The word "tagumpay" in the Filipino language translates to "success." They say that a person's name affects the way a person lives and has an impact on the direction that a person's life will take.

What then can we say of a person who was named: Tagumpay?

An aunt of mine, Dr. Tagumpay Esguerra, passed away last July 16, 2007. She was 90 at the time of her death and was a medical doctor. She was an obstetrician and a gynecologist, serving as Chief of Hospital at Fabella in the early 80s (if I remember correctly) and was also president of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society in 1974.

She was laid to rest last Saturday and during the funeral mass, Fr. Efren de Guzman, SVD talked about the need for healing of body, soul, and spirit for us to be well, relating it to the fact that Tita Umpay (as we called her) was a doctor. Fr. de Guzman also talked about the need of offering everything in your life to God and asking all who were there: "Nagtagumpay na ba sa buhay mo si Kristo?" ("Has Christ triumphed in your life?) He focused on the need to let go of hurts and stated: "Magmula ngayon, kung ayaw mo, walang makakasakit ng damdamin mo." (From this day on, if you will not allow it, no one will be able to hurt you.)

Fr. de Guzman also reminded us to take care of old people for they are actually angels even if sometimes, caring for them may be difficult. Relatives and loved ones who have also passed away (like Tita Umpay) can intercede for us to God for our prayers and requests.

It is strange sometimes but often, we learn more about people when they are dead than when they are alive. I knew Tita Umpay was an OB Gyne but I didn't know of the positions she held until she passed away. I didn't know that she must have delivered thousands of babies in her lifetime, including almost all of the babies in a place called Dampol in Pulilan, Bulacan. How she delivered many babies for free (because the parents didn't have much money) and how she would proudly talk about the payment she received from them -- 3 pirasong mais (3 pieces of corn), isang piling ng saging (a bunch of bananas) -- "bigay yan ng mga pasyente ko." (Those were given by my patients.)

A cousin of mine says Tita Umpay was very giving and anyone who approached her for assistance could always rely on her for help. She was also generous with food which was why most of the doctors under her would often go to her office because they knew there would always be food there.

I also remember yummy food when I remember Tita Umpay. Her parties always had the best-tasting pansit palabok, fried chicken, gelatin with buko, sin patria soup (a chunky, creamy soup with meat and chick peas), and chicken ti-im (chicken in brown sauce with mushroom and olives). Visits to the cemetery on All Saints' Day during my childhood bring memories of great tasting chicken asparagus sandwiches. During wakes, it is customary for Filipinos to offer food to those who come to pay their respects to the person who has passed away. When we went to the wake last Tuesday, some of my cousins were offering me food and I typically do not eat at wakes. But when one of them said: "Chicken sandwich ni Auntie?" I found myself responding quite quickly and excitedly: "Yung may asparagus?" I am sure Tita Umpay will be happy that I ate a sandwich. =)

It was a meaningful mass and burial that took place last Saturday. Sometimes I wonder if the dead can hear what is said of them. Or are the words more for the comfort of those who have been left behind -- to serve as some sort of lesson or inspiration?

I will also remember last Saturday because another aunt of mine (88 going on 89) recited The Divine Romance by Bishop Fulton Sheen as an offering for Tita Umpay but more on this in a future entry.

May I request you to say a prayer for the soul of Tagumpay Esguerra? She who seems to have truly lived up to her name and was really able to be a success.

[By Angelica Viloria | Monday, July 23, 2007]

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