Tribute to a Boholano Hero
By Atty. John Titus J. Vistal
So this is how it feels to lose a friend in the prime of her life – hollow and deeply disconsolate. I’m probably not as equipped as other people to deal with grief, and when I am faced with such a loss, I am more likely to be dumbfounded than anything else.
When I first met Atty. Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green, she was simply ‘Mia’ then, a college student who was a popular campus figure, someone who commanded the respect of my father for her sharp intelligence, and who, because she held a mutual respect for my father, also extended the same cordiality to me, a skinny and ungainly high school student.
Our friendship started when we both attended a seminar on the Enneagram of Personality, and while the personality classifications discussed in that class have long been forgotten, I will always remember how she tended to give me advice in terms of how to conduct myself better and to put myself across more effectively.
In college, I took up accounting and, naturally, became her student, because she was already a CPA then, and a faculty member of the Holy Name University College of Commerce. She became ‘Ma’am Mia’ then, a name that has always stuck with her students.
She had a distinct personality and image – she had her own brand, if you will. She was always well-dressed. She had a clear, solid voice, and while she had an air of authority in the classroom, she could be a friend to the students too, which is why, when she quit teaching to focus on her law studies, there were tributes galore from her various classes.
As she became a lawyer, and as I graduated in turn and started teaching in the College of Commerce, our relationship continued to evolve. She now insisted that I call her Mia – which I never got used to. I ended up not calling her name sometimes, because she was always Ma’am Mia to me. Throughout those years, she never stopped giving me bits of advice, especially when I told her I had also decided to take up Law.
She was the type of friend who was always happy to see you every time you crossed paths. She was always interested in what was going on with your life, like she was personally invested in how your life was turning out – and always ready, of course, to offer advice that came from her heart.
As she became a successful trial lawyer and a prominent figure in the Boholano community, her voice carried more authority and conviction. And when she walked into a room, she didn’t simply walk in – she breezed in, almost as if she were bringing a breath of fresh air to everyone in the room.
Before that tragic, violent and senseless incident a few days ago that took her life, I had begun to think, time and again, that we hadn’t seen each other in a long time. Of course, the concerns of motherhood and family life, on top of a thriving career, meant that she had less time to go around and chitchat, and she was less visible outside of the places where her work required her to be. But as it is with old friends, there was always that confidence that our paths would cross at random, and we’d catch up on old times, and she’d give me her unique brand of advice again.
Sadly, she died in the prime of her life, and her death has left a vacuum in my heart, and in the hearts of people throughout Bohol. I cannot even begin to imagine the grief felt by her husband Estong and their children, and I do not presume to be able to speak for them.
Certainly, as Gov. Edgar M. Chatto expressed in his State of the Province Address (SOPA) last Friday, there is an ongoing manhunt which will continue without letup until justice is served. But the task of bringing her killers to justice is a task for everyone – this is, essentially a call to action for the entire community. We must search for more information about the case (on the internet, and on all available media) to make sure that Atty. Mia receives the justice she deserves, and that the perpetrators are caught and punished. Her family needs all the help they can get.
But at the end of the day, I do not want to dwell on how she lost her life. I want to dwell on her vitality, her vivacity, her joie de vivre.
If there’s anything that gives me consolation, it’s this account of a person who had a near-death experience, which I came upon recently: “I floated up the stairs – my consciousness came with me. I saw my kids, had the realization that they would be okay. Then I was surrounded by a bluish-white light…an enormous feeling of well-being and peace…pure thought, pure ecstasy.” [Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks: 2007]
Death will come to each one of us at a certain point. My consolation is that, as expressed in the above quote by someone who came back to narrate the experience, no matter how violent the passing, that moment will feel more like a liberation than anything, and that, ultimately, we will all be reunited in the great hereafter.
For now, I would like to honor her memory by remembering her at her best and at her most vital. The apparent reason for her killing seems senseless, and we do not understand, most of all, why it had to be her, but despite all that, her principled life, full of positive energy, advocacy, and genuine passion, has not been in vain.
She is my hero.
[About the Author: ATTY. JOHN TITUS J. VISTAL is the Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator of the Province of Bohol. Currently, he is set to be seconded to the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) as Secretary-General, a USec-level position (awaiting the President’s official appointment). He counts Atty. Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green among the biggest influences in his life.