‘You carried your cross with such graciousness’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star

My high school class is one of achievers and survivors. After all, survivors are big-time achievers and achievers are scarred survivors of many battles.

Always, the biggest battles are the life-threatening encounters. In my batch (Assumption Convent Makati) is two-time cancer survivor Michelle Dayrit-Soliven, the poster girl for miracles. After battling cancer of the uterus, she went on to fight cancer of the breast. Last week, she was on the catwalk as one of the faces of the fight against breast cancer for the ICanServe Foundation fundraiser. Aside from Michelle, a few other batch mates silently fought the Big C, and were fortunate to have nipped it in the bud.

About a year ago, one of the most active members of our batch, the effervescent Liza Tomacruz Latinazo, discovered she had late-stage cancer. The diagnosis was grim but it was met with the sunshine of true love — from her batch mates.

As our batch president Andie Recto recalled, Michelle and a core group of prayer warriors told Liza, “You will not be alone in this journey.”

Andie took Michelle’s promise to Liza almost “literally.”



 “I was putting myself in Liza’s shoes the whole time and would not want to be alone,” she said. “And all of the classmates felt the same and showed their love in many different ways.”

Like they did for Michelle, my classmates held themed chemo parties for Liza — it seemed more like a bridal shower than a chemo session. They came in costumes and with the most scrumptious merienda in tow. They were a formidable support group to Liza’s beloved husband Ronnie and daughter Cara.

And they kept their promise to the end.

From the time Liza found out about her cancer to the night she passed on peacefully — at the height of what normally would have been party hour and our batch’s usual Strumm’s night —  she was never far from the  caring embrace and loving gaze of her classmates.

During the final night of Liza’s wake, Andie said in her eulogy that caring for Liza during her stay at the hospital, “was a privilege and I am honored to have been trusted by her family to do so.”

“God cleared my schedule,” added Andie, “that I was able to be with her every day.” Another classmate Marivic Puyat-Limcaoco was also there every day.

Andie feels it is she who owes Liza for the privilege of having cared for her. “I learnt from her patience and gratitude. It was I who gained more from this.”

A good friend once told me: “Family are friends you chose to keep.”

Liza was blessed because she had family. Come to think of it, that was the song of our finale during our silver jubilee velada. We are family. I’ve got all my sisters with me.

* * *

During his homily at the thanksgiving Mass he celebrated for Liza, Fr. Gerard Deveza, who was also with Liza and our class during this journey, recalled that he counseled Liza from the start to embrace life. With the knowledge that her life was threatened by illness, Liza had the gift and the license to drop everything and live life to the fullest. She stopped to smell the roses.

“And she turned to you, her classmates,” Father Gerard said. She turned to the ones who, next to her immediate family, she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.

Indeed, Liza brought the class together with the same intensity it shared while practicing for its silver jubilee velada. Classmates cleared their schedules for Liza and together they went on pilgrimages and road trips. They prayed and played with childlike wonder.

Father Gerard said that the healing Liza asked from God was granted. Not only for herself — because she was so peacefully and wholeheartedly ready to meet God — but also for her class. She brought out the best in them, she taught them through the smile she gave for everything that came her way, the healing grace of acceptance. Acceptance is different from resignation. As Marivic said, Liza showed us not only how to live but also how to die — with grace.

On the night I went to Liza’s wake, every tribute given to her didn’t fail to mention her smile. How it would slowly lift the corners of her lips and radiate in her eyes. How she would say thank you with a smile to every well-wisher who visited her in the hospital. How she would put on lipstick when she was sleepy, as if it had the same caffeine content as an espresso.

One of her best friends Cecilia Dolendo Suarez said Liza should be remembered with her favorite song, and another classmate Arlina Arrozal de Jesus played it at the end of Cecilia’s eulogy: “The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup. I’ll say a little prayer for you…”

I’ll always remember Liza as one who lived life to the fullest, who loved much, who worked hard (she was a top corporate executive), who knew how to enjoy life. She was ever present in our reunions, in prayer meetings, in retreats and all the “she” times here and abroad. With her gone, a spoke in the wheel that is our class is gone forever. The studded jewel that is our class has lost a gem from its setting, and the empty space is glaring.

* * *

In the morning before Liza passed away, one of her closest friends and classmates Marilou Sarthou-Lacson visited her in the hospital. She told Liza how proud she was of her and her courage.

“You have carried your cross with such graciousness. You are our shining example of strength and courage; of love and gratitude.”

Marilou told Liza how much she loved her “serene and calm smile, your glowing radiant skin. Even in your sleep, you are so very beautiful…”

Marilou, echoing the thoughts of most of Liza’s classmates, continued, “I want you to know that I will love you and yours forever and hold you all in my heart. Sisters always and forever. That’s what is wonderful about this sisterhood of ours. We are always there for each other, no matter what, no matter where, no matter how.”

Andie was beside Marilou during that very moment and she said Liza, though her eyes were closed, squeezed Marilou’s hand, “real tight, as if saying, ‘Love you, Honey’!” That was her favorite term of endearment.

Godspeed, Liza. When I need a boost, I will put on lipstick, too (bright pink, your favorite), because it will remind me that the best way to live life is to LIVE it. Vividly.

The way you did, the way you showed others how to live it. Rest now, Honey! (You may e-mail me at [email protected].)


vuukle comment












  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with