Farewells are always simultaneously sad and bright, like sunshine after the rain.
Braving the rain and howling wind, the guests poured into Double Tree by Hilton in Norwalk: Fil-Am officials, community and business leaders, the media, diplomats, and friends.
Some were soggy and shimmering, but in a collective display of respect and affection for outgoing Consul General Hellen Barber De La Vega, it was obvious that the rain did not dampen their spirits, only their shoes.
Attempts to synopsize all the things she has done will entangle any reporter in a paradox of distance and involvement, and could blur a journalist’s objectivity.
We could only try hard recalling definitive moments (which were a lot) the best (countless) episodes (countless) during ConGen’s term.
Her consultations with grassroots organizations during outreach programs were sometimes besieged with requests and grievances.
They were always answered in a kind manner.
She tried to stitch together the paradoxical alliance of a hundred Fil-Am clubs with the limitless principles they believe in. Whenever and however one finds ConGen De La Vega, there is always a sweet, energetic look about her – a disarming simplicity.
I recall an almost incredible candor; and how crafty and clever she can be, when she swims in the whirlpool of the Fil-Am community’s endless intramurals.
How alluring she looked. There was tenderness in evoking her family, spirituality and serenity and on how, through prayers and fortitude, she hopes to “bridge differences, because when wisdom is shared, like a big family, we all become stronger, you don’t see what you’re not seeing…it is reaching what can improve the probability that your work and ideas will be successful…you can’t abdicate responsibly the consulate’s paramount duty is to bridge this.”
“The Fil-Am community represents, if not, affects collective thoughts and ideas, in order to ensure the victory of any undertaking.”
It takes a conscious effort to unite and not to offend — every opinion and suggestion should be given the courtesy it deserves.
As we look for the positive element in them, there is no one beneath or above anyone.
How can a notepad and a pen capture a frame of mind, a disposition, a temperament, humor or body language?
That evening, there was a crystal gift of tears for her to wipe away even as she projected an awesome presence.
She never faltered, despite raw emotions. Her husband’s speech recounted their life together, as an indomitable tandem in public service.
Listening to outpourings of people (whose lives they both have touched) she simply nodded, smiled and slightly bowed at first. But in the later part of the night, emotions ran high – a mixture of joy, exhilaration and sadness.
The nebulous nature of a diplomat’s calling has its share of peculiar temptations. A diplomat needs to be more discerning and mindful of what he or she says in public.
ConGen De La Vega supported the media publicly and defended our interests — in all our coverages, there has never been a blinkered insularity.
When an issue of substance demands a total cleavage between the accidental and the absolute, the just and the expedient, even in our mundane tribulations, she captures us. Or have we captured her?
Her swan song was poignant, perfect for the quote-parched media men, who turned en masse that evening.
With the shift in leadership, Fil-Ams were asking themselves what they have lost and gained somehow, as they bid the ConGen goodbye, with heavy hearts .
In that farewell dinner, the Consul General and Mr. Bong De la Vega must have air-kissed more than 350 guests — and don’t forget, the goodbyes!