Tribute to a Filipino woman

The interviews were interminable as the public wanted to know everything about the Philippine Ambassador and his lovely wife. Their two Siamaese cats also became celebrities, their "home sick room" at the Embassy, decorated Filipino style, was a must see.

Six years had passed, but interest had not waned, the "Daily Telegraph and Morning Post" (4 July 1960) reported on how they met: "...his first sight of me was dressed as Ben Hur for a play which we were putting on at a women's college run by Belgian nuns. I suppose I must have looked very strange...."

In 1960, the most spectacular cultural event in London was the Bayanihan Dance Troupe. The Guerreros hosted the Gala Night, British Royalty came upon their invitation, and so did a large part of London Society, even if it was reportedly the coldest night ever. In Manila, the "Sunday Times" reported: "the Ambassador wiped out his entire representation expenses for the year in one grand gesture... it was the first occasion in living memory that royalty attended a national dance show." A few days later came a letter from Their Royal Highnesses who enjoyed the production, were particularly impressed with the rhythm of the music and asked that their congratulations be conveyed to the company. The Bayanihan show ran for four weeks.
On 6 May 1961, The Evening News and Star reported: "Two nieces of the Philippine Ambassador in London are among 19 Filipino girls from the Maryknoll College, Manila, who are visiting Britain. They are Gemma Cruz and Nina Nakpil. Tonight Mme. Guerrero is giving a party at the Embassy for the girls. Sandhurst cadets have been invited as escorts." Tita Annie also invited the great grandson of Charles Dickens. That was truly memorable and we remember it to this day.

After seven years in England, the Guerreros were sent to Spain (1962 to 1966). Significantly, the date of Philippine Independence was corrected by President Diosdado Macapagal and for the first time it was celebrated on 12 June 1963, the 65th anniversary. Mrs. Lina O. Sevilla who covered the event for the "Manila Times" wrote that it was celebrated at the Hotel Ritz of Madrid, and "...the Colonia Filipina came en masse and were one in their pride for our ambassador. Annie, known hereabouts as 'la encantadora Embajadora' was her usual sweet and charming self." Her Siamese cats went to Spain with them.

Then they were sent to India (1966-1972), closer to home. Unfortunately, Tita Annie was stricken with cancer in New Delhi and was taken to Manila for treatment, but it was too late. She died in her sleep on 8 March 1971. Tito Leoni was devastated by the untimely demise of his beloved Annie; meanwhile, in New Delhi, their surviving Siamese cat clambered up the roof of the embassy residence and hurled itself to death, an instinctive yet touching act of immolation.

(News clippings from Guerrero, David, LMG, THE LEON MARIA GUERRERO ANTHOLOGY, Guerrero Publishing, Inc, Manila, 2010)(ggc1898@gmail.com)

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