Friday, September 21, 2012

My Piece in the Life of Sr. Pilar Verzosa, RGS Founder of Pro-Life Philippines Fdn. Inc.

I was the first one who received the first call from Cavite at the Pro-Life Philippines office. Daisy was asking me the contact number of Welcome House. She asked me who is the one in charge there. I just candidly answered her that the one in charge is Sr. Pilar without realizing that it was Sr. Pilar the reason why Daisy had to call Welcome House. Until the second call came and that’s the only time it sank into my mind that Sr. Pilar was admitted to the hospital in Cavite while giving a talk there, she felt dizzy, vomited and her blood pressure shoot up to 200/100.

Silence enveloped the Pro-Life Philippines office. Each one of us expressed worries and Mam Lorna; our Executive Director immediately gathered us towards the altar and pray for Sr. Pilar that she will be alright.  We had a great relief when Daisy called up again and told us that her blood pressure was getting normal. But that’s only a short relief for us when she called up again and told us that Sr. Pilar were brought to ICU. Fear came to all of us for Sr. Pilar asking what happening to her.

We started prayer brigade asking for Sr. Pilar’s speedy recovery. As I do the dissemination, my mind is running and whispered a wishful prayer “Not Sr. Pilar Lord, asking Him she still not yet in quota right? Not at this time Lord, we still need her in this battle. Please make her well soon.”

September 9, 2012. Early Sunday morning, I received a text message telling that Sr. Pilar passed away due to herniation and cerebral bleeding. I know its time for me to make a layout design to be used for the dissemination info of Sr. Pilar's passing away. With a heavy heart I started working on it. I asked Sr. PIlar to help me doing the layout. I know she just wanted it to be simple.

My first exposure on the prolife movement was in the year 1994 when I attended a big rally in Luneta along with my Dominican Family Mukha Ad.  In the last end months of 1994 I quit my job and not thinking to have a job again since I have disability. Until me and Regina Fulgencio, a fellow Mukha Ader and a former staff of Pro-Life Philippines met in one of the 9 days of “Simbang Gabi “ in December.

I remember my prayer during that time. “Lord, I know it would be hard for me to look for another job because of my disability. But if you give me another one, please choose the one that I can still serve in my own little way.” Reggie, as we wait for the mass candidly asked me “Malou are you looking for a job?” I said yes if God’s will. Reggie smiled and told me if I would like to apply at Pro-Life Philippines.

My first encounter with Sr. Pilar was when Reggie brought me in the Pro-Life office in Caritas. Nope, Sr. Pilar was not the kind of nun I usually see. Instantly, I felt the authority, the toughness and the flexibility of doing many things at the same time. She just asked me three questions while reading important papers on her desk. Why did you quit your job? I answered her, “Di napo ako masaya. Madalas napo kasing nagagalit ang boss namin. Mahirap magtrabaho kapag laging ganun po.” (Not happy working anymore. My boss keeps on nagging us. It’s hard to work if it is always like that.) Sr. nodded and asked me again. What did your boss said when you resigned?  I answered, “ Sabi nya po dina ako makakahanap ng work kasi may kapansanan ako.” (She said that I will not be able to find a job anymore because I have disability). Her last question was….What you don’t like at work? She was looking at me then. I answered, “ Masipag po ako at matyaga. Willing po ako matrain ayaw ko lang po na sinisigawan ako at dinuduro. Nakakababa po kasi ng dignidad bilang tao.”  (I am hardworking, persevering in any task and willing to be trained. I just don’t like being scolded and pointing fingers. It lessens the dignity as a person). Sr. Pilar looked at me as if she’s trying to see my determination. She nod and looked again at the papers she was reading and said… “You may start tomorrow.” I guessed my prayers were answered.

First few months at Caritas, Pro-Life office
The beginning of my prolife works did not really enter into my mind as if it was just an ordinary job for me. From sealing the envelopes, pasting names on it and cutting prolife articles from newspapers….Sr. Pilar did not stop looking for my potentials. One day she just told me to start reporting on one of the pro-life counseling centers located in Taft Avenue. That’s the beginning of my awareness of what really pro-life works and advocacy means. Training and mentoring of Sr. Pilar Verzosa opened my potentials that I can talk and counsel pregnant women in crisis. I remember handling 10 cases in a day from phone calls to walk in clients.  The biggest challenge I had was when she trusted me to take over a counseling center in Cubao, the Care and Share Center whom the founder was her fellow Theresian classmate, Mrs. Portia Sy. For 10 years I had been one of the counselors of Care and Share Center. I just can’t remember how many people I encountered and talked too. I will never forget Sr. Pilar’s own words every time there’s an opportunity during special occasions, she will hug me and said “Glad you were born. Dami mo ng nasave na babies! ” (Glad you were born, you saved many babies already!) Sr. Pilar did not only push me to discover my potentials but she gaved me special people in Care & Share Family who loved and accepted me the way I am. She gave me genuine friends even if we came from different generations.

Care & Share Center Family with Sr. Pilar

Being in the state of my comfort place, Sr. Pilar suddenly requested Tita Portia to borrow me to take Ms. Ellen’s place in a counseling center in Quiapo. Another potential was opened when she told me that I must teach and give talk about Pro-Life and NFP as part of prenatal services. I had been reporting too in the Pro-Life office in Good Shepherd Convent by then twice in a week to help in some office works. I remember one time she saw me at the office and in a firm loud voice she told to the staff “Andito si Malou. Maximize her!”  I don’t know what she meant by that. I am wondering whether my performances are not enough or she knows I can do more. Knowing that Sr. Pilar dont waste time.She even encouraged me to write an article from time to time but she knows that I only write by inspiration and my limitations when it comes to tenses. Time comes when Sr. Pilar decided to put me officially in the main office. Slowly the counseling works detached on me without knowing that I am intended for a bigger task as part of the secretariat of Pro-life Philippines.

