Beyond Brushstrokes

“We Filipinos draw our endless patience, our good nature and our trust in God’s master plan from a simple unshakeable faith. I surprise myself quoting to a distraught son, daughter or friend, Teresa of Avila’s comforting lines which I learned when I was 9, “Nadie te turbe. Nada te espante.” Let nothing disturb or frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Solo Dios basta. God alone suffices. Exeunt.”

— Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil, Exeunt

Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil is now a glowing star in the firmament. The Grande Dame of Letters lives on through her priceless legacy — her books.
Tita Chitang “CGN” was the compleat woman — eminent historian, erudite essayist, witty and acerbic journalist, eloquent author, public servant, ambassador and international technocrat, Chair of the National Historical Commission. She was a multi-faceted individual with many achievements and awards among them, the National Book Award. She was a mother, grandmother and loyal friend, the wise, formidable, awesome icon of culture to countless admirers. She loved our country and was proud to be a nationalist.
Here are some quotes that describe her:
“Mom was very proud of her having won a seat on the UNESCO board of directors — the ruling organization based in Paris. While the Philippines had representatives with rank of ambassador, it was the first time for the Philippines to get on the 13-person board which had to be elected by 150-member countries,” her daughter Lisa Guerrero Nakpil said.
Ms. Nakpil had the rank of ambassador. The Department of Foreign Affairs properly recognized this with a formal statement from Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
“Chitang was an intellectual with much charms and wit. She was a lady in every sense of the word and carried an allure that enchanted everyone that she must have met. She was to me, an idol. She was a top representative of the Philippines to UNESCO, the center of the intellectuals and artists in Paris. And that is how I came to greatly admire and respect her. May she rest in peace.” – Rosario G. Manalo, Ambassador, Former Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs
“Carmen Guerrero Nakpil is a most intelligent Filipino writer. Her mastery of the English language is incomparable. Her sense of history is as great as her knowledge of our country’s past.” — Virgilio Almario, National Artist for Literature, Chairman of the National Commission of Culture and the Arts.
“I had the pleasure of knowing Chitang and her family for many years since the end of WWII. During and after Martial law, Chitang was guest of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in several of its regular fora where she impressed foreign correspondents with her meaningful insights of current affairs, as well as her deep knowledge of Philippine history and the Filipino. Any interaction with Chitang was always an experience.” — Gabby Tabunar, long time correspondent for CBS News and one of the founders of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).
“Carmen Guerrero Nakpil was the greatest National Artist we never had.” — Deanna Ongpin Recto, Museum Foundation trustee, former UNESCO representative
“Tita Chitang — a force of nature with her cutting wit. I will miss her.” — Kat Legarda
“A beautiful mind and a beautiful soul. I was first attracted to her writing style, relaxed but uncompromising, even when writing under a pseudonym. Then I found persona even more complex and beguiling. I love her and will miss her.” — Rex Robles, Navy Commodore and former RAM leader
“I have always wished that someone would make a film out of her elegant and gripping memoir, “Myself, Elsewhere,” her paean to Old Manila and a way of life that was mannered and decent. When I feel low about my country, and even about my writing abilities, I simply re-read that book and am again restored in spirit and faith that the Filipino — and I — will endure, thrive and laugh at the fact that we could ever doubt our uniqueness.” — Margie Logarta, journalist, editor.
We all looked up to the beautiful icon of history, elegance and style.
For many years, I was lucky to have been guided by her in many ways — in art and culture as well as matters of the heart. She was my “cultural Mom” who inspired and encouraged me. She was frank and pointed out what was appropriate and proper, what was in good taste and what was right. She had seen and experienced it all in her long, colorful life. Nothing fazed her. The sense of confidence was the glowing aura that she projected to all of us who were her friends. We met every second and fourth Wednesday of the month.
The CGN friends celebrated historical holidays, book launches, exhibits and milestones. She cared about us, individually and she bound us together as an extended family. We all loved her and will continue to meet and to honor her. And we will miss her regal presence.
The last time I saw her was on her 96th birthday on July 19. She looked youthful, beautiful and peaceful. She was ready for her flight to heaven. Au revoir, Tita Chitang!
Note: Exeunt is the last of her autobiographical trilogy. The title is a term from stage direction. It specifies that a character leaves the stage. It also indicates “The End” (Nakpil Publishing, 2009)
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.