Echaves: Bye, dear friend

OUR paths crossed many moons ago. She was among my eight bright students in the first English honors class that I handled at St. Theresa’s College here.

Fast forward to the heydays of the erstwhile Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank (PCIB). She called one day and asked if I could conduct business writing trainings for her bank’s supervisors and managers.

She was then vice president for human resources. Little did I know that I’d eventually cover all their branches in the Visayas and Mindanao. Maria Socorro “Cherry” Susara Muntuerto jumpstarted my career in corporate training.

Her long banking years were with PCIB. When Equitable Bank acquired it, Cherry retired to assist husband Jun, entrepreneur and civic leader, in running their ten companies under the Muntuerto Management and Development Corporation.

Whether in freshman English class, as a bank executive or in personal conversations, she was always bubbly and quick with follow-through questions. Always an active listener, she rarely said, “I’m sorry but what was that?”

Naturally, when the background music competed during conversations, she’d be the first to have it toned down. She sought, enjoyed the details, and was ever curious to see how the details panned out to the decisions.

She was like that as well in her personal life. She was even religious at making PNL’s (profit-and-loss statements) with house expenses. She behaved no less in their business.

While many companies mouthed or plastered to their walls “People are our best assets” posters or frames, Cherry actually lived and practiced it in all their companies.

Their Metro Cebu Resources, Inc. (MCRI), an employment agency, gives the personnel their fair and just wages. No hidden fees, no shortchanging, no double bookkeeping; everything is conducted above board.

There was no let-up in her involvement with the employees. She personally handled the orientation programs for all recruits. Unsurprisingly, she and Marie Mandal, MCRI general manager, provided personnel to the big hotels here like Shangrila and Marco Polo.

Cherry was an extensive traveler. But this time around before she left for Las Vegas for a reunion with her Theresian high school classmates, she must have had a sense that her end was near.

She insisted that she sign all checks for payables before her trip. Her staff suggested that the others could wait for her return. But she’d say, “What if I
die?”

Also, she decided to give away some personal belongings, including shoes.

During the three-day wake at Crystal Palace in Nivel Hills, relatives and friends who knew her well, veered away from the usual mourning colors of black and
white. Instead, they wore blue and any of its shades or even brighter colors.

So in keeping with her words in the souvenir card... “I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one. I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when my life is done.

I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways. Of happy times and laughing times, and bright sunny days. I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun. Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.”

Goodbye, Cherry. Thank you for touching our lives.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)
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