Do you think Sr. Pilar spared me from what I don’t want at work? No, perhaps at first, because she knew I was deeply wounded by then that’s why she put me in the care of Tita Portia and the counselors of Care and Share Center in order to bring back my confidence and to make me ready to face more challenges in life. I was not an exemption in the tough love and discipline of Sr. Pilar gaved to each one of the staff of Pro-Life Philippines.  I was treated as one of the ordinary most of the time as if I don’t have the disability. There were times I was being scolded and embarrassed by her but never point finger on me. Of course I got angry at her too and she knows because I don’t talk when I am angry. But I know its an ache for her every time she showed me tough love because in a way, still, she’s making effort to talk and listen to my side and hoping that I will say something that its not my fault and she knows of course that I will not point fingers and tell that it’s the fault of others. She has a way of making up that’s why I never took it personal. She doesn’t want faction in the office; she always wants us to work as a team. That’s why her rare precious approval and congratulatory comments of job well done after each activities or events to all the staff are very valuable. It’s a bonus when you receive a personal commendation from her.  
Special days like birthday and Christmas… There is one particular word she always wrote on her notes for me….The word “little”.  Sometimes my mind object and asking if it is really little? But maybe its one way of reminding me to be humble always, that the little extra effort I’ve done are being appreciated aside from what I had accomplished.

In my last encounter with Sr. Pilar, usually when she’s in the office, she had an attitude to look and asked what we are doing. That time, when she went near at my back she just asked me if I had a new love life. She knew that my present relationship did not pursue. I was surprised and she laughed and told me to keep on trying. She even introduced us to Hanna Klaus differently that day. She told Hanna our individual works with pride and joy.

When Sr. Pilar went into coma, we had an opportunity to say something to her as Daisy put the cell phone near her ear. I was the last one who said something to her. Between sobs, I just said “Sr. si Malou po to. Sr. I love you!” I wasn’t able to visit Sr. Pilar in the hospital because I knew she wanted me to pursue the scheduled mass for my sister who passed away 8 days ago that time and to pray for her also. The Good Shepherd Sisters & her family gave us a chance to see her in Arlington before her cremation. For a long time I never looked on a dead person inside the coffin. But Sr. Pilar is different....As I looked at her, laying inside the glass casket, the more I long to see her serene face as she was only sleeping. It’s so painful for me to see that she was there. Tears flow at my cheek. My cries are inside of me that I can’t release it into outcry.   

On the day of her interment, Ms. Ellen and I went early at the Good Shepherd Chapel. There is one particular nun who had so much alike with Sr. Pilar’s features. Sr. Amy approached and offered us to eat lunch. I did not able to eat lunch that time so eventually we accepted the offer.  I even made a joke to Ms. Ellen that Sr. Pilar still serving us in the presence of her look alike. She still wants us to eat and to my surprise they served Adobo. I remember telling Ms. Ellen two days ago that I am craving for home made Adobo.I just made a whisper of thanks to Sr. Pilar.

I decided not to join the procession going where Sr. Pilar will be laid. Mam Gail, wife of Sir Eric Manalang and I waited at the chapel but suddenly Mam Gail asked me if I wanted to follow. I agreed with her and went on the trail where the procession went too. As we walk along, we realized that we are at lost as we trail a deep and difficult terrain, so we went back. I was walking ahead of Mam Gail when I heard her asking “Ok kalang ? Kaya mo pa?” (Are you alright? Can you still go on?)I remember Sr. Pilar was asking the same questions when we were walking in a difficult and long terrain in Baguio before.  Eventually we found the place where Sr. Pilar laid. So many people so I just waited for the right time to go there.Finally, facing the columbary where the name of Sr. Pilar encrypted, I told her “Andito na ako Sr.” (I am already here Sr.)

I told Ms. Ellen that we got lost on the way going the convent’s columbary. “Oh that’s the message of Sr. Pilar for you…..that you had to go an extra mile.”

Go an extra mile…..until to the last moment, Sr. Pilar wants me to explore and discover more potential inside of me. Never give up, explore, discover and multi tasking works. These are the golden values Sr. Pilar implanted on me. That I can do something despite my my own “little” way.

The Responsorial Psalm sang during Sr. Pilar’s Mass of the Resurrection will be my guiding light.

Shepherd of my soul

I give you full control

Wherever you may lead I will follow

I have made a choice

To listen to your voice

Wherever you may lead I will go.

Filling Sr. Pilar’s shoes is not enough for only one person. Sr. Pilar is one of a kind.I do believe that all of us in the prolife movement, there is a little Sr. Pilar in each of our heart. May the legacy left by Sr. Pilar Verzosa as a staunch Pro-Life Activist will keep the fire burning deep inside our hearts to inspire us and continue to work as a team. Teams that are united under God for Life and will courageously defend Life from womb to tomb.

Thank you so much Sr. Pilar for believing in me and for loving me in your own “little” way. I know that “little” way pushed me to go on in taking one step at a time to do this mission God entrusted to me for 17 years. Though there are still scars and new wounds inside of me, just the thought of how you and your advocacies touched many people’s lives plus your trust in me will be enough for me to stay strong and be a warrior for life for the rest of my life. 

Please pray for me Sr. Pilar, each time I decide to take another extra mile in the journey of my life. I Love you!

God is good all the time! All the time God is good!