FOR most, a retiree is a retiree is a retiree is a retiree. That’s all, no more. But not for the late Madame Cristeta de Castro Ruiz Antonio who reached a full active life of way over 86 years. I hate to say “late” but that’s it: Record of physical life says she was born on February 3, 1930 then died on December 29, 2017, as an undying BARP member-leader. For her, a retiree is a refurbished car; with all new tires, it can serve afresh anew.
I came to meet Teta in 1986 when I entered the BARP organization. Oh, there were hundreds of them then, congregated at the Burnham Athletic Bowl, overfilling all the long bleachers during the program. That was the practice--to attend the monthly general assembly meeting every last Saturday of the month. One important number in the program was the induction of new members who had undergone the mandated pre-membership education seminar. Old members were there to welcome the new entrants, who ranged in number from not less seventy to ninety or more.
There were thousands of members already when I came to join BARP (Blessed Association of Retired Persons Foundation, Inc.), but frankly speaking, in the first meetings, I entertained more a watch-and-see attitude for the proverbial “ningas cogon” mentality among expectant Filipinos. Understandable then that I intentionally kept myself from introduction or attention to any particular individual, except to hulky Monroe Taclawan from Balbalasang, Balbalan, Kalinga, a prominent name in the “binodngan” areas and who, together with Pio Tadaoan, the Rimas couple, the original Donaal, and John Dongui-is, was a co-adviser of mine in the Centralized BIBAK student organization during its heydays.
I simply could not feign non-closeness with him in the eyes of others.
But as to Cristeta, I had not met her at the academe. She retired from work at the Commission on Audit before entering BARP. But soon, I saw her in BARP prominently among the many others as one who was not content to be just a mere registered member. She had abilities she could share and intended to share. Her conditionalities for sharing were equally admirable. From conversations with her to which she always managed to give time to and appreciate, she did not fail to mention or insinuate motivations like “for the good of the members”, “for the good of the organization”, “for the good of everybody”, “for sustainability”, or like phrases. On the other hand, she knows her limits and therefore is not easily discouraged in advocating things.
She is not the final arbiter, that is the job of higher ups, she seemed to have that clear in mind. Resignation was not her menu; maybe because her motivations were altruistic. She felt she did not lose anything personal if her views were not accepted. She also believed in timeliness as a factor in endeavors, and in the fact that top management meets or sees situations that underlings do not always see substance, dimension, or manner. Schism or breaking away is also out of her vocabulary. Her taking the oath of membership as well as the oath of office has a strong religious connotation. “So help me God!” indicates its being a vow to fulfill despite odds and pain, not an ordinary promise much less now a thoughtless part of an inherited social ceremonial. She often recalled that she was first raised raised in Bontoc, Mountain Prov-ince , which is reputed for the dialect version of the ‘sapata’ [oath] and its administration by community elders that can produce the goose pimples. She was ever since active not only in secular but also in religious NGOs. In fact, her last wish from me was to furnish her with a copy of a polyphone song for their religious choir in their Bakakeng parish in Baguio. In BARP, she was depended upon in the preparation of texts to be sung in affairs with ritual atmosphere, especially funeral wakes pursuant to the association’s standing flagship project of Special Mutual Aid Program. No wonder, in the days of wake for her at the SLU-SVP Bakakeng Barangay, there were no dull moments. Organizational groups came in appropriate succession to pray and sing for her hoped-for rest in peace in the bosom of her Creator. On the penultimate day of the wake, it was a fortune for me to be by chance with the members of the BCBC (Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals Community, the original acronym being retained for the otherwise longer BCBPC).
It was the BCBC community that Sister Cristeta last invited me to join. She had to do it twice. The first time caused us to chuckle because what I thought I heard was in English-Iloko: “Busy-busy-ak, kayatmo umay ta inta makimiting?Sponsoranka.” (I am busy-busy, you want that we go to the meeting? I will sponsor you?) I naturally retorted, “Busy-busy-ka ngaruden, agbirbirukka pay ti dagdag sakit ti ulomon?” (You are already too busy, you still look for additional headache?) The second time, there was no sense to disagree. She always wanted to share something good to others. The menu was not that supreme but the intended camaraderie surely was, and it still is, as manifested that penultimate day.
It was sweet music to hear BCBC Sister Teresita Cawed unequivocally declare, “Sister Teta was a fulfilled grandmother, a fulfilled mother, a fulfilled professional as a fulfilled member-leader in every organization that she has joined.” Indeed she was. Her two children from her late husband Decs Principal Patrocinio S. Antonio have proved themselves successful in their respective professions or work and conveniently raised their own families. Atty. Wilfred Antonio is a retired Provincial Attorney of Benguet; M.D. Beverly, married to PMAer Gen. “Boying”(Ret. Major General Natalio C. Ecarma III), is still actively practicing.
As a senior citizen of Baguio, Mdme. Cristeta Antonio was SCOFAD councilor twice. In NGOs, where she invariably proved her ever outstanding bona fide membership and she did not meet conflict of duties or quality time, she was always willing to offer service as finance/committee staff or be elected BOT/BOD member; she served once as president. Among such NGOs, aside from those already mentioned above, are the SLU-SVP Housing Cooperative, PGREA, FBASECA, SIHAG Volunteer Workers at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.
With these glances at her exemplary earthly sojourn, we proudly give our landmark salute to a departing CAR kailian: Bon voyage, great Cordilleran! Waahu!
Then as P.S., in reponse to her legacy of not just doing and sharing good to others but doing or sharing it as soon as possible, we shout in pledge, “Do not just do good, do it asap!” The middle stanza of the BARP Song of Life intones forcefully: “This life is full of challenges/But time is short and few the days/Hasten then our arms to accept and serve/l: Every man whate’er his base.”:l Briefly stated, “Yes, we can!”