“Life is not a race among the vain. Vanity merely yields the prize of material riches, which endanger the spiritual outlook. Life is a journey to the absolute truth, in the course of which we develop the ability to communicate with God.”
Those were some of the words of The Honorable Miriam Defensor-Santiago, former Senator of the Philippines, during her commencement speech to the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Medicine graduates in 2012.
And today, we honor this flower of the court, the Iron Lady of Asia – and lay her to rest. She passed away last Thursday at the age of just 71, losing her fight to lung cancer.
Or rather, triumphing over it by receiving God’s final healing and blessing.
But man oh man, how she lived the daily her!
Throughout her long and illustrious career in politics, Miriam served in all three branches of the Philippine government – the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches – and served for three terms as Senator. She holds the record for having authored the most bills. She also ran for President three times, the most recent being during this year’s, but never won. (There were allegations of cheating in the 1992 elections that cost her the victory – sowing the seeds for her supporters’ epithet of her as “the best president we never had.)
She also had a stellar and enviable academic record, graduating at the top of her class in both elementary and high school, earning her first bachelor’s degree magna cum laude (with a perfect GPA) and her second cum laude. Not to mention her track record at some of the world’s most prestigious universities.
But what makes me idolize her most isn’t her bottomless résumé, but the way she lived and conducted herself – beyond her insatiable wit (which I wouldn’t say no to, how to be you?).
In a country marred by issues of corruption in authority since time immemorial, Miriam was one of the lone beacons of morality and values, refusing to yield to corruption, and taking a hard stance against those who did. One of her memorable quotes goes, “Why did man climb Mt. Everest? Because it is there! Why am I fighting graft and corruption? Because it is here!“ (emphasis mine)
She was brave and courageous, not giving a damn about what others thought about her, instead sticking to her values. Known for being constitutionalist, sticking to the rule of law (she also authored a number of law and social science books – as well as the hugely popular Stupid is Forever and Stupid is Forevermore, collections of joke books and speeches), she always stayed rooted in the spirit of awareness and service, even if it cost her political battles.
Through her actions, beliefs, and, yes, her feistiness we will all miss, Senator Miriam became an inspiration to many, especially the youth – who have always loved hearing her speak. She took the opportunity to share her words of wisdom in many commencement addresses, believing in the youth as a force capable of changing society for the better, and winning their respect as an inspiration to keep on striving, keep on blazing their trails, for the sake of something greater than themselves.
And blaze her trail she did. In doing so, she really did shape and perfect her own “brand” as a person, a legacy that captured the hearts of many during her lifetime and will surely capture many more long after her body has returned to the earth.
The Daily You applauds Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago as a person who fully embraced and lived her higher purpose, staying rooted in awareness and service, through love.
“What is the meaning of life? This meaning is not for you to find, but for you to define. The meaning of life is found in the purposes that we pursue as we grow older.”
There is a meaning for each and every one of us, a unique calling that we have the choice to answer or reject. At The Daily You, we believe that this call has been “set out” by God for us – but it is up to us to discover and mold it through the very lives we live. Not that we are meant to become robots acting the way God programmed us to be – but to be open to and explore the things he sends our way, using the elements of our Life Kits to build ourselves up in his eyes.
As we keep going, we encounter more and more different, new experiences. These do not so much supplant the purposes we strive to live out, than become new “facets” of said purpose that enrich it in ways we could never imagine. That makes our purposes even more unique, even more The Daily Us. And Miriam Defensor-Santiago knew it well, and lived it well.
“This is goodbye. I shall not importune you any longer. I shall fade into the night like Batman.”
Thank you, Senator Miriam.