October 3, 2023

Oct. 31 is a significant day for me. This is the birthday of the late Ben Andaya, former Department of Tourism Baguio and Philippine Tourism Authority head, and the first death anniversary of my former colleague, Carmelita “Lita” Mondiguing.
Andaya was my former boss and Lita was a former regional director of the DOT-Cordillera. She was a dear friend. We were a threesome then, Lita, Gay, and me. Lita and I took “optional retirement” almost at the same time. Gay retired three years earlier when the Baguio Convention Center, formerly managed by the Philippine Convention and Visitor’s Corporation, was given back to the Government Service Insurance System. We would be helping each other with recommendations and other problems.
Lita must be giving hints from the great beyond. I suddenly thought of writing about her and this is not the first time. The last time was when I edited the “History of the Baguio Museum.” What echoes in my mind was Lita’s sentiment on why there was no mention of the assistance of DOT-Cordillera on the demolition of the old museum building. It was Director Lita who made recommendations to former DOT Sec. Mina Gabor to fund its demolition.
Our children, who all studied at SPED Center, were like brothers and sisters. Meggy (Meg) and Junjun (Alfie) or Alfredo were like sister and brother to my daughter Regina (Reggie), while I considered Timmy and Abigail like my own son and daughter. My eldest son Nash was like a brother to Gay’s daughters Mia and Rona. And my son Edgar (Deke) was like a brother to Rj (Rommel Jr). We were one big happy tourism family.
There was a time when Lita (DOT-Cordillera) and I (DOT-Region1) and Kiling Dakudao (DOT-Region 10) became “flavors of the month.” These were happy and sad memories. To be “not in” the circle of favorites is a sad thing. But such is government life. Damn if you do, damn if you don’t. You cannot be onion-skinned when you work with government. There will always be some degree of excitement. There will be people who will pull you down or push you around. Either it’s crab mentality or they may be propelled by ambition, ambition to replace you. People will make stories and if the big bosses listen to the side opposite yours, life becomes a little difficult. Survival was the name of the game.
But as we former employees used to say, “There is life after DOT.”
Lita and I became tourism mentors after optional retirement. I quit after three years, but Lita continued on teaching in Intramuros, Manila then in Ifugao. She tried politics too. She was always driven and goal-oriented, especially when it involved the Banaue Rice Terraces. Before she got sick, she helped sick tourism colleagues first. Lita will always be remembered for her wide radiant smiles and passion for her ideals. Happy first anniversary in heaven, Lita.
My boss Ben was also an excellent journalist. He was always clear and concise. There were no computers then. When he wrote articles, he would click on the typewriter with speed and precision. He was small but terrible as the saying goes. He was the man – the man with a big voice. He had big ideas too. He was a great speaker and was also very protective of his people. He had so much energy, you would think it was normal. It was sad that he passed away a year after the Edsa 1 Revolution. He loved his family and his children dearly. Thank you, Sir Ben, for the memories.
As we celebrate the day of our departed loved ones, let us keep in mind to always be humble and forgiving. To always thank God for everything, big or small. The universe always responds to gratitude. We must always remember that “we are dust, and to dust we shall return.” Today, let us say a prayer for mankind and for all those who left before us.