Standing: Cecilia Brainard, Marily Orosa, Felice Sta. Maria; seated Gilda Cordero Fernando
I must confess that I hardly slept last night, and it had to do with the passing of Gilda Cordero Fernando. That with the stresses of Covid and politics kept me awake until around 4 am.
Gilda graduated from St. Theresa’s College, which I also attended, and so even when I was in high school, I had already heard of Gilda. She was very talented; she was one of those people who could do anything she wanted to do. She was a writer, publisher, artist, fashion designer, and later in life, she became a painter.
I used to visit her now and then to buy copies of her handsome coffee table Filipiniana books. She and Frankie Jose gave me the idea that writers don’t have to sit around waiting for a publisher to publish your work but that you can actually do something about it.
The book selling petered off and I didn’t see her for years, but we shared some pages, in Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo’s book Filipino Woman Writing, and I included her in the popular collection, Growing Up Filipino: Stories for Young Adults. She attended the book launch but I heard roundabout that she was surprised (or miffed) that I had used her story without her permission. In fact I had her written permission, and that matter quickly frittered away.
In 2014 I saw her for the last time at the turnover of Frankie Jose’s books to the De La Salle University library. She was in a wheelchair but still beautiful and very much engaged with Manila’s literary community.
I think what kept me up all night was thinking of the connections of all Filipino and Filipino American writers whether we are fully aware of it. When one leaves, there is a feeling of loss. I felt this when Ben Santos, N.V.M. Gonzalez, Mar Puatu, Sylvia Mayuga, many others passed. A deep sadness. A kind of reckoning of who’s left to carry on. A realization that we are all just passing through.
I found these pictures: one taken at the DLSU event and the cover of Jing Pantoja Hidalgo’s book that includes sketches of her women subjects: Carolina Malay, Maria Luna Lopez, Estrella Alfon, Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil, Kerima Polotan Tuvera, Barbara Gonzalez„ Cecilia Brainard, Sylvia Mayuga (Sylvia Morningstar), Rosario Garcellano, and Gilda Cordero-Fernando.
Good night, Gilda. Rest in Peace. (Gilda Cordero-Fernando 1930–2020).
Read also Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s short story, The Eye of the Needle, here:
Tags: women, writers, Philippines, Filipina, Pinay