Sunday, January 3, 2010

DEATH BECOMES ODETTE (September 28, 2009)

Odette Benito Alcantara, or Lola O., had been the chairperson, president, and the artistic director of the Cultural Center of Cubao – better known as the Heritage Art Center -- a sanctuary to all artists as well as athletes, especially chess players.
“It was there where I had my first solo exhibit on March 27, 1981,” recalled painter/inventor Ching Abad Santos. “Then she asked to do the Lupa Araw Hangin Ako Tubig for an Earth Day celebration in 2000. Now her family and friends would like me to show it again on her birthday.”
By that, she meant on October 1 when a series of celebrations that will culminate.
By then, Odette would turn 69.
She herself being “green” would have other ideas other than numerological!
“Masaya siyang nilikha. Hindi tumatanda tulad ng ating planeta sa kabila ng pagsalanta ng tao,” described National Artist Virgilio Almario who used to conduct weekend poetry workshop at the Heritage Art Center, where the likes of Marne Kilates and other Galian sa Arte at Tula (GAT) members had their baptism of fire!
Her brother-in-law, S.V. Epistola, would ignite it, more often not!
In one poetry reading, when we need a hand to play our background music, it was Lola O. herself who volunteered to press cassette button.
Afterwards, she would comment on our piece as if was convincing us to reuse, reduce, and recycle our poems!
Greatly, she influenced us when we finished Dalawang Dalaw when we joined the 15th University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop in April of 1987.
Eventually, Rio Alma included it in his Sansiglong Mahigit ng Makabagong Tula sa Filipinas.
Back in the 80s, when the City of Man made it to the World's Most Polluted Cities list, Lola O. would begin her crusade against “dirty” fuel by creating the Concerned Citizens Against Pollution.
After a decade, she would again help form a group, Earth Day Network Philippines (EDNP), the chief organizer of annual Earth Day celebrations in the country since 1999 every April 22.
One of her favorite inspirers was environmental singer/songwriter Joey Ayala who remembered her fondly: “Lola O, always hugging me, calling me Haring Agila while subtly saying I should do more, do more, do more...”
And she listened to her own advice.
An anti-incinerator advocate, she was indeed non-stop!
She won the war in fighting for the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act in the late 1990s.
Tireless, she participated with Magkaisa Junk Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) Coalition.
As the Mother Earth convenor, Lola O. she revealed during the Day 3 of the Pre-Summit Activities what could be her legacy -- social mobilization diagram – as a moving spirit!.
Aside from her poem Ang Basura Bow! set into music by no less than National Artist Lucresia Kasilag!
Well, we only have until September 30 to view what was left of her at her home – now a training center for zero-waste management -- in Blue Ridge.
Her ashes will be scattered and trees will be planted in her honor at her Tanay farm in Rizal province on October 3.
However, heroes like her will never die.
Poet/editor Rogelio Mangahas agreed: “Si Odette? Siya'y puno ng buhay, puno ng pagmamahal sa bayan at kapuwa, dakilang alagad ng sining at kultura, tagapagtaguyod ng mga progresibo, rebolusyonaryong kabataan, tagapagtanggol ng demokrasya, katarungan, karapatang pantao, likas na kapaligiran.”
Ever since, she had a ready reply, which she repeated last year in Malacaňang where she urged us to organize a literary reading for Mother Earth: “Kahit patay na tayo, nandito pa rin itong nagawa natin.”
Coca-Cola was originally green.
If Plan A does not work out, do not worry. You still have 25 letters left. Never give up. Optimism gives you millions of reasons to smile.

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