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Gilda Cordero Fernando: Filipina

Gilda Cordero Fernando: Filipina
From left: Tara FT Sering, Gilda Cordero Fernando, and Andrea Pasion-Flores

Gilda Cordero Fernando is, so far, the only Filipina who has told me, "Wanna kiss me? You're cute."

This was not, of course, said in private, but in front of those who attended the National Book Development Board's monthly book club meeting at Circle Cafe last December 1, as she was saying her goodbyes after our discussion of her autobiography, The Last Full Moon (Quezon City: UP Press, 2005). So lower your eyebrows and forget your dirty thoughts. She just happened to find me... cute =)

She is described on the back cover of her book as a "writer, editor, publisher, artist, art patron, theater producer and national cultural visionary." But it is interesting to find out that someone who is perceived this way was once not quite sure of her "mission in life." I will not attempt to describe her. Instead, allow me to let her speak to you directly:
For some time now I've been obsessed about finding out my mission in life. Usually, when we're asked what our mission is, we name our talent. We say, "to write" or "to sing" or "to act" or "to paint." Or we name our occupation—"to heal" or "to educate" or "to enforce law and order." And the insight I got was that "mission" and "talent" are two different things, although, of course, with some, mission and talent or occupation may be one and the same. Mission in life, it seems, is something so deep, in fact, that it requires an objective view of all the paths we have taken, how they are connected, and where they led. Is it consistent still with what we are doing now?
We recognize our mission because we never tire doing it, no matter how many obstacles there are and it makes us happy. Mission has something to do with our contribution to the world and its evolution. Quite obviously a God-given task.

Talents are given to us only to help along our mission. So what was mine?
She then relates how she "started out as a fiction writer in the 1950s... turned into a full-blown publisher... became a theater producer," and how she even ended up on "a billboard with two bare-chested hunks." She continues:
Of course I liked that but what did it do to clarify my mission? Was I supposed to be the bridge to the young or something?

Why did I change interests so many times? Was I perchance a dilettante? I looked at the dictionary—"an amateur or trifler at art." I was not an amateur, much less a "trifler" at anything. I was serious about everything I did, completely focused on working hard to produce worthwhile results. Nope, dilettantism wasn't for me.

So what was my mission? What was the common denominator of all the things that I had gotten into? How did they connect? All of them had ventured into untrodden ground, all of them were Pinoy. Just recently, Fr. Miguel Bernad, S.J. reminded me that Ateneo broke tradition when they asked me, in 1974, to be its first female commencement speaker for the high school. Indirectly and unknowingly I had opened something new.

The role of an active door opener is actually not a pleasant one. After many years you may be praised for it but for now you are just "too advanced," "too avant garde," "too weird" or too foolish for words. But you know you are on the right path because ten or twenty years later everybody wants to do what you had such a tough time introducing. Your role is to be a kind of bomb disposal unit. Or a trailblazer. (I like that).

"Looking for my destiny," in The Last Full Moon , pp. 206-207.
I have quoted extensively from her book because there's a part of me that hopes that maybe someday, when I'm 75 years old—her age when she wrote the book—I'll figure out my mission in life, too.

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