Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Salustiano Mariño's senseless death

The bomb that was planted by still unknown terrorists inside a passenger bus yesterday afternoon in Makati, killing five people and wounding over a dozen others, stunned the nation. But it hit my family in a very direct way, just as we were preparing for the 9th day of our novena for my husband who passed away last Jan. 16th,  Feast of the Sto. Nino.


I was in Makati early yesterday afternoon, attending the inauguration of my distinguished friend, Architect and Urban Planner Felino “Jun” Palafox, the first in his field to head the prestigious “Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) at the Manila Peninsula. After a fast lunch there, I ran up to the Conservatory of the Pen to sit in at the Makati Rotary meeting where I had  arranged for the brilliant young Jesuit, Fr. Johnny Go, president of Xavier School to address the Rotarians. He spoke about the interconnectivity between uppity-up Xavier and the Erda Technical-Vocational High School for very poor students in low-end Pandacan, Manila, run by Erda Foundation where Fr. Johnny serves as chair. He told them how Xavier faculty volunteers are helping to upgrade teaching standards at Erda Tech and how Xavier students' families assist in some material needs of the Erda students. The Rotarians came out quite inspired by Fr. Johnny's talk

Our family driver Jerry Mariño was somewhere in the area at that time, and when he fetched me, he noted  the horrible traffic and how some areas were being cordoned off by the police. At home we were all glued to TV reports about the deadly bomb that had just ripped through a bus. Jerry was among those listening intently. Little did he realize, until he got a phone call early this morning, that his father, Salustiano Mariño, was one of the four fatalities in that bombing!


It was particularly painful for my family as we had just buried my husband, the late Lt. Gen. and Ambassador Thelmo Y. Cunanan, last Saturday at the Heritage Memorial Park. Jerry was one of those who had taken care of my husband over the many weeks and months of his long illness. Jerry's “expertise” was to give my husband gentle massages in the legs and hands as he battled the last throes of a raging metastasized prostate cancer. In the many nights in Medical City that he and I spent taking care of Gen. Cunanan, Jerry would go without sleep often, as my husband kept calling him all the time to help assuage  his body pains with the touch of his hands; but finally, after over a week straight Jerry himself was downed by flu and had to be replaced.  Mercifully, through all the many nights my husband was confined in hospitals in Pasig and in China where we brought him for treatment, God sustained my physical and spiritual strength, although I lost quite a lot of pounds.


Bombing victim Salustiano Mariño, who was just in his early ‘50s, drove a rented FX taxi for a living, and yesterday was rest day due to the vehicle's color-coding.  He went to Makati to follow up some papers and he ended up riddled with bomb shrapnels on his way home to Pasig.  We grieve for Mr. Mariño because, unlike my husband who at nearly 73, had a full life and distinguished career and saw his three children happily married, Mr. Mariño was so young and had only briefly gotten to enjoy his seven-month old granddaughter from Jerry, whose family lives in Romblon.  

This evening, as we attend the 9th day mass for Gen. Cunanan celebrated by Rev. Fr. Steve Penetrante, the dedicated chaplain of the Army Service Command that includes Fort Bonifacio General Hospital and of Libingan ng Mga Bayani, we will also be praying for the soul of Mr. Mariño. His death and those of the other victims in that  bus explosion were so senseless and we can only hope and pray that the terrorism  would in turn be stopped in its tracks, so that we Filipinos need not cower in fear for our lives. The President and his Cabinet have to move decisively.


It will be quite a while before our relatives and friends would forget the music-filled funeral mass and the pomp and pageantry of the military funeral that brought Gen. Cunanan to his final resting place in Heritage Memorial Park last Saturday. Many said the ceremony  was really and truly beautiful, beginning with the homily by the charismatic Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD. and the religious and love songs that leading stars of the Philippine opera world sang throughout the mass. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, my former editor-in-chief, Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, was instrumental, together with popular Bulletin lifestyle columnist Deedee Siytangco and her entrepreneur-daughter Sandy Masigan, in getting the super-busy Fr. Jerry to cancel his appointments that morning to officiate at the mass.

