Thursday, May 07, 2009

5 Moments with Mom Edith

I was there…

…one summer afternoon when I went up to the Montemar home of NATIONAL ARTIST EDITH LOPEZ TIEMPO to accompany an editor of Good Housekeeping magazine and a noted photographer who were scheduled to do an interview and photo session. It was their first time to meet the National Artist and they were starstruck. The editor, who was ready with a notebook of questions failed to make a good start. I had to do the initial interview. The photographer was like a trigger-happy soldier, taking shots non-stop. It was my first time to witness a presence up-close that really overwhelmed her audience. The two visitors loved every moment of it, and they never stopped talking about how welcoming Mom Edith was, or how happy they were to capture her effortless regal bearing and how they were entertained by her way of sharing stories from a life loaded with romantic angles, the sepia of local scenes, and the wisdom of the pen.

…somewhere in the 1980’s when a student talked about the walk-out of one his panelists during a defense of his dissertation on Creative Writing. He criticized the need for cultural honesty with the writer’s use of local color. He cited a work of Dr. Edilberto K. Tiempo whom the student acknowledged as a major influence in his writing. The walk-out queen was the Dean of the Graduate School then, our beloved Dr. Edith Lopez Tiempo. She defended the work of the mentor as it was within the freedom of artistic expression. I loved the display of anger – I understood that it was not for the connection but of her pure passion. It was from a nurturing heart of an artist protecting the work of a fellow artist. Mom Edith is always a “mother hen” to any artist disturbed by confusion, and in this case, a criticism in full public view that had forgotten the element of respect.

… one morning in Montemar, she ushered me to sit down and ask, “Moses, would you care to listen to this… a poem, I wrote last night.” Being the first listener to The Writer’s Parentheses was a privilege I would forever cherish. When we mounted the event fir the renaming of the university library to Robert and Metta Silliman Library, in honor of the mentors that paved the way for her and her husband King to be Iowa scholars - I asked her to have the first public reading of “The Writer’s Parentheses” but the engagement was too early for her. So son Danny did it for Mom. and he successfully enlightened everyone of the Sillimans’ generosity to his parents, and the poem that was read became a testimony of the enduring legacy.

… a Christmas Eve at Silliman Church which had Dr. Edith Tiempo’s reading of a poem as the main expression of praise. The uniqueness of the moment made the worship elegant. The National Artist in a red dress was portrait of “the beauty of Jesus” seen through her glee while at the pulpit. She captured the true spirit of the season with Christmas Light, Christmas Dark.

this birth is a time, yes, for festivity,
But even more, a time for humility,
A time for laying by
The feverish praise and loud celebration,
A time for quiet introspection.
A time to grasp in the darkness of our being
The wonder of this birth and the balm of its meaning.

This fact is even true in the fiesta month of May where “loud celebration” can bring people away from the “…time for quiet introspection.”

… when the Quizo Family Quintet serenaded the National Artist Edith Lopez Tiempo on her 90th birthday. The afternoon harana as suggested by the Silliman University president Dr. Ben S. Malayang was a surprise for her but I was more surprised at the energy she had that day listening and dancing with the music of James, Meriam, Jon, Onna and Yeshua. She stood-up to join them dancing and singing, “Rock-a My Soul... in the bosom of Abraham..." When she heard them with the prayer song “Lead Me Lord.” She expressed, “…there is only one word to describe their singing: terrific!” The fun went on, and I was amazed at the warmth exchanges of Mom Edith and the beloved children, the who’s who in the Philippine literary world: SUSAN LARA, MARGE EVASCO, DM REYES, MYRNA PEÑA-REYES, JIM ABAD, KRIP YUSON, ANTHONY TAN, SAWI AQUINO, ERNIE YEE, IAN CASOCOT.... Her majesty at 90 was a big story to share – truly an enduring moment with love overflowing!

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