[OPINION] A letter to Dinky

Tess Q. Raposas
[OPINION] A letter to Dinky

Illustration by DR Castuciano

'That two Presidents made you the top manager of the Philippines’ social services department is a glaring confirmation of your veritable pulse for social change'

Dear Ma’am Dinky,

September 19 was a sad day for the social development world. I still haven’t completely come to terms with the fact that you are no longer with us, because I know in my heart that there are more great things you can say and do for society. But, it is what it is and what I can do is to cherish the privilege of having worked with you. In that amount of time, my eyes were opened to many firsts: my first social development work, my first air travel for work, first CO/CD practice, research work, planning session, CSC session, evaluation session, community consultation, consolidation activity – the list goes on. Suffice it to say that I grew very fond of social development work because of that experience. Despite my then inexperienced self, I was in awe of your constructive and transformative leadership. 

You taught us that NGO work must be seen as a conduit work between the community beneficiaries and funders, and is a two-way street. We don’t just say yes to the funders’ wishes, we negotiate and facilitate for the people so that their welfare comes first before anything else. You reminded us that NGO work should not be buwis-buhay, and we have to take time to recharge our energies so that we can get back to action again. You encouraged us to learn from history even as we were only talking about the history of NGO work in the Philippines. You motivated us to be conscious of what works and to document its essence. In no time, I was well aware of your keen attention to effectivity and efficiency. During those times, I have also seen you be a loving wife, a doting mother, and a shining light to those you work with.

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You have always been a beacon of light and an inspiration, and continue to be so even as you joined government service. I remained in awe while you served the government for being able to juggle your NGO persona, express the technocrat in you, and deal with a highly political environment. But that’s our Dinky, the ever organic, creative, flexible balancer, a true cooperator and consolidator, firm when necessary and still managing to be amiable, open, and joyful by default. 

When I first met you in that modest office in Cubao to join your team, you were so bubbly that I almost forgot I was talking to my future boss. You gave me the shortest job interview I ever had in my professional life, because your only question was, “Did you join EDSA”? I was glad I did but you probably saw the eagerness in me to serve the people back then, as any typical UP graduate was, especially during that triumphant year just after the EDSA Revolution.

We journeyed on in life, but we’ve had our intermittent meetings through the years, either professionally or socially. You, as expected, had taken on the top reigns in elevating the lives of the poor and the marginalized. That two Presidents made you the top manager of the Philippines’ social services department is a glaring confirmation of your veritable pulse for social change.

If there is a buzzword I will remember you by, it would be the word
“grassroots.” It is a term often dropped by celebrities and politicians nowadays, thoughtlessly sometimes, to convey sympathy towards the indigents. You however embraced this word for all its catalytic intents and purposes and strived to bring it into all venues of discussion and action. The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps was introduced through you, which remarkably improved the quality of life of millions of Filipinos. The trickle-down or snowball effect of this program has benefited more than the direct beneficiaries, which also raised the over-all social and economic standing of the country.

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These are crucial times in our nation’s history, as we embark on yet another life-altering stake for a new leadership in government. Knowing you, you would want to grab your developmental magic wand again to keep steering us in the right places. I can only wish that someone in this generation would find it and use it the same way you did, or even better. In more ways than one, you have already passed on this symbolic magic wand to so many from previous generations who have had the luck and the privilege to work with you and learn from you.

I honestly don’t know how to end these snippets of memorializing you, because while I write this, I am in both pain and tears.

There is quite a huge group of people who lost you on Sunday, whether as a loved one, a friend, colleague, family, relative, acquaintance, or perhaps, even as a formidable force not to reckon with. But here we are, keeping the good graces that you represent in the social development field, the ones you’ve radiantly accomplished and the ones we’ll hopefully carry and sonder on. Godspeed on your next mission with all our love, hair highlights, and sunflowers. –

Tess Q. Raposas is a freelance journalist and social development consultant. She likes riding her bike and hopes to trek the Himalayas someday.

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