MANILA - Former Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago's colleagues in the Senate expressed their gratitude, admiration, and farewell messages to the "Iron Lady of Asia" who died Thursday morning.
"It saddens me that we have lost a brilliant mind, a pillar in the legal profession," Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon told ABS-CBN News.
MIRIAM: THE STUDENT
"Miriam was a friend, she was my classmate for 8 years in AB
We were in campus politics together, we were writing in The Collegian together," Drilon said.
"She was my editor-in-chief and she appointed me associate editor so we date back to 1961, over 50 years. We would take rides together going to the Liwayway Publication then," Drilon recalled.
"She won the Magsaysay Award for her advocacy against corruption," Drilon said, describing his colleague as incorruptible.
MIRIAM: THE PROFESSOR
Senate President Koko Pimentel remembered Santiago as a mentor, not just in law school but even in the halls of the Senate.
"She was then the Immigration Commissioner but she still found time to teach her students. She was very efficient, we would finish the reference from cover to cover," Pimentel said.
Despite being known as feisty, Santiago "she was not so strict" as a college professor, said Pimentel.
"She had a strict reputation because she was then the Immigration Commissioner and she was strict with foreigners breaking the law, but inside the classroom, she was very reasonable," the Senate President said.
"She was not so strict but she required us to memorize the Bill of Rights," Pimentel said, chuckling at the memory.
Santiago's brilliance as an educator did not end within the halls of a classroom as she continued to demonstrate her legal prowess during Senate sessions.
"She would always contribute something. If it's about the constitution, you better listen because she would educate you. She would tell you something you did not know before," Pimentel noted.
"When Miriam is speaking, I would bring out my dictionary.
I have a dictionary installed in my cellphone and Senator Miriam is responsible for that," Pimentel said, giving emphasis to the lady senator's extensive vocabulary.
MIRIAM: THE FRIEND
Despite her tough exterior, Santiago was tender on the inside, Senator Cynthia Villar said.
"She's feisty on the outside but she's very kind and endearing to her siblings, to her family," Villar, who is a family friend of Santiago, said.
Villar described Santiago as a very courageous woman who did not flinch even in her battle against lung cancer.
"I could not believe that she had cancer because she was so tough. She had that fighting spirit even up to her last days. Her sickness did not deter her," Villar said.
Drilon considers Miriam's passing as "a great loss to the nation," while Pimentel said the country is blessed that "once upon a time, there was a Miriam Santiago who became a senator and shared her insights and intelligence in the Senate."
But Villar noted that Santiago's courage and determination should be a lesson for all Filipinos.
"What she feels, she says. She was never afraid. That should be a lesson to us because sometimes when the fight is hard, we become timid. We should be more like her, always fighting for what we believe in," she said.