‘Looking in the same direction’

Community News & Features Sep 13, 2019 at 3:54 pm
Mithi Esguerra and Silay

Mithi Esguerra and Silay

By Mithi Esguerra

I knew Tita Mila and TIto Hermie when I was still in the Philippines and my dad was already here in Canada, but I only knew them as the couple who ran the newspaper my dad wrote for. I would later learn my dad was among the political prisoners in Bicutan who participated in a hunger strike to demand the release of nursing mothers, one of whom was Tita Mila.

I met them when I came to Canada. I would see them at community events and sometimes they came to our home. But back then, I was just a sulky teenager so I didn’t care much.

I began to develop a relationship with Tita Mila and Tito Hermie at a time when I was part of a Filipino youth organization. In 2004, 17-year-old Jeffrey Reodica was fatally shot by a Toronto police officer and this incident caused outrage and grief within the Filipino community. As a youth organizer, I was wondering how my group could be involved somehow, and at this time, I received a call from Tita Mila, saying that some community members were calling for a community meeting about the issue. We worked together on the Justice for Jeffrey Campaign, and later on, this led to the formation of the Community Alliance for Social Justice for which Tita Mila invited me to become a board member and I accepted. So, we continued working together through this and in addition to our working relationship, I came to develop a personal relationship with them, too.

When I got married in 2009, I asked Tita Mila to be my wedding ninang. I can say that throughout these years I have learned much from both of them – from Tita Mila, especially – from policy advocacy and alliance-building, to raising a family.
In the time I have known Tita Mila and Tito Hermie, I saw that they were genuinely dedicated to serving the Filipino people, whether in the Philippines, or here in Canada. They had already spent a good part of their lives fighting the Marcos dictatorship while they were still in the Philippines, and in their years in Canada, they were advocates for the well-being of the Filipino community. Now, as the Philippines is once again placed under martial law under the rule of Duterte, Tita Mila and Tito Hermie are once again immersed in the struggle through the Malaya Movement.

I am not fond of love quotes but there’s one that I particularly like from the author Antoine de St-Exupery. He says, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” And I think this is the reason Tita Mila and Tito Hermie’s marriage has lasted so long. It’s that they have always, and continue to, look together in the direction of a future of social justice, genuine democracy, and liberation for all oppressed people.

Happy anniversary, Tita Mila and Tito Hermie. I’m glad to be a part of your lives, personally. And I am happy to be working with you on a political level, too.

See more photos: Philippine Reporter marks 30th year; Garcia couple’s golden anniversary Pictorial by Rene Sevilla