By Xianne Arcangel
A former student paid tribute to University of the Philippines professor Lourdes Estella-Simbulan on the last day of her wake Monday by finally submitting a paper that was two years overdue.
In front of Simbulan’s family, friends and colleagues from the UP College of Mass Communication, Paula Mariz Pamatmat read the article she said she should have passed in her feature writing class in 2009.
Pamatmat said she was not able to complete the course due to her failure to submit her paper to Simbulan.
The student who thought she was not liked by the professor because she was “too loud in class” wrote the article as a way of honoring her mentor, who died in a vehicular accident along Commonwealth Avenue on May 13. She was 54.
With her voice breaking, Pamatmat said, “I owe her this paper and though it’s a couple of years late, I knew that if this made it to her hands, she would choose to say encouraging words to tell me the things I did right, and would say with kind words the things I need to improve on. Because yes, she was the perfect mix—she was both a believer and a critic.”
Colleagues in the academe as well as current and former students paid tribute to Simbulan, also known as “Chit,” a veteran journalist who worked as a reporter for Tempo and the Philippine Daily Inquirer before becoming The Manila Times’ managing editor in 1995.
Television reporter Jam Sisante, who covered the first day of Simbulan’s wake for GMA-7, said it was both “surreal and heartbreaking” for her to have reported on her former professor’s death.
“I never thought that one day, I would cover the wake of the professor who taught me to do what I am doing now,” she said.
Fearless journalist and friend
Although Simbulan was known as a fearless journalist who once served as the editor-in-chief of Pinoy Times, a Filipino-language tabloid which published critical stories about former President Joseph Estrada during his term, fellow UP journalism professor Khrysta Rara will always remember her as a friend who did not hesitate to help when she was asked.
Rara recounted her request to Simbulan in the past to try to listen to her radio show every Thursday and text in questions for her to answer.
“She really found time to listen. During the show I would receive texts from people with different names, which I knew actually came from her,” she said.
Rara added that even Simbulan’s jokes reflected her “strong sense of social justice… and her heart [for] the victims and the unfortunate.”
“In fact, she joked [once], ‘Khrysta, kawawa naman yung NPA and MILF, they’re always getting bad press. What if I apply to be their spokesperson? I will guarantee them maximum exposure.’”
“How can you not love such a woman?”
For his part, widower Roland Simbulan said that although he thought he knew his wife very well after being married for almost 30 years, he was still surprised at some of the anecdotes her friends and colleagues shared during the wake.
What did not surprise him, however, were the kind words they had for her.
“Chit was a very gentle person. She was simple [and] soft-spoken, yet she [had] this inner strength, and was consistent and unmovable in her beliefs.”
Mr. Simbulan added that in their almost three decades of marriage, he saw the journalist not just as a strong wife but also as a “committed partner” in fighting for change in Philippine society.
With all the stories attesting how his wife had touched the lives of so many people, Mr. Simbulan said, “after hearing what has been said about her these past few nights, I’d like to ask, how can you not love such a woman?”
He admitted life now without his wife will be difficult as he had been used to her presence for close to 30 years.
“I’ll really miss her,” he said.
Simbulan was cremated Tuesday morning. Her ashes will be brought to the CMC for a memorial service on Wednesday at 10am at the CMC auditorium.