Ode to Colet

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - November 12, 2020 - 12:00am

So many of our friends have gone ahead of us, and we’re left holding on to memories of our splendid friendship. But we are consoled by the belief that they are now with our Lord; yes, what can be a more consoling belief than that. And, as William Wordsworth wrote: “That though the radiance which once was so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in a flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”

I can wax poetic, and sad, but as Wordsworth advises, I should grieve not, rather find strength in my remembrance of a dearest friend who passed away Nov. 4 from a prolonged ailment – Attorney Coleta Matanug Aranas. She was born on March 6, 1940.

Our friendship began in college at Silliman University. She was the editor of the weekly campus paper, Sillimanian, and I was her faithful cub reporter and admirer. She would say I was her best assistant, doing whatever errands she made me do. But she was a terrific writer – to be Sillimanian editor, and after this one-year stint, editor of the campus album, the Portal. She finished the law course in 1961, the year I finished my bachelor of arts course, and later that year, we wound up being roommates at the Cosmopolitan Church dormitory in Manila. She was reviewing for the Bar at the Ateneo de Manila in Padre Faura, and I was a neophyte writer at the Manila Bulletin. It was during this time that we became closer, sharing stories about our lives and loves.

After passing the Bar exams, she hied back to Dumaguete where lived her family – her father Pedro Aranas, a respected educator, and her mother, Lucina Llenos Matanug, also a teacher, and her siblings Leonarda (who would later become an Elliott), Gamaliel, Wilhelmina, William, Blandina and Gloria (later to become a de Guzman). In what was once called “the city of gentle people” (i.e., Dumaguete), Colet served the local judicial court as a fiscal. She lived in the US for a few years; while there she married an American landscape artist who passed away a few years ago. She returned to Dumaguete and went into private practice. She had quite a remarkable practice, defending cases of well-to-do and less privileged clients.

That Colet valued me as a friend was evidenced by her yearly arranging of birthday parties for me, sponsored by Don Julio and Aning Sy – which fell on Silliman’s Founders Day, Aug. 28. She would invite the city’s prominent residents and our friends from our college days, and the DIs and singers and bands. She’d even send me airline tickets from Manila!

Her siblings would ask why I was a favored friend, and she’d say, “Because…” Let me complete that: Because friends are forever!

This year, my Aug. 28 birthday party had to be cancelled because of an unexpected, unwelcome guest, the coronavirus. Colet had personally created invitations and begun calling singers to perform at the event. At this last time, she was experiencing some aches and pains, and on the phone, she surprisingly sounded like she was just talking in whispers. Previously, when her secretary said I was calling from Manila, she would drop everything she was doing and excitedly exclaim into the contraption, “Domini!” She made me feel like a so-wanted, sweet lollipop!

Now she’s gone. The invitations to my party remained unsent. Only two of her siblings went to her funeral, the rest unable to leave their homes in the US and Germany because of the pandemic. Her good and faithful niece, Lani Yber, attended to a million and one things to make her last days less painful, calling her aunt’s friends, and seeing that things went right, up to the tossing of flowers into her resting place.

Aside from Lani, Colet’s nieces and nephews are Louella Sophia Yber Vendiola, Kim Peter Enrique Manuel Yber, Jim Garth Yber, Louell Sophia Yber Vendiola, Kim Peter Enrique Manuel Aranas Yber, Aaron Aranas, Mark Anthony Marino Aranas, Wilhelina Marino Aranas, George Pette Marino Aranas, Hazel Manila Yubensing, Ingid Manila Sigasig, Eileen Aranas, Kevin Aranas and Paul, Edward Roy and David William Aranas de Guzman.

Colet’s adopted daughter, Cindy Mae Aranas, posted on Facebook a most touching paean.

“To my mother Colette:

“I’m so blessed to have you as my mother.

“The knowledge you gave me to be ready for the day we go away has come. No one will know what we really have been through as your daughter, and you as my mother. I cherish the bond we have since the day you took me in your arms. I watched you cry, watched you disappointed, and watched you fight with everything you got for the ones you love and for justice and the truth. I am so proud of you. You wanted me to be like you! Mom, you did nothing wrong. I am happy now that you are free! No more pain. You are now dining with our Heavenly Father! I am at peace, for I know you are watching over me...! We shall meet again! I love you, Mom, and I am honored to be your daughter!”

Goodbye, my BFF. To paraphrase the poet, though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor of our friendship, I grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.

*      *      *

Another good friend of Colet, Priscilla Lasmarias Kelso, who lives in Newtonville, Mass., replied to my letter informing her of Colet’s passing away.

“Got your email regarding Colet’s passing. At this stage in our lives, more and more family members and friends will leave us (unless we go ahead of them). I am increasingly   and gradually reconciled to this reality as we age.
“The last time I was with Colet was in 2011 when Bart and I were at Silliman as visiting faculty. Over the years that I’ve lived in the US, I more or less lost touch with her. But I know that you and she were together for many occasions in Dumaguete. I remember our Sillimanian days together in the early 1960s when life was young and death was not in our vocabulary.
“May she rest in God’s eternal presence.
“Stay safe and vigilant. Love, Pris”

After a few hours, Priscilla sent this poem on love and loss written by Mary Oliver, a New England poet who died last year, leaving behind this gem:

“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things:

“To love what is mortal,

“To hold it against your bones,

“Knowing your own life depends on it

“And, when the time comes to let it go,

“To let it go.”

*      *      *

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

COLET
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