Sunday, July 03, 2011

In Memory of a Poet PEARL GAMBOA DOROMAL 1923–2011

“Each person is an enigma ultimately unknowable, not only so by nature, but also because he is self-masked….” – Edith Lopez Tiempo
Masked or unmasked, the poet Pearl Gamboa Doromal, was beautiful inside-out.
When her husband Dr. Quintin Salas Doromal was president of Silliman University, he always made it a point to introduce “the woman behind the man” in all occasions that called for his presence. All Sillimanians, with much pride, would welcome the lovely presence, applauding – echoing the same pride. There is also much anticipation for the moment when their beloved First Lady would stand with all humility and still emanate that outstanding verve. PEARL GAMBOA DOROMAL was The Silliman Woman who epitomized the ideal of elegance.

With her as First Lady, The President’s Home – a campus landmark now called The University House – was a busy center of hospitality. The greatest number of Ambassadors from different embassies that visited Silliman was during the time of the Doromals. Convocation time was always at the Luce every Tuesday with a particular country in feature and an Ambassador of the country as resource speaker. Hosting visitors with high protocol requirements was never a problem as there was always the First Lady in Pearl, herself a daughter of the Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Dr. Melquiades J. Gamboa. She had her childhood in Oxford, England.

The University House was all welcoming spaces from the doorstep to Meg’s garden swing. Each corner felt like a home of royalty from the silver teapot on the wooden dining table to the blue china of orange African daisies under lampshades made of capiz shells. There was only one theme in this home: elegance.
One enduring sweet memory with Ma’am Pearl was the visit of the late Zeneida Amador, the director of Repertory Philippines, and the actors of “Gingerbread Lady,” to be staged at the Luce, which included Joy Virata, wife of the Prime Minister. I was called to join them at the President’s Home as they wanted to see the works of visual artists under the Order of the Golden Palette (OGPA). I was handling the PR of this group of local artists. Ma’am Pearl with the Maestro Albert Faurot was helping me in the presentation of the paintings. She was very generous with the endorsement which elevated the works of the amateur artists’ market value. Two paintings were sold to Amador instantly. Maestro Albert was all smiles, proud that the works of his OGPA sons went to the hands of a prime mover of mainstream culture, thanks to Ma’am Pearl who organized the artists’ rendezvous.
She was always with this constant concern for Filipino artists. Her support to Repertory Philippines included strengthening the Dumaguete outreach program.
During the launching of “The Artist: Hand and Breath,” her book of poetry in 1995, she signed a copy for me. Her book contains very educational commentaries by the National Artist Edith Lopez Tiempo, her mentor in Creative Writing. The subtle impact of the book led me to write my own haikus as it truly was inspiring. Reading the pages of this book gave me two mentors—Mom Edith and Ma’am Pearl, her literary daughter and co-actress in campus plays.
I love Ma’am Pearl’s poems – describes Mom Edith, as having a “delicate touch, almost fragile, with which Pearl depicts the bright green world of creation – even while simultaneously, by using the devices of poetic art, she transforms this gossamer touch into a vehicle of expressing life’s weighty and inescapable truths.”
Even with degrees in Arts from George Washington University and from Wilson College in Chambersburg, she pursued a graduate degree in Creative Writing from Silliman University. With the stature of First Lady, she humbly immersed into student life by becoming editor-in-chief of the Sands and Coral and the Portal, the yearbook. I have been reading her works published in the Sands and Coral.
By the end of my immersion into Ma’am Pearls’ poetry, I figured out some points of human nature. I love the human quality she gave to a Waling-waling, “…don’t’ you know tomorrow will bring/Poor vestiges of your reign?” The beauty of it gives me the urge to help honor those who have responded to the need for Silliman to rally back from the brink of death in the country’s Culture excellence. Ma’am Pearl’s love for Literature, Theater and the Visual Arts expressed in concrete steps is a legacy that will be a driving force to turn around in many good ways the years of mediocre tendencies.
There is just too many points to recall of that golden time at Silliman with that lovely presence of the First Lady. My memory of her is here to stay, like her acacias on campus:

Towering acacias
Waving leafy branches:

The everlasting arms.

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