I also requested my good friend, soprano Karla Patricia Gutierrez, the indefatigable president of the Philippine Opera Company (POC) to put together a funeral repertoire for my husband that people would long remember. With only a day and a half’s time, she got tenor Nolyn Cabahug (who happily has recovered from an earlier serious ailment), his daughter, soprano Marian Cabahug, young tenor Ervin Lumauag  and POC scholars Camille  Tecson and Bryan Corea. They sang songs that reduced our guests to tears, even as they glorified God for these artists' talents: the "Ave Maria" and "Amazing Grace," sung by Marian; "You’ll Never Walk Alone" and "Hindi Kita Malilimutan," by Nolyn;  "Climb Every Mountain" (from Sound of Music) and “Dust in the Wind” sung by Karla;  Pie Jesu by Bryan and Camille; "Impossible Dream" by Bryan, and my two special requests for that ``mass, "Panis Angelicus" (Bread of Angels) sung by Nolyn, and “Light of  a Million Mornings,” sung by Ervin who also rendered Malotte's version of the "Our Father." If you haven't heard "Light of a Million Mornings," you're missing half of your life. 

Over the past few days much had been written about Gen. Cunanan’s military achievements, specially how he helped rescue beseiged Camp Aguinaldo in the desperate moments of the most critical coup against President Cory. But few know about his love for music which is rather rare for military men. After we were married, he brought to our home stuff he had acquired during his cadet days at West Point, among them vinyl  records of Bing Crosby (with his immortal “Bells of St. Mary” and what I insist is still the best version of “White Christmas” ever) Perry Como and the young men's heart-throb in that era, Joni James, some operas as well as orchestral works of various composers, especially Antonio Vivaldi with his cymbals and trumpets. 

Music was among the interests we shared. Over the long years, especially as we got older and had more time together, my husband and I followed all kinds of music events in various places: from the jazz concerts organized by Chona Ampil and her band’s stints in InterCon Hotel, to concerts of the Angelos, led by tenor George Sison Tagle (our answer to the Il Divo), religious music at San Agustin and the Las Pinas Church, performances at Araneta Coliseum such as those of Andy Williams and Dionne Warwick, musicals such as Miss Saigon and Cats, and opera productions and symphony concerts here and abroad.  We would also catch free music events in Paco Park or at the Rizal Park, munching on peanuts or something on the grass. Gen. Cunanan had an excellent collection of Frank Sinatra and other "oldies but goodies,"  but the only genre his city mouse-wife did not share was his love for cowboy music.


Two years ago, on our last evening in Rome after winding up our private pilgrimage on the 2000th birth anniversary of St. Paul,  we heard an elegant mass in St. Peter's Basilica, behind Bernini’s Baldacchino, complete with full organ music. Later we caught Guiseppe Verdi’s La Traviata at a little church on the Via Nazionale. During the intermission Gen. Cunanan went out to the church garden to smoke a cigar, bundled up in a light overcoat, woolen scarf and beret to tackle the late autumn Roman cold in mid-November. He came back quite queazy, for he found himself smoking with two pretty young things clad only in their spaghetti-strapped gowns. 

The Philippine Opera Company was dear to my husband and we followed all its productions, from “La Boheme” to the unforgettable “Master Class” performance of actress Cherry Gil as Maria Callas, to the POC’s “Harana” featuring the best-loved native airs of various regions. A few years back POC put up Mozart’s “Magic Flute” as a special Christmas treat for youngsters as the operetta has a lot of fantasy characters and beautiful costumes; POC needed sponsorship for one afternoon’s show and Gen. Cunanan not only came across with it,  but also watched the show himself,  only to be saddened that not enough youngsters were invited to watch it. He felt there should have been closer coordination between our public schools and companies such as POC in artistic productions and the National Commission for Culture & the Arts. What a waste of effort and talents to put up such an excellent show before a near-empty house, he said.  

I promised Karla Gutierrez that as a token of my family's gratitude for POC's mini-concert at my husband's funeral, we would help in its scholarship program.

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