Hearing a clatter and voices outside the bedroom where I was staying, I peeked out and saw this wiry woman dragging a suitcase up the second floor landing.
“Hi!” she said with a bright, welcoming smile, the kind of smile that flashes between the best of long-time friends.
In truth, it was the first – and the last time – I met Gina Lopez.
It was autumn of 2017. I was then a guest of the Philippine-American Writers and Artists, Inc. (PAWA) in San Francisco. PAWA had lodged me with Chita and Dickie Taylor in order to talk about my book "Marcos Martial Law: Never Again" before various audiences.
It took me some time to realize that Chita was Conchita La’O, wife of my late Manila Chronicle newspaper boss, Eugenio “Geny” Lopez, Jr. Chita had married Dickie Taylor.
Chita told me that her daughter Gina was arriving very late one night. I shouldn’t worry if I heard noises in the corridor.
When Gina had deposited her suitcase in another bedroom, she invited me to join her in the kitchen downstairs. It was past midnight and I still had a speech to write.
But, never mind. I was curious to see Gina whom I had only seen in the news ordering the closure of mining companies polluting the environment.
When we were seated, Gina lost no time flicking through her iPhone, showing me videos of villagers she was helping.
She brimmed over with plans for spending US$10,000 – the sum she was given for winning the 2017 Seacology Prize in Berkeley. They all consisted of projects to help the poor.
She told me she had just come from a cancer center which had run tests and pronounced her cancer-free.
Our talk ran through so many topics.
Did I think she should run for senator?, she asked me.
I said that with her wide popularity and name recall, she would probably win. “But do you personally want to be senator,” I asked her in turn.
She did not reply but switched back to her passion – the environment.
Curious, I decided to ask her two questions in turn. “How do you feel about the drug war? And how did Duterte relate to Leni (Robredo)?”
Gina turned serious and said the President was in possession of facts that justified going after the drug lords.
As for Leni, she giggled and said, “he (Duterte) was always looking at her legs.”
Gina came across like a force of nature. Her sentences were full of exclamations. I was a rapt audience of one as she talked about her future projects.
Gina crammed the last two years of her life with projects. Her latest TV show, the “G Diaries”, was her Last Will and Testament to fellow Filipinos.
It was her way of leaving footprints in her final journey to eternity.
And entrusting what she had started to us all.
As she said in this video, “Alam mo, bahala ka na.”
When I woke up hours after our conversation, Gina was gone. She had flown back from San Francisco to Manila, which she called home.
My condolence to her mom Chita and her step-dad Dickie, her children and siblings and to the ABS-CBN family.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.