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'We'll miss you, Mama'

Former President Joseph Estrada and other family members carry the casket of Mrs. Mary Ejercito after the necrological Mass at the Pinaglabanan Church in San Juan yesterday. Jonjon Vicencio

Former President Joseph Estrada bid farewell to his mother Mary Ejercito yesterday along with close relatives and friends and about 2,000 sympathizers who joined the procession through the flower-strewn route to the San Juan cemetery.

Estrada gracefully accepted the demise of his mother, saying it was God’s will.

“We thank the Lord for giving her a long life that she shared with us. We will miss you, Mama. Whatever we achieve and what we have become is your achievement with Papa,” Estrada said.

Estrada’s mother, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 103, was laid to rest at around 12:30 p.m. at the family mausoleum joining her late husband Emilio and their sons Tito and George and daughter Connie.

Hundreds of policemen secured the funeral march from St. John the Baptist Church (Pinaglabanan Church) that began shortly after the Mass officiated by Bishops Teodoro Bacani and Camilo Gregorio at 8 a.m.

According to San Juan police director Superintendent Procopio Lipana, more than 2,000 people turned up for the funeral procession.

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Among the personalities who accompanied Estrada in the procession were his former Cabinet officials and close friends.

Deputy national security adviser Luis “Chavit” Singson did not attend the funeral Mass. The former Ilocos Sur governor who played a key role in Estrada’s ouster in 2001, surprisingly turned up at the wake late Friday.

Singson had a brief talk with Estrada and condoled with his erstwhile buddy.

Malacañang said Singson’s attendance at the wake was his personal decision.

Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said Singson’s attendance at the wake was his own way of affirming his friendship with the Estrada matriarch.

Golez stressed Singson had highlighted the policy of reconciliation of the Arroyo administration.

“It is only through reconciliation that peace and stability in our country can be achieved,” Golez said.

He said President Arroyo already showed her willingness to reconcile with Estrada when she granted presidential pardon to the former president after his conviction for plunder in 2007.

Golez also pointed out Mrs. Arroyo’s son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita offered their condolences to the family.

On the other hand, the main road going to the San Juan Cemetery was temporarily closed to traffic to accommodate the thousands who attended the funeral march yesterday.

A Mass was held at the Ejercito mausoleum before the remains of the Estrada matriarch were finally laid to rest beside the tomb of her late husband.

Despite the appeal of Estrada and the Ejercito family that money instead be donated to their matriarch’s favorite orphanage Damas de Manila, friends and supporters arranged thousands of white flowers along the streets leading to the Ejercito mausoleum.

In his eulogy, Estrada said her mother was a strict disciplinarian.

“My mother is a very remarkable woman who raised 10 children, all of whom became professionals, except one. She was a strict disciplinarian. She valued love of God and love of fellowmen,” Estrada said.

Estrada vowed to continue and pass on to the next generation of Ejercitos the moral legacy of her mother.

For his part, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said “Lola Mary” would always be “our guiding light.”

“She is the symbol of our family’s union. She is the binding force to us as a family. Now, she is gone to a better world, away from pain and anguish. She is the beacon and an inspiration in our career,” he said.

Jinggoy said his grandmother being born in 1905, lived through the harshness of World War II.

He described his grandmother as “patient to the extreme.”

“During the trying times of her children, she prayed and she was always the strength of her children. She was a surrogate mother to all of us, full of concern and care. She never forgot to call God in our endeavors,” Jinggoy said.

For his part, San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito described her as a “good mother and good grandmother” to her grandchildren.

JV recalled that during his younger years, he was always out of the house and played with their neighbors on the streets.

“I was not aware that Lola Mary saw me outside our house. She would call the house and asked why they were not taking care of me. She said I was the dirtiest among the kids outside. I will never forget how she cared for me and how she cared for the others,” he said.

Manuel Ejercito-Lopez, son of Jackie and Beaver Lopez, spoke on behalf of all the great grandchildren.

Manuel said they would miss their great grandmother in the next Christmas, particularly on the occasion where they would have to line up to give their gifts to her.

“Lola, I know you are heaven. So, please watch for us, especially my Dad. I will miss you. Have a great time in heaven,” Manuel said. – With Marvin Sy

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