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A full life of varied rewards

By ALFRED A. YUSON, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 22, 2021 5:00 am

Reading a remarkable lady’s memoirs is always fascinating. Affirming this with much panache is Vicky Garchitorena’s My Life and Lessons, a 240-page book that comes out in time for her birthday later this week.

Not only does she put on record a rich memoir of an eventful and much-engaged life marked by accomplishments, social activism and passionate advocacy for noble causes.

She also imparts lessons she learned firsthand from her multifarious experiences in her native country as well as many other parts of the world.

The photos alone are a trove, as she’s seen not only with Philippine presidents and CEOs, but international personages such as Bill Gates, Hillary Clinton, Winnie Mandela and Apl.de.Ap.

Coming from a prominent clan that had ancestral residences in Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila, as well as Nueva Ecija, she excelled in school, delivering the valedictory speech upon graduating from high school with a gold medal in physics at what was then Holy Ghost College.

From the academe to raising a family, joining the corporate world in leadership positions, immersing herself in NGOs and world organizations, venturing into political involvement, and eventually serving presidents in Malacanãng Palace, Vicky has shown how it is to live a full life of varied, rewarding commitments.  

She was a student leader, an awardee as one of the Ten Outstanding Students in 1964, a summa cum laude with a B.S. physics degree, and a solo world traveler upon graduation from college.

From the academe to raising a family, joining the corporate world in leadership positions, immersing herself in NGOs and world organizations, venturing into political involvement, and eventually serving presidents in Malacanãng Palace, Vicky has shown how it is to live a full life of varied, rewarding commitments.   

She also shares her poems in this book.

Chapters 1 to 14 are: “Childhood and Family”; “Siblings and Early Education”; “College Years and Adulthood”; “Marriage and Family”; “My Career”; “The Struggle Against Marcos”; “Presidential Succession After Marcos”; “Serving GMA, to a Point”; “Advocacy Against Corruption”; “The 2016 Elections”; “Retirement; Flashback to Second Wind”; “Back to Politics, Briefly”; “Another Flashback”; and “Continuing the Rewarding Second Wind.”

The “Second Wind” referred to is her second marriage, to Winston Arpon in 2010. They met during one of her numerous trips to the US to enhance organizations related to Ayala Foundation USA.

Of their courtship, she relates a weekend in Williamsburg with PMA’er Winston’s colleagues and their wives:

“As we were having breakfast, the men all came out of the kitchen in their gray jackets, singing ‘Cadet Girl,’ a PMA song for the wives and girlfriends of PMAers. They each had two red roses, and at the end of the song gave one to me. Winston gave me one as well.

“Then they sang Dahil Sa Iyo, a Filipino love song, at the end of which all of them gave me the second red rose they each held. His friend Danny Perico then addressed Winston and said, ‘Do what you have to do.’ At which cue Winston asked me to be his wife.

“He always says he planned it that way so that I would have no choice but to say yes. I could not embarrass him in front of all his friends! I did say yes — three times!”

In the pursuit of what is right, we sometimes face danger from those who do not agree with us. We therefore have to find allies who share our values and dreams.

Eventually gaining the support of their respective families, the widow and widower decided to settle in Manila, thence Malarayat where they stay to this day. 

The last chapter is titled “Poems of My Youth.”

Here are excerpts from her expository disclosures:

“I learned to listen to and accept the ideologies of various political groups, also how to organize rallies, raise funds, and march to the drumbeat of the citizens’ growing rebellion against the Marcos dictatorship. We were often at the head of marches, in our white dresses. The organizers were confident that the policemen would not gun us down.

“… I realized that development work is one of the most difficult of enterprises. I had to educate myself on its intricacies and its challenges. I had to learn to put myself in the shoes of informal settlers, of the uneducated, of the unemployed, of the desperate. I had to find what they needed most. I had to think about how to help them. Through education? Through work? Through housing? Through hospitalization?

“I dug deep into my own ideas and thoughts and immersed myself in development work.”

Among the lessons Vicky Garchitorena shares are the following:

“Take advantage of all leadership training and opportunities that might be offered to you — in school, at work, in your community. It can allow you to scale greater heights, serve people better, and be the best you can be.”

“Do not be afraid to be yourself. If you’re smart, don’t be afraid to engage boys or men — or girls and women — in intellectual debates. If they get turned off, they don’t deserve your friendship. BUT don’t develop a superiority complex. There are many kinds of intelligence, some of which you might not have.”

“The ability to multitask has served me well in my professional career, as I eventually wound up handling multiple jobs, being active in the NGO world, having a family, and enjoying myself.”

“In the pursuit of what is right, we sometimes face danger from those who do not agree with us. We therefore have to find allies who share our values and dreams. But we must hold on to our moral values as the north star that will guide us for the rest of our lives.”