By Founding Publisher Lemuel Fernandez
The breadwinner with two very young boys mustered all the courage and went to her office with a favor to ask in his heart. “Lemuel hi! How are you?” such disarming yet reassuring gesture, so typical of her amiability and approachable persona.
Before I could utter any response, she blurted out “I know why you are here. It’s about Toni.”
Yes Ma’am, Cheer…
“Wait…Cheer? As in cheers?”
Yes Ma’am. My wife has a long name, Toni Dinah Cheer.
“You don’t need to come. Diyos ko wala ka salig sa abilidad sang asawa mo!? Taas ranking ni Toni.”
If memory serves right, that was 1994. Rence was seven, Scent was barely two years old.
When I was mugged in 2011 just outside The Daily Guardian’s office, at the parking lot of Viosil’s Arcade to be precise, she sent a heart-warming, nay comforting letter she scribbled on two pages torn off her deskpad. I forgot about that inspiring, edifying letter until Cheer retrieved it from her baul in the wake of ma’am Riza’s passing.
Thoughtful. Bubbly yet down-to-earth. Revolutionized, she did, the Ati-Atihan tribes’ performances. Made Iloilo National High School one of the best – if not the best – public secondary schools in the country having piloted, pioneered the schools-within-a-school program highlighted by the Special Science Class, School of the Arts, School For the Future programs.
Her brilliance shone the brightest not in her laurels, not in the letters after her name, not in the countless achievements and accolades she earned as leader of academic institutions and in her trailblazing imaginations in the field of arts and culture, but in who she was as a person, as a human being. An Anilaonon by blood, an Ilonggo by birth, Riza Sargado Amaguin, Ed.D. was the name.
And she will forever be in my heart…in our family’s heart.