Milady Sy Quito, a Devoted Educator, Dies at 47

Milady S. Quito

Milady S. Quito was an educator, a community organizer, an activist, an aunt, a sister, a daughter, a confidante and a friend to many. At work and among her friends and family, she was known for both her lightheartedness and unreservedly no-nonsense approach in making things happen—whether it be an advocacy campaign for trafficked women, or planning her school’s program, or travel with old friends. Milady died on November 11, 2020, of the coronavirus. She was 47.

After growing up in San Diego as part of an immigrant, military family (her father, Lady, was in the Navy), Milady moved to LA to attend UCLA. Although she started as a science major, she fell in love with Political Science and involved in UCLA Samahang and then, focused her activism on fighting for Pilipino Studies to be included in the curriculum.

When years later, it finally became a course of study as a minor, she celebrated the victory but thought it was but one of many critical changes that needs to happen in the overall US educational system. This is part of the reason she became an educator.

Milady started as a parent coordinator and then became an elementary school teacher at LAUSD and worked hard to become a Principal at Independence Elementary School. Milady was devoted to her students. She shared with them, among others, one of the things she most cherished—books. When at a bookstore, which was often and for long hours, she bought books, mostly fiction, for the kids. She wanted them to have a novel, a non-textbook, that they could take home and savor, something they could be with, connect with.

Milady S. Quito in Venice, Italy, 2011.

Milady was an unapologetic feminist. She co-founded the UCLA chapter of Gabriela Network, a US-based, Philippine solidarity organization for women. In this work, she was also an educator, leading educational discussions, creating content and using her crafting skills to make issues come alive. Milady traveled to the Philippines often because of her political work where she lived on the picket line with women workers, studied the environmental damage after the oil spills in Iloilo and never hesitated to speak out and support the militant women’s movement. When she couldn’t go to the Philippines, she helped to send medical supplies, educational supplies and of course, books, to the activists and their families.

Milady was generous like that. Her generosity came naturally, without fuss. It was just a thing she did, a reflex. She was spontaneously generous with her time and energy, stepping up to leadership, whenever needed, in organizing timelines for social justice projects, in taking charge of materials and unwieldy logistics. She also lent the same kind of methodical, detailed process in coordinating itineraries for fun trips. One of the latest ones being to Croatia to visit the place where Game of Thrones was filmed. She did love to travel- her favorite cities were Paris and New York, which she tried to visit often.

When she came to New York City, for something related to her activist work and/or to visit friends, she made time for a Broadway show or two. Her friends often teased her that she secretly wanted to be a Broadway star. Milady had a powerful singing voice. She loved to sing. That was not a secret, though she always scoffed at any praise that came her way.

Before being diagnosed with Covid-19, less than a week before succumbing to the virus, Milady had dinner with a few old friends (all subsequently tested negative for Covid).

Though she loved her lechon kawali, pansit bihon, and everything Filipino, at this last dinner with friends, she shared a rib-eye steak and mussels in white wine sauce, and, for dessert, a confection of chocolate. She loved her chocolate.

Milady loved her family and she was able to spend Halloween with them. She was the ate of two sisters, Helene and Carol and Auntie to their five children, Derek and Leia Jolly, Lei Anh, Jet and Cruz Drake. She dressed up with them, cheered at their soccer games and read them bedtime stories. She had an annual pass to Disneyland, and was always up to take the kids especially to the new Star Wars land.

The week before her death, Milady was in a group text with the same old friends and others living hundreds of miles away. It had been the week of the U.S. elections. There was much bantering and outrageous humor, typical of such gatherings (real and virtual) among her friends. She did love to banter. No topic was too big or too small—politics, the perils of social media, Filipino telenovelas, K-pop, books.

Milady’s favorite book was “Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. She had copies of it in multiple languages. She either bought them herself or were bought for her by friends whenever they traveled and stumbled on a copy. Her life seemed to have mirrored the themes in that novella: open-mindedness as that of a childlike mind, growth through external and internal explorations, relationships being at the core of what it means to be human.

In her Principal’s message to her school community for the school year, Milady cheered on the students, the parents, and the staff, making sure everyone stayed motivated and connected, that all students were given support to access distance learning. Her school’s theme this year is “Be Brave.” She said, “Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem.” As with The Little Prince, Milady urged them to remember to look up at the stars, whatever that may represent for them—light, direction, grit, community, hope…

Milady was a Filipina American, born in Japan and grew up in California. She is survived by her mother, 2 sisters, 5 nieces and nephews, and countless friends, women whom she referred to as sisters, in the most intimate and deepest sense of the word, from California to New York, from the Philippines to Holland. (Contributed by Annalisa Enrile and Dorotea Mendoza)

  1. This is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person who will be missed greatly! As my principal, I found her always approachable , kind, and an empathetic leader who was loved by everyone here at Independence, be it staff, parents or students. Rest in peace my friend.

  2. I’m the short time I met Milady, she was happy, kind and very sincere. She is a hero for being in the front line with her school community. As a Principal she was responsible for passing out materials, solving technical issues, and reporting to work daily. She should be honored as a hero and recognized as a first responder. Her dedication and devotion to her students should be honored as a sacrifice like a war hero. Who will honor her death and sacrifice?

  3. Spent great time with Ate Milady last New years eve when they visited the Philippines and planned our next by touring the islands after this Pandemic, you are such a wonderful Ate you will surely be missed. WE LOVE YOU ATE MILADY.

  4. Milady was my sixth grade childhood friend and will always hold a special place in my heart. She has always seen the best in people and had the biggest heart of gold. Milady was one of a kind. May her memory be eternal. I miss and love you my sweet friend.

  5. This sums Milady up so well. She was like a sister to me and was at every family gathering, holiday and even some vacations. I was with her when this photo was taken in Venice, Italy. She was so generous and funny. I will forever have a hole in my heart now that she’s gone. She definitely should be celebrated as a first responder and hero. May she Rest In Peace.

  6. Milady was an amazing person. She will be greatly missed. I loved that I was able to work along side her. May she rest in eternal paradise. Still in shock.

  7. Milady was one of 4 out of our Coronado High class to attend UCLA. I was one of the 4 as well – I always loved running into her on campus, usually coming out of the bookstore come to think of it. She was a bright and welcoming light in a sea of unknown faces that I felt quite intimidated by when I first started UCLA. She was always kind and had a huge smile and comforting and warm way about her. I am confident I speak for all of my classmates at Coronado High School and for the few of us from CHS class of ‘91 that went on to UCLA when I say she was simply a lovely and positive person and will be missed. She made the world a better place.

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