When she reached home I read her "pabaon" for me
-a copy of her little speech in UP Diliman, which
she called "Unveiling Curtsey". Her painting
Curtsey graces the Francisco Arcellana
Reading Room at the UP Faculty Center in Diliman. In my journal entry
of July 6, I wrote: "Maningning is a delightfully
wild and funny person... She gave me her speech so I could look into
her art deeper. So that I could understand her heart. This young woman
has a sensitive spirit, gracious and strong..."
I found our collaboration inspiring, and I tried to
express this in my short letter to her that night: "Thank you
for sharing 'Unveiling Curtsey' with me, and for
showing me the full moon and the ballerinas... I am happy about
our work. And I like the fact that we have decided do to the work
quietly, simply, attending fully to the words and the music of words.
This is primal dust. Soul-stuff. Kindred of stars and the universe.
Down to earth good work. Thank you for entrusting me with your poems
and your stories."
Maningning worked on the poems and
translations for the next three years. The work proved difficult
for the artist in her who wanted everything perfect. For one, she
had to look for an encoder who could layout the poems in Chinese
according to her specifications. The texts in Chinese and the translations
had to be facing each other. And she had to deal with three languages!
Even up to the blueprint stage of production in late 1999, she was
still working on perfecting the music of her lines. When Ed
Cabagnot completed the work on the book's cover, a very
happy Maningning traveled to La Salle
to give me a copy of the cover study, saying : " Mahal
niya ako! " On Valentine's Day 2000, she mailed me an
essay and a rice harvest card on which she wrote: " A February
greeting for love, stamina and faith. (For a harvest in March)."
The harvest was the book launching on her 28th birthday in April
2000 - an affirmation of her love, stamina and faith in her heart.
Maningning's radiance that day was
deepened by her almost imperceptible gesture of gratitude: when
I went to where she sat to congratulate her, she took my right arm
and slipped around my wrist a bracelet of small lavender beads.
But Maningning's gestures can also be grand and
overwhelming. A year into the work on her book, July 23, 1997, she
took a bus from Diliman to Taft, lugging with her the painting she
called "Defining her in red." She didn't
wait for me to finish my class and left the painting on my desk
with a small card which said that she was happy with her art and
that she wanted to share her joy. That evening I wrote to thank
her for the surprise." Your generous gift has a special place
in my life. I have always held it to be true: that the woman's best
work comes out of the true labor of her hands. Your hands (with
which you do the work of your life in this world) are one with your
heart and eye (with which you love this life)... I bless your poet's
There are no easy ways of understanding the death
Maningning chose to embrace so soon and without
warning. Perhaps it is only Maningning who understands
fully now the answers she sought. Even as I grieve with
Alma, Mario and Wei-wei,
I wish to affirm Maningning's blessing upon us all: with her words
and her images she continues to show us how she knew joy and fulfillment
in the shaping of the light.
God be with you, Maningning,
Mahal na mahal ka namin
" Beauty for Ashes: Remembering Manigning"
2001, pp. 55-58