Sunday, November 11, 2007

Not Simply Mamita

Last week I wrote about Dr. Mita Pardo de Tavera, former secretary of social welfare and pioneer in community-based tuberculosis control, who passed away two weeks ago. Mamita, as friends called her, was a second mother to me. I do not think she would have wanted me to write in a spirit of mourning so instead, I will share some of the lessons she left me, not just about public health but about life in our times, in our country.

Simplicity was important for Mamita, from the way she insisted on the use of “Mamita” rather than the grander “Doktora Tavera” to every aspect of her lifestyle. She was known for her simple meals. She didn’t like big meetings and preferred to meet one on one, often over lunch in her homes, usually with fish and vegetables, or a torta (omelet). Even after she became social welfare secretary during the Corazon Aquino presidency, she insisted on wearing very simple clothes: a plain blouse with locally made accessories. No designer labels for her; in fact, she would promote products -- foods and crafts -- from the communities she visited by using them.

Mamita was simple, but would spare no expense for what she felt were the truly fine aspects of life. She loved her ancestral home, which used to be in Manila, so when she had to move to Makati City, she had much of that older home transported -- for example, grand old wooden planks and doors and fine grilled windows -- to build the new house.

Article by Michael L. Tan for Pinoy Kasi Column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 7, 2007