Maria Teresa ‘Niña’ Webb.
‘Rock in peace, Niña!’
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2018 - 12:00am

Rock, not just rest.

This is what one of our classmates said of Maria Teresa “Niña” Webb, who passed away last week in her sleep.

For in life, Niña rocked. Absolutely. And I have no doubt that after she crosses the pearly gates, she’d be rockin’ heaven as well.

Tall and attractive, Niña would turn heads wherever she went. But it was more than her looks that made her stand out like the sun in winter. It was her joie de vivre, as our classmates Tere Liboro Liljberg and Andie Recto said in their eulogy for Niña. That word joie de vivre was made for her.

(Seated) Maite Duarte, Sandy Lamb Moran and Ditchay Roxas; (standing) Anna Limcaoco, Niña Webb and Tere Liljeberg.

Even when not tipsy, she would call everyone “Dahlink.” And when posing for photos, she would pucker her lips, raise an eyebrow and squint her eyes like the screen goddesses of the ‘50s. 

But those sultry eyes could draw children as well — they would follow her like she were the Pied Piper in heels. And not heeding the warning of the DSWD, Niña would give money to all the street children who would follow her in the market or outside the church.

Party-going Niña also wanted street kids to party and she would actually invite them to her home. I remember once how she posted on Facebook that she had a coterie of street children whom she befriended after they knocked on her car window.

Some of us were worried for her because she might be inviting trouble, but Niña was undaunted.

Screenshot of Niña’s birthday greeting to Andie the day before Niña died. Also in photo is Chloe Cruz Uy.

Back in the ‘80s, she invited our classmate Lisa Mapua “to the sleaziest bars in Malate.”

“Penguin, which was a favorite, was the most decent,” recalls Lisa.  “Everybody knew her at Penguin. The staff knew to play the Police CD, give us a table, and bring her her usual drink.  It was like her own party! One of the cheesiest places was a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar. The bathroom was wallpapered with pinups cut from girlie magazines. But even there, they knew her! And with Niña, we always had a blast.”

Niña’s brother John Dave noted in his eulogy for Niña in a Mass last Oct. 2 organized by our batch led by Karin Igual and celebrated by Father Gerard Deveza at the Assumption Convent Chapel in San Lorenzo, “Back then the waiters in the bars knew her name. Now, it is the children who wait for her outside church who know her name. They would always wait for her after Mass.” Niña always gave them treats.

Tere continues, “And my, Niña chose to live her life to the max! Niña was so open to different kinds of people and experiences, whether at home in Manila or San Francisco, or wherever her travels took her. She was open and curious, always game for an adventure, at whatever time of day or night. Classmates and friends remember her as happy, bubbly, irrepressible, lovingly crazy, warm, big-hearted, joyful, energetic, full of fun and laughter, dancing and drinking with friends.

The author, Andie Recto and Niña Webb during PeopleAsia’s People of the Year awards night in 2016.

“Niña also had a quiet, reflective, spiritual side. Often, her larger-than-life personality kept this out of sight. She watched and listened keenly to people’s hearts. She deeply cared for people and was generous with her time.”

Cynthia Tinsay Gonzalez, who was with Niña during the prayer retreat in Baguio, reminisces, “In addition to Niña being a lady who was full of life, funny and a quirky fashionista, my memory of her was that she prayed really well! She was fervent in prayer. Truly amazing to listen to. Very uplifting and inspiring! Thank you, Niña, for being Jesus to us.”

Our former teacher and still our spiritual adviser Marilen Reambillo, says, “Niña, like all of you, was such a beautiful woman in many ways. Niña was taken suddenly for the reason which only the Lord knows and we trust that she now rests in peace. In this the feast of the angels, be assured that Niña joins Liza (Latinazo, another batchmate who had passed away some years ago) and the other angels to keep watch over you, their most loved and faithful friends.”

Mia Mañosa remembers that she and Niña shared a bond: both US residents, they came home to the Philippines to care for their ailing mothers.

Like Mia, Niña was a devoted daughter, virtually never leaving her mother’s side and telling how privileged she was to be able to take care of the woman who gave her life. Niña was also a loving mother to Gloria, Charlie and Joshua.

(From left) Cecilia Suarez, Sarina Fores, Niña Webb, Karin Igual, Sandy Lamb Moran, Aissa Barrera, Marissa Concepcion and Marivic Limcaoco.

To one of her dearest friends and classmates Andie Recto, Niña was a rock. “It seemed like she would always be around for me, that is selfish me talking...Niña, Niña, Niña will surely miss your presence in my life! So happy you are in a better place.

“Niña was so appreciative of everyone and everything. She had a sense of style that anything she put on just looked great. Her compassion towards others’ pain was something else...she felt their pain and joy! I always thought she will be around forever hay naku!”

The day before Andie’s birthday party on Sept. 28, Niña and another classmate Chloe Cruz Uy, sent a video message from San Francisco greeting her. “Sorry we’re going to miss your party tonight. Happy birthday, Ands. Love you. Mwah mwah mwah,” Niña said with her trademark smile.

The following day, on Sept. 28, Niña died in her sleep. She made sure that before she joined her Creator and her parents in heaven, she greeted Andie a “Happy birthday” with all the love in her voice.

*  *  *

In the times that Niña would be in Manila, she would always be there to support me. She would make an effort to go to my PeopleAsia events, my birthday. She attended my birthday party last year and she gave me a rainbow. No, she gave me rainbows. When I unwrapped her gift, it was a palette of eye makeup shades. Not just a palm-sized palette. It was a palette as big as painter’s palette. You could imagine the many dazzling colors in them, an array of colors that reflected the joie de vivre of the giver.

And you know what, she wanted me to carry the colors of the rainbow always.

Niña Webb and Ditchay Roxas in Assumption.

“There’s a portable thingy, like a giant compact with the palette,” she instructed me after I thanked her for the gift in 2017. “You load the colors in the thingy and take it around with you.”

Yes Niña, I will carry the “thingy” with me, to remind me of how vibrant life can be, and to remind me that I was blessed with a friend who made sure I could carry the colors of the rainbow in my purse.

Thank you, Niña Webb, for splashing color into our lives. Rock in peace, now. *

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

MARIA TERESA WEBB
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