Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The most youthful person I've ever met

Two weeks ago at an "unofficial" book club event, I met the lovely Gilda Cordero-Fernando. I say unofficial because the meetup was not part of the roster of discussions for this year. I have always been intrigued by this enigmatic lady, so I went with giddy anticipation to the meet-and-greet and the informal Q&A session. It was a memorable Saturday afternoon filled with hearty laughs, deep insights, and memorable conversations.

Now, GCF is already in her mid 80s. To say that she doesn't look it would be an understatement. The lady is a riot! Her remarks were witty, her anecdotes detailed, and her sense of style and humor impeccable. She is an artist in every sense of the word. She writes about anything; she's published books on Philippine culture, history, food, and mythology. She's written several acclaimed short story collections both for adults and young readers. She even finds the time to write a weekly column for a national daily. And, she paints! Goodness! Compared to her, I've no talent whatsoever.

The informal event started very unconventionally, with GCF throwing questions at the ladies for her column. The R-18 topic: How did you get to know about sex? Ayayay! The temperature in the room went several degrees higher! This shouldn't be happening! We were the ones supposed to pose questions to her! Nevertheless, the ladies of the book club indulged her with their experiences. I couldn't help but chime in, especially when they were talking about how sex education is done in our schools. I've taught biology for high school, so I shared with them my experiences in teaching this sensitive topic to impressionable young minds.

I was also drooling at some of the books brought by Sana, one of the book club's admins who made this event happen. Most of these books are now out of print. Some of her books even had her paintings and illustrations. During the Q&A with GCF, some members asked her how open she was with converting her books to electronic format. She mentioned though that all the copyright of her books now belongs to the office of her son.

GCF's fond retelling of some of the memorable events in her life was a pleasure to listen to. Clearly, this lady has just too many stories to share. One story I couldn't forget was the one when she was still running her antique shop and she had to go to the southern tip of the country just to get some antique items. It was an adventure story featuring a former first lady, an unplanned motorcyle ride, illegal ammunition, and undervalued Muslim swords called kriss.

I got a chance to ask her a couple of questions, such as the most memorable places that she's been to both here and abroad. As her husband was a former high-ranking government official who traveled a lot, she said that she frequently tagged along, allowing her to visit many exotic local and international destinations. If you see GCF, you'd never think that she'd do the tourist-y stuff.

Unfortunately, when I went to the bookstore prior to the event to get copies of GCF's books, there were only 2 titles available. Both The Magic Circle and Bad Kings are for young readers. The Magic Circle features local mythological creatures and describes what happens when people stop believing in local folklore. It has themes of environmental protection too. Bad Kings is a collection of short stories featuring, well, bad kings.

Right before the close of the meet-and-greet, I manage to sneak in one final question: What's the secret to staying young? GCF mentioned 2 things. One is moisturizer, and the other is blended fresh lettuce leaves which has to be drunk daily. Oi! The moisturizer I can handle, but the thought of drinking something that tastes like soil isn't very much appealing to me.

What lessons did I learn from meeting Gilda? One is never too old to start doing something new. Case in point: Gilda started painting in her 70s with no formal training, and she learned to swim in her 40s. Also, one shouldn't take oneself too seriously; you'll just take the fun out of everything. I wholeheartedly agree.

Once again, thank you, R, for the pictures! They're lovely as always.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that looks like fun. I haven't read GCF, but a dear college friend adores her. She should have been there.

And yes, I agree with the moisturizer part, hahaha. Is there any brand that you'd recommend? :D

Peter S. said...

Hello, Angus!

I'm partial to Olay, but several friends swear by Pond's. :-)

Louize Gonzales said...

Peter, lucky you!
The pictures can attest that you really had a grand time with GCF.

I, too, swear by Ponds! hehehe

Peter S. said...

I really was very fortunate to meet GCF.

Another vote for Pond's!