Eighteen years ago today, I boarded a plane bound for New Jersey to be with my daughter Angela “Gigi” Reyes Iglesia, who, I had been told, had been given a week or two to live.
Enroute to my destination, on a stopover in San Francisco, my sister Carmen gave me the terrible news that Gigi had just passed away. Returning to the plane, I was numb with sorrow and though the tears could not come, I could not help blaming myself for not being there , when the Grim Reaper took her.
If Gigi had not been so considerate of MY needs, I should have been there a month earlier, after she asked me that September when I would be going to the USA. Foolish me, I should have realized it was a call for help and I should have heeded it!
Looking back, I could have simply left my duties at the National Press Club to be by her side.
I think of her now, my angel, my Angela, who never caused me worry or pain, a curly-haired, bedimpled child, who grew up to be an intelligent, lovely young lady . She was the little Mother to her seven siblings whenever I had to be out of town or abroad . Her love for her family, which extended to her nephews and nieces, knew no bounds.
After graduating with a degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of the Philippines, Gigi opted to leave for greener pastures in the United States, where a job in New York awaited her. She did well at her job, eventually becoming a vice-president for Deutsch Bank, based in New York.
She got married at 34, gave birth to her first child at 38 and by a twist of fate, was at her office building across the twin towers on 9-11-01. That incident caused her breast cancer, stage 4, and eventually her death three years later.
I wonder now if she would still be alive today, had she chosen to pursue her career in the Philippines. What if she had married her college sweetheart and raised a lot of kids? But that’s water under the bridge!
Gigi’s priority was her two daughters. She doted on them , did everything for them, lived for them and her greatest desire was to see them grow to be adults.
Today, memories of the generous and kind Gigi flood my mind: Gigi as a child surreptitiously sipping a glass of champagne, Gigi with me at our apartment in Makati, Gigi eating at Burger King with me , Gigi on her wedding day, Gigi driving to the clinic for the clinical tests for a cure for cancer, Gigi rushing to see Miss Saigon with me on New Year’s Eve on Broadway, Gigi at a New Year’s Eve party, Gigi decorating the huge Christmas tree at her New Jersey home.
These are memories I will cherish forever, even though they bring an ache to my heart.
Gigi never complained about anything in her life, though I knew she had her crosses to bear.
I have long accepted God’s will in taking her away from us , so early in life.
Gigi was truly special, one in a million, and I know for sure that she is up there, playing with the angels in the presence of the Almighty.