, had spent most of her life a revered dermatologist in Manila. She had passed the baton to one of her daughters, Donna, at her retirement. The soap project was her vision. What came out was a thoughtful collaboration between mother, daughter, and a daughter-in-law (Rachel)!
I should also mention that my aunt is battling the “emperor of all maladies,” as aptly named by Siddhartha Mukherjee, in his Pulitzer winning biography of the big C.
Yes, she has stared the beast in the eye, felt its breath, and raised her fists in clear defiance. Perhaps, the soap project is a return salvo, or an affirmation, or a legacy among many. Or all of the above. One thing’s for sure though. She’s a fiercie. (I had written about fierce women in the past here. I’d say, she’s definitely one of us!).
While reading through two of Dr. Mukherjee’s recent books, I could not help but think of all the women I have crossed paths with who have contended against this unwanted adversary. Admittedly, even the mere shadow of possibility has always made me flinch.
To all of them who have gone mano a mano with it, salaam! To Loudette Zaragoza-Banson, Cari Leviste-Azores, Maia La’O, Claire Kwek, Laura Hosking, Nettie Ramsay, Linda Benevento, Marichi Pedrosa-Harvey, Emma Royo, Berna Filart, Libet Virata, Freddy Herrera*, Clarita Go, Joey Albert, Lot Ortiz-Luis, please, if I missed someone, just add.
To those who fought a worthy battle but succumbed in the end: Anna del Rosario, Vanna Virata, Chic Migallos, Ruthy Roa, Joey Sy*, Edwin Chin*, Scarlet Santos, mom-in-law Justina Ortiz-Luis, aunt Maria Flor Meneses. We continue to remember you and how you have enriched our lives.
*I know I included some men in these lists. They’re warriors in their own rights too!