AN important lesson left by Miriam Defensor-Santiago is that people can use good and fair means to fight evil, and stay refined even when fighting with words, Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said during the requiem Mass for the late senator on Sunday afternoon.
Even when Santiago called some people “fungus faced,” the public only smiled in admiration, he said in his homily at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao, Quezon City.
“Miriam stands out really as a princess who can stand not proudly but with dignity before the tribunal of God and say, I have fought the fight, I have finished the race and now, I reserve for me the crown that awaits those who are faithful to the lord,” the retired bishop said.
Bacani said the late senator showed through example that even when fighting with words, one did not have to curse, use gutter language or be crass.
“While Miriam would prosecute people sometimes very fiercely, she always wanted the process to be fair and it should be gone through,” Bacani said, in apparent contrast to President Rodrigo Duterte who has been criticized for using profanities and allegedly encouraging summary killings in the government’s war on illegal drugs.
‘Just a blip’
Despite her sterling academic and professional accomplishments, Santiago recognized that her life was only a blip in the history of the universe, Bacani said.
“She could see herself according to her size before God, and I think before God she had a great size not because she was perfect,” Bacani said
In ending his homily, Bacani asked Santiago to pray for the Philippines.
“Miriam, sleep in peace but pray for us because our country as you very well know needs much more correction and reforming, that we haven’t been able to accomplish until now and you have not been able to do or finish in life,” he said.
Santiago was laid to rest at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City, beside the remains of her son Alexander who died in 2003.
Santiago lost a two-year battle with lung cancer on September 28 at the age of 71.
One and only
Mourners gathered at the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral to attend the requiem Mass for the late senator at around 1 p.m. before proceeding to the Marikina cemetery.
Despite the scorching heat, hundreds of people lined the streets to catch Santiago’s 60-car convoy on the way to Loyola Memorial Park.
After the funeral Mass, Santiago’s sister Leni Defensor thanked the late senator’s immediate family, staff and supporters, particularly young people who campaigned for Santiago during the May presidential election.
“Finally, we thank the lord for creating the one and the only Miriam Defensor-Santiago,” she said.
Santiago’s convoy arrived at Loyola Memorial Park past 3 p.m. and was given a final blessing by Fr. Aris Sison of the Cubao diocese.
White confetti was showered, and the Philippine National Police gave sendoff rites to Santiago. Supporters, clad in Santiago’s campaign color red, released white balloons and doves to the sky.
Santiago’s supporters left messages and prayers outside the Cubao cathedral.
One message read: Sen. Miriam you are still our Iron lady. No one can replace you in our hearts. Farewell.”
Julia, a college student and supporter of the late senator, said Santiago’s courage and intellect inspired her to study better and follow her example.
Kaye of Quezon City said the late senator was able to connect with the youth through her wit and “pickup lines.”
“I will really miss her. It is true that she was the best president we never had,” she added.
Among those who attended the funeral Mass were former senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Francisco Tatad, former first lady and now Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, and former Environment and Natural Resources secretary Michael Defensor.
Actress and television host Heart Evangelista, a close friend of Santiago, went with her husband Sen. Francis Escudero.
On Saturday night, former and incumbent government officials, friends and supporters took turns paying tribute to Santiago.
Santiago’s best friend Zenaida Lazaro recalled memorable moments with the former senator when they were roommates at the UP Sampaguita Hall.
Lazaro said she was enrolled at the College of Architecture while Santiago was at College of Law. Santiago, she said, was a “wonder of God’s creation.”
Neophyte senator Risa Hontiveros recalled the time when the late senator called her a “menopausal insect.”
She admitted bursting into laughter after hearing Santiago’s comment, which according to her was her “most treasured insult.”
Hontiveros said she and Santiago later became allies when they both pushed for the passage of the reproductive health bill.
Santiago’s brother, former Armed Forces chief of staff Benjamin Defensor, said his sister lived an extraordinary life because they grew up in an environment where courage, intelligence and achievement were recognized.
Growing up, Defensor said, he always saw Santiago either reading a book or studying, sleeping at 12 midnight and waking up at 4 a.m. to continue reading.
“Miriam is not a bookworm but a book monster,” Defensor said.
Visitors to the wake included Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon and Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Richard Gordon, Grace Poe, Leila de Lima, and Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th.
President Rodrigo Duterte arrived before 2 a.m. Sunday and stayed for almost an hour.