As I observe International Women’s Day this week (March 8), I also celebrate the life of a dear friend, Elsa Solas Subong, who passed away on March 3.
Elsa was the regional training officer of the Philippine Information Agency. Upon her invitation and that of retired Regional Director Janet Mesa, I served for many years as resource person and lecturer of the Philippine Information Agency in its annual and other trainings for college editors and advisers of college and high school publications as well for government information officers.
I could feel her enduring trust in me as she usually scheduled my topics last following a battery of speakers so I could properly wrap up all the participants concerns in the context of the agency’s trust on the vital roles of communication in support of development initiatives being a former PIA information office and media specialist myself.
My personal relationship with Elsa actually spans five decades – during my term as editors of the Central Echo of Central Philippine University.
I remember well, something which I shared with her during PIA trainings – that high school senior who flashed her warm, smile when she world come to our office to submit her literary contributions or when I casually met her on campus.
I reconnected with her more than five years after graduation when she worked with the National Media Production Center, which was our office’s next door neighbor in Iloilo City. That reconnection with Elsa was further sealed when NMPC and the then Department Public of Public Information were merged to become the Ministry of Public Information and later, the Office of Media Affairs.
Elsa, shortly after I had my stroke and during my recovery days, sent me messages or called me to express her concern prayers and support.
More than being thoughtful, she had numerous qualities that I gleaned from testimonies I gathered in reaction to the series of Facebook posts by her two daughters, Edel and Mavs – related to her passing away.
She was, as in the spirit of IWD, an empowered woman as manifested in her various advocacies covering sociological, environmental and other community issues.
In many instances, I witnessed her fortitude and strength amid pressures at work and outside. She was equally diligent and blessed.
Elsa was a virtuous woman with uncompromising standards for what is true, good and beautiful. And she was a lady of wisdom, substance and prudence, too. She stood for what she believed in.
The personal FB comments also indicate that my friend was a trustworthy and respected colleague, a woman of honors dignity, and integrity and discretion.
Despite what she accomplished, including community service citations, she remained humble and meek.
Like most who know her, I will always think of her for her caring and generous heart and spirit, with a constant love for friends, others and most of all, her family.
Above all, she was godly, a woman of faith and hope.
She loved God and was a woman of great faith. In her media ministry, she shared her faith and sowed God’s word for the previously unreached to know of His love, grace and mercy.
She was also prayerful. Mavs sent a photo of her last prayer before she died. “Let us continue to struggle. Blessed be your name, Jesus, oh Lord. I rely on Your mercy oh Lord, and not on my merits,” she wrote with her penmanship apparently faltering.
I know that the days just passed and ahead were and will continue to be difficult for Mavs and Edel and her husband Imre and their daughter, 9-year-old Lily, but I believe that somehow they are comforted by the fact that their Mama and Papa Pol, who passed away in 2019, are now reunited in life beyond.
Farewell, my friend, you will be dearly missed.
The IWD observance celebrates women’s achievement, increases their visibility, raises awareness about discrimination and inequality as well as takes action to drive gender parity thereby forging a gender equal world.
The IWD theme this year is “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”.
The United Nations observance, through this theme, “recognizes and celebrates the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education. The observance will explore the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities, and it will also spotlight the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence.”
Some facts and figures shared by UN:
* Only 63 percent of women are using the Internet in 2022 compared to 69 percent of men (ITU, Nov22)
* By 2050, 75 percent of jobs will be related to STEM areas. Yet today, women hold just 22 percent of positions in artificial intelligence, to name just one (WEF Report)
* A study of 51 countries revealed 38 percent of women had personally experienced online violence (2022 Gender Snapshot Report)
Another woman whom I think of on Women’s Day, is Nanay Maring Navarro. Since her early grade school days, until three years ago, when she was 67, Nanay Maring Navarro had been fishing and crabbing in the waters off her home island, Suyac, in Sagay City. Even shortly before she retired from her daily fishing chore, she was a picture of a strong, energetic and empowered woman.
Today, at 70, with her right eye already blind, Nanay Maring remains active in community work through her involvement as a group leader in the programs and activities of the Suyac Island Eco-Tourism Association.
“Nanay Maring remains an active member of our organization,” said Melanie Mermida, the untiring president of SIETAS.
Happy International Women’s Day.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25) – NWI