Requiem for a great lady

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Last Saturday, we lost, not only a dear and much admired friend, but also an icon for women power, not only in Negros Occidental, but probably for the whole country as well. That was Elvira Villena-Guanzon, a unique politician, mother and philanthropist who passed away that day. Oh, what grieving hearts she left behind, and also what signs of her accomplishments marked the 95 years the God Lord had given her remain to make her unforgettable!

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Elvira Villena-Guanzon was truly “a woman nobly planned” as poets would say. She made a mark by becoming the first woman to sit on the Provincial Board of Negros Occidental, and led the way for other Negrense females to also find their way in helping the administration steer the affairs of the province. And with all the years she was in public service, nary a blot of irregularity had ever been mentioned, or noted in her gleaming record. And yet she remained humble, down to earth, friendly and approachable to everyone. My greatest regret now is that I had not been able to see her or communicate with her in the past years, always thinking that she was unsinkable and would always be there!

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Although she was a politician for more than three decades, she was always the same “Nenuca” as she was known to family and friends. With her talents, connections and positions, one would even imagine her to be a bossy, no-nonsense type, but all those she never was. I know that for a fact because she and my Auntie Mila (Milagros) Ramos, were good friends and shared the same traits of vanity and concern for their looks. I recall the time when the products of the well known (and expensive) Helena Rubenstein were introduced in Bacolod and the two of them virtually ran wild in purchasing its different beauty aids!

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Whenever they meet, they would exchange notes on how Helena R. had benefitted them. And true enough, although I am now under strict quarantine, and not only WFH or Working from Home, but really WFR (Working from Room) I checked with those who were able to see her face after she passed away, and was told that nary a wrinkle could be found on that benign face! For that matter, so was my Auntie’s face when she passed away. Could they have met already in the Great Beyond and exchange notes on their make-up secrets?

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I would like to digress a little and reminisce about my Auntie Mila’s own shared secrets with Nenuca. Once we were in the airport checking in for a trip to Manila and my aunt handed her slick hand-carried bag to me, saying, “Don’t put it down, keep it with you all the time.” So I hugged the bag, believing it held her jewelry that I had hoped to inherit. But when we got to our destination, and she opened it, and lo! All it held were Helena Rubinstein make-up products! I was so miffed at having to tote it together with my own things that I grudgingly told her that if I had known what it held, I would have left it in the overhead rack!

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I don’t know if Nenuca’s daughters had similar experiences with their mother, but I am sure they are hoping to retain the same complexion she died with. But I am sure that is not the only thing she passed on to them, her generosity, for one, is legend. She would give the last food on her table to anyone passing her residence who looked hungry. Her children love to recall an incident when one of her boys had just bought a new pair of shoes and left it outside their door, and when a man without shoes passed by, she gave them to him.

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Politics never spoiled her, she remained the same generous, down-to-earth and loyal person she always had been. One could hardly imagine how a mother of eight talented children with different kinds of professions and personalities could cope. I do not know now how many grandchildren she had, but I am sure, they realize what a wonderful grandma they had. I know families in Cadiz will never forget her and what she had done for their city, and also for the province, for that matter, as member of the Provincial Board.

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Her relatives, friends fellow politicians will miss her, indeed, but never more than her family, on whose advice, protection and direction they could always rely. Friday, she will be laid to rest in her own city and I am sure Cadiznons will flock to say goodbye to a daughter who had served them so well and left her indelible mark on their city. Farewell, Nenuca, May the angels welcome you to Paradise – you have surely merited it!*

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