A MUSE to her family and friends, she was once the only female city councilor in Cagayan de Oro during her term and was tagged as the city's very own "Vilma Santos" due to her charisma and beauty. Her presence captured people's attention whenever she would step inside a room.
She was the go-to person for people who wanted someone to listen to their woes and she was always ready to provide them with the assistance they needed. She was a magnanimous optimist who touched thousands of people's hearts in her lifetime.
That's Mary Cor Reyes Calizo. The woman who was, still is and always will be loved by many. Her death was a huge shock to her family, friends and loved ones as she was known for being health conscious. Mary Cor did not have any serious underlying health conditions, although she had a medical history of mild pneumonia which she got from people she met from time to time.
According to her son, Siegfrid Carl Reyes Calizo, Mary Cor would monitor her cholesterol levels and blood pressure since they could sometimes go higher than normal, affecting her heart.
"Apart from that, she had been very active and healthy so it was a surprise to us how her body reacted upon exposure to the virus," Carl said.
Who is Mary Cor Reyes Calizo?
Mary Cor, often called "Kap," "Cor" or "Babet," was the youngest daughter of Col. Buenaventura and Maria Nadayag Reyes. She was a Psychology graduate at Xavier University in 1983 where she also did her MA in Guidance and Counseling. She also did an Executive Course of Local Governance at the Mindanao Polytechnic State College in 2006.
She got married to a PMA Dean’s Lister and Academic Excellence Awardee, Ret. Gen. Romeo Calizo, who, at present, is one of the city councilors and the chairman of public order and safety.
Mary Cor was a proud mother to her eldest daughter Sharille, son Siegfrid Carl and her youngest daughter Sophia.
Sharille, who has a Master's Degree in Nursing, has been a VIP nurse in Abu Dhabi for more than 12 years. She is now working with the UAE's royal family.
Siegfrid Carl has a double Master's Degree in Nursing. He is a British citizen and a professional actor in the UK.
Meanwhile, Sophia is a student in Xavier High and has been elected as the president of the Children's Association of Cagayan de Oro.
Mary Cor left the country to travel to the U.S. when her husband was training for the Infantry Advance Course in Fort Benning, Georgia. She applied her psychology major in working for geriatric patients for four years while she and her husband also started traveling the world together.
However, Mary Cor decided to come back home when her mother died from a heart attack.
She was then offered to run for the barangay council of Brgy. Patag and was the only opposition of the administration who won back in 1997 and was able to cement the roads inside Camp Evangelista.
From 2002 to 2007, Mary Cor worked as the barangay captain of Brgy. Patag. During her term, she developed the barangay's infrastructure, livelihood, environmental and medical/dental programs, recycling and education.
Under her leadership, Brgy. Patag won several awards including “Outstanding Barangay,” “Most Child-Friendly Barangay” and “Cleanest Barangay.” The barangay also kept its place among the Top 10 Safest Barangays in Cagayan de Oro City.
It was in 2007 that she became the lone female city councilor and the chairperson of the women and family committee.
"She fought to protect women’s rights and inspired all the women in the city to be leaders," Carl said.
After she finished her term as a city councilor, she once again ran for and won barangay captain in Brgy. Patag and continued to extend her services to the residents of the barangay.
Kap Calizo initiated the first Patag National High School and built another day care center in the barangay.
She was always known to organize the most entertaining events in Brgy. Patag like the “Miss Patag,” “Mr. Pogi,” “Crush ng Bayan,” “Miss Gay Patag,” “Battle of the Bands,” “The Voice Patag,” Barangay Sports Fest and “Patag Got Talent,” among others. These events were conducted to showcase the barangay residents' talents and provide a happy atmosphere.
This became an integral part of why she was re-elected for a third term with a landslide win even with all the allegations that were made up by the opposition.
Mary Cor provided scholarships to those she saw as potential leaders yet couldn’t afford proper education. Now most of her scholars are successful overseas workers, while some are working as staff in her office and some are working for her husband in the city office.
Despite her above-average status, Kap Calizo was just like any other woman who loves getting her hair and nails done, shopping, traveling and eating out, as well as looking after her family and their pet toy poodle. She loves to pray every day, starts her morning with a daily mass and prays the rosary.
Kap Calizo's battle against Covid-19
On March 27, 2021, Kap Calizo was admitted to a private hospital with symptoms of severe headache, fever and difficulty in breathing. On the third day of her admission, she started getting back to normal.
"She told us that she should have listened to us to wait until she was vaccinated before she went to go on a house-to-house service to do her ‘Tokhang’ program," Carl said.
"But she told us that she had no regrets doing so because she was able to reach out directly to her people and provide their immediate needs and concerns during the pandemic and we all thought she had completely recovered at that time," he added.
However, on the fourth day, her oxygen saturation suddenly dropped, thus the need to intubate her. She was transferred to the Covid-19 specialist hospital's ICU to be closely monitored.
"She was on a ventilator for 21 days and was seen smiling by the doctor when she was successfully extubated. She even requested to have doughnuts and lechon to be delivered for the staff there because of how happy she was to be out of the ICU," Carl said.
Carl added that Mary Cor was moved to the ward where she was allowed to have a watcher. However, it was difficult to find anyone who would want to be a watcher at that time due to the threat of the pandemic and the fact that no one had been fully vaccinated.
"We couldn’t come home that time due to the travel restrictions plus the fact that we haven’t been vaccinated yet and they all tested positive in our household," Carl said.
"We were also advised that even if we were there, there was no possibility for us to be able to get inside the ICU to look after her as it is against the hospital’s protocol so we understood and complied," he added.
Nonetheless, Mary was able to find a watcher from the hospital who helped look after her in her final days.
Carl said Mary Cor was able to stay conscious for most of her stay in the hospital and was able to write whatever she needed for her family, office staff, barangay, the patients she saw suffering from the virus, as well as the medical staff looking after her.
"Every time we’d get a chance to speak to her via video call, she would always write on a board to ask us to deliver pizza to the medical staff looking after her and to her staff in the Barangay Hall and Barangay Health Center," Carl said.
"She would always talk about how much she loved us and how lucky she was in this lifetime to have successful children. She’d talk about how happy and blessed she was to live a comfortable life. She’d talk about how those poor patients she was with were dying every day in the ICU, that she hoped she could help if given a chance to get better and how time is fleeting."
"She would keep sending us text messages whenever she’d get a chance to use her cell phone. She’d ask us to always pray no matter what happens and trust in God’s timing. We’d talk about how death takes you to a peaceful place where there is no pain, no suffering, no politics, no fears and no anxieties. That we shouldn’t be sad in case anything happened because those who have left early have already accomplished their mission in life," he added.
Mary Cor died on April 27, 2021. Her body was cremated on the same day and her funeral was held in the Brgy. Patag Covered Court to provide an open space for hundreds of people who would like to pay their respects. The funeral was organized to follow health protocols.
According to Carl, there were hundreds of white flowers sent by her supporters each day that there wasn't enough space to keep them in the covered court.
Mary Cor's ashes are now in a new house after the 40-day vigil in their ancestral house.
"We admit, the hospital and its staff may have had lapses and maybe negligence that caused her demise but we understand that this is such a difficult time for them as well and we are in a very unfamiliar situation so all we have to do is find peace and look at the silver lining," Carl said.
Kap Calizo was a leader with a passion for helping people and feeding the poor. She was a loving wife and attentive mother. With her heart on the right track, it's no wonder her death was mourned by thousands of people.
Her memories will continue to live on with her legacies and in the schools, churches, roads and the covered court she developed for generations to come. SPONSORED CONTENT