‘Grandkids miss lola Miriam’

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago must be grinning from Heaven to see how her memories continue to live in the hearts of those who loved her most.

“If people knew her as a feisty senator and graft buster, to us, she was just a sweet and loving grandmother,” says Ma. Mikaela, a grade eight student and Miriam’s eldest granddaughter to eldest son Narciso III and wife Mechel.

“My night will not be complete unless I hear her voice on the telephone where she would tell stories about anything.”

Mikaela said Santiago will always be her inspiration and idol.

“I am so honored to have gotten her genes. I know she is proud of me and my siblings. Even though she can’t physically see our academic awards and medals from school, I know that she is very proud of us in Heaven,” Mikaela said.

Everytime she is faced with difficulties or hardships in life, Mikaela said she always seeks comfort in the words of her late grandmother: “I will ‘improvise, adapt and overcome.’ ”

Santiago taught her grandchildren many things in life, and one of them was how to be a strong or tough woman. That is why Mikaela wants to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother.

“I want to become a lawyer like her someday,” she said.

Santiago, born on June 15 June 1945, died of lung cancer on Sept. 29, 2016. She was not just a senator; she was a lawyer academician, judge, author and stateswoman rolled into one, and she had served in all three branches of the government - executive, and legislative, and judicial - with distinct honor.

Ma. Erena Madison, a grade six student and Santiago’s second granddaughter, said she was proud to be called the granddaughter of the Iron Lady of Asia and the first-ever woman and Filipina judge in the International Criminal Court and many more good titles attributed to Santiago.

“Whenever my teacher mentions her name and contribution in our society as part of our lesson at school, I can’t stop myself from saying that I wish she is still with me to guide me in all my decision-making,” Ma. Erena said.

“I wish she could accept our awards and medals at the stage. I will work hard to become a lawyer like her someday,” she said with much pride.

For Ma. Michelle, a grade four student and Santiago’s third granddaughter, she wants to become a doctor when she grows up.

“I will someday try to find a cure for cancer. If not for this disease, great people like my grandmother would still be here today,” she said.

Ma. Michelle said she was very proud of Santiago’s achievements now that she gets to learn a lot about Philippine history.

“I realized that the youth idolized her and she inspired a lot of people to become the best that they can be,” she said.  “I think of my grandmother every night. My siblings and I always pray for her happiness and peacefulness in Heaven. We love her so much.”

The late senator’s six grandchildren are all consistent achievers, all top students in their respective levels, and finished last school year with the highest honors, according to their mother.

“We are very private, and don’t post the achievements of our children on social media - because we don’t want people saying we are boastful and just bragging,” said their mother Mechel. “But we are happy to say that the grandchildren are all intelligent, just like the late senator.”

Santiago’s next-of-kin are not the only people who continue to remember her.

Armando Gersava, a 56-year-old seaman from Iloilo, said he missed Santiago’s crusade against corruption, steadfastness on the rule of law, and determination to hold public officials to a higher standard, which he said, will surely echo for generations.

Filipinos need someone like Santiago, especially at this time, he said.

Gersava said the late senator’s fearlessness and courage to stand up for what she believes is right has become an example for every Filipino to emulate.

He said he was missing all the Senate hearings with Santiago’s signature accent, coupled with the fact she has the brains to back her up and boldness.

“Ang daming hindi makalusot sa kanya. I remember her saying,’ Those who like me...raise your hands.  For those who don’t...raise your standards.”

“How can I ever forget senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago? Besides speaking the same dialect, we share the same birthday,” he said with a laugh.

Edna Leynes, who owns a vegetables stall in Tandang Sora Market in Quezon City, said she missed Santiago’s courage and eloquence.

“Nami-miss ko sobra ang katapangan niya, lalo sa Senado at ang sobrang galing niyang mag-English. Gustong-gusto ko siya, lalo na pag nagagalit na siya sa mga masasamang tao. Hanggang ngayon wala pa din akong makitang idol na kapalit niya,” Leynes said.

Retired lieutenant general Leopoldo Maligalig said he missed Santiago’s highest standard of excellence in the Senate.

“Miriam exemplified the highest standard of integrity, excellence and an impeccable knowledge of the law …sorely missing, sadly, in many of the lawmakers in both houses of Congress,” he said.

Maligalig said Santiago should be a role model both for the youth and all public servants of today and future generations.

“Her courage should also be one we should all emulate. She is sorely missed,” he said.

The Santiago family will hold a mass at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina at 10 a.m. today to commemorate the fifth death anniversary of the late senator.

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