“OH, SUSANA, why shouldn’t we cry for thee? You came from far-off Austria and then no more to see.”
We might be humming the above verses in the borrowed tune that we have been used to hear but the Susana mentioned therein is one of us, truly ours. She is a cut of the GobangTinguian-Bago hue found in Casilagan, Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur in Nortern Luzon, a part of the Philippines that is continuously lapped by the West Philippine Sea. Her father, Bonifacio “Gayban” Belmonte is a son of the well-known Gobang poet (mandadangu) Dao-ayan and a World War II veteran. Her mother is a Bago, who incidentally in her ninety-four years of age still manifests that she must have been the apple of an eye of many a young man pretender in earlier years. “Sana” was the first fruit of “Bonie-Loling” marital union.
Unlike the case of other first-borns, she did not get pampered by disciplinarian Bonifacio’s retiree pension and his remuneration as a Stonehill staffer during the once flourishing Virginia tobacco trade and even as Police Chief of problematic Candon and finally barangay head of Sta. Cruz, referred to by Fr. Alunday SVD, in his eulogy, as rather a “Sta of the cross” at the time.
Right after Susana got her BSN degree and successfully hurdled the Nursing board exams, she headed for Europe, particularly Vienna, Austria, where she served consistently to the satisfaction of her employer, married and raised her family but never forgot the land of her birth Phiippines as well her countrymen. Stories of her helping and assisting Filipinos who came across her path in or near her place of residence or work were a given. Her relatives and friends in Casilagan, Bangilo and other places where they had migrated were her destination during her time-limited vacations to the Philippines. Thus, the Belmonte residence became a natural stop-over home to passers-by. The Belmonte household loved and prided itself to be remembered and cared to be visited and to give what it could give to sick and needy people, especially elderly or students. Susana did not hesitate to give verbal advises if she saw it was needed to do so, especially to students.
For the last Christmas-New Year season of 2016-2017, Sana and her younger sisters working and who had their own families abroad intended to hold a reunion with their aging mother in Casilagan. They saw it very fitting to be with friends and townmates in thanking God for all the blessings He has showered and continues to shower upon them. Timely, too, because their mama Loling and brother “Boy” are bed-ridden at their original home. They considered it nothing but appropriate to show gratitude to good neighbors who helped their parents provide them with comparatively good environment despite the growing threat of various addictions, like alcohol, tobacco and illegal drug. Because she came home first, Susana decided to spend the privileged time to go around with colleagues and friends for social activities, like distributing what gifts she could give by herself or with others or giving comforting words to sufferers. She did the good things she was wont to do despite the heart operation that she had undergone. Some say she might have even been stressed by extreme change of climate from winter cold to tropic heat. Companions in her Catholic parish of Sevilla reported that she assured them, “Kayak!” (I can!). But one insisted that it seemed there was something unwell with what she suddenly started to feel. That one proved right. Susana soon succumbed to heart attack while trying to spread Christmas joy to others. She died doing good. Her final Christmas gift.
Today, Saturday, January 21, 2017, she lies in state at the Catholic Church in Sevilla, I.S. for final funeral rites before she is brought back by plane to Vienna in accordance with the wish of her children there. Bon Voyage, model OSW! In our hearts, you are a heroine for attentiveness to simple good deeds, an honor to the Tinguians and the Bagos! With your example as a docile, and thus successful, progeny, it is a pride to be a parent, to be an ancestor.
Wady Balweg., still a youngish former Filipino overseas worker, remarked that the good example of other OFWs to uplift the welfare of their families is a strong motivation for good behavior and effort to keep to one’s job no matter the trials, adding further that Susana must have learned the value of giving good example from her own parents also. Weighty bit of wisdom coming from the mouth of babes!
From advocacies I observed along the Ilocos Coast to get support to the thrusts and programs of the Blessed Association of Retired Persons, Inc. (BARP), the most convincing is the news, or better, observance, of good behavior and dealing among the members themselves, especially the elderly. Sounds of lawyers and litigations, even if rumors only, do not help any. Thanks if that is lent an ear to.