Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Role Models

Photo: Marina off Roxas Boulevard, Manila, last night at sunset

Recently my daughter mentioned that students in her school's 7th or 8th grade class were asked to write essays about their role models. These essays were then displayed in the school cafeteria or library for all to see. My daughter tells me several of the kids chose Hannah Montana. When I asked my daughter whom she would have picked, she seemed unsure, then said, "Well, I like Ashley Tisdale?"

Maternal eye-roll. "Sweetie. Do you understand what a 'role model' is?"

Kid: "Um...not really. What is it?"

Maternal sigh. "'s not simply someone who plays roles that you like. It's more like someone whose life choices you admire and whose behavior you'd like to emulate because of his or her courage and good character. Like Jesus or Gandhi or someone. Or Ninoy Aquino." I had just explained to our kids about Ninoy, who was my mother's cousin. "Or Corazon Aquino, for that matter."

Kid: "O-oh."

I feel like a loser-mom.


I've been reacquainted on this trip with some amazing women who have achieved tremendous things. My cousin, Suzette, who runs the most creative and unique dining experience in Manila. My Tita M, Ninoy's sister, a supremely generous person who's an extraordinary culinary and artistic talent - a visionary in more ways than one. My cousin Margarita Fores, a sweet, energetic, humble but confident entrepreneur and restaurateur whose restaurants and catering business have catapulted her to well-deserved celebrity. She and her staff accompanied our president to Spain to cater a state dinner for 400 guests, and when her menus show up on people's blogs I always drool over her creations. See here, here, and here to get a taste, so to speak.

Last night I spent an afternoon and evening with one of my favorite cousins, Kat, of whose work as a child advocate - really as a fighter for human rights, through her very public law practice - I am in total awe. Kat is a celebrity here, and she SHOULD BE. She is not an actress or a model or an athlete, but the people manning the Krispy Kreme stand at the Mall of Asia approached her with a huge guest book and asked her for an autograph and picture. She single-handedly took on a prominent congressman, prosecuted him for child rape, and won. She travels internationally to train law enforcement officers about recognition and evaluation of domestic abuse. She writes articles to inform women of the warning signs of abusive partners and the resources they can call upon to deal with such losers. She is now a professor at the UP College of Medicine teaching medical jurisprudence.

I am so proud of my brilliant, witty, noble cousin and her contributions to women's rights and child justice, in our country and across the world, really. I was happy to see her work recognized even in a little food court in a giant mall teeming with people. People like her should be celebrated, in every sense of the word - famous, but also rejoiced over, for being the true shining stars of our human race.

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