Meeting a Kind Kindred Spirit

Remember my blog brigade about the sad fate of Rochel Geronda, the sampaguita vendor who was raped and slain last February?  I must say that writing about her is probably one of the best functions of this blog, as I realized that several people relied on my blog to get updates about her.  Several people told me that this entry I made about her moved them to tears, and compelled them to take part.  But the most touching comment I got was from Dr. Bob Kemerait, an American professor at the University of Florida.  One lazy Saturday afternoon as I was Facebook-ing, I was surprised to see a wall post on the Momsterteacher “Fan Page”:

Thank you so much for the continued efforts you make to keep others (like me thousands of miles away) updated about the tragic loss of Rochel Geronda. MY wife’s family lives near the location where Rochel was found and it is possible that my family may have even bought flowers from her in the past. Sadly we cannot bring her life back, but your words and efforts allow us to fight for her justice and to learn of what a special young lady she was. The prayers of my family are with Rochel and with her family. Maraming salamat po.

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My wife is from demarces and her last name is Lopez. I will be visiting UPLB and IRRI in May; I would very much like to be able to present Rochel’s family with a small token of our appreciation of for the impact her life has had on us and in remberance of her to her family. Could you help me do that?

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Your blog has been so helpful to us; we understand that there is much coverage of the tragic death of Ray Bernard that is easy to find on the Internet, but your blog is all we can find with updated information on Rochel. salamat po.

Here’s his most touching comment:

You have been her voice and a voice for her family. Thank you for that and thank you for allowing me and my family to have a way of expressing our sadness over such a senseless act of violence and cowardice. BUt what I appreciate most is that through your blog, Rochel is not simply a statistic, but she is a student, a daughter, and a young lady who had hopes and dreams for herself and for her siblings. THANK YOU!

Fan page wall conversation between Bob and me

When I showed our (Bob’s and mine) exchanges to Randy, even Randy was deeply touched.  Here was a foreigner miles and miles away from the Philippines who has never laid eyes on Rochel, but was deeply affected by what happened to her.  Talong-talo pa ang ibang kababayang nagkibit-balikat na lang, who considered Rochel merely as a statistic–another victim of merciless killing, next news please.  Here a busy man who took an effort to get inouch with me, whose wife he asked to call me just to prove he wasn’t a crazy man out to do me harm, posing under the guise of a “concerned” citizen.

Last week, May 14, Bob and I finally met.  I’m sure he was tired, as he was in the Philippines for business and not for pleasure, yet he patiently waited for me at BRAIN TRAIN Main (Los Banos) as I returned from Tanauan City (teaching stint).  As soon as I alighted from our vehicle, he approached me, shook my hand, and introduced himself.  After I freshened up a bit, I, Bob, and my BRAIN TRAIN friends/colleagues (Irvin, Enteng, Lovely, and Roijin) proceeded to Rochel’s house in this part of “Demarces Subd.” whose existence I had never known until last February when we visited Rochel’s house.

When we arrived at Rochel’s house, I looked for her mom.  Mrs. Lani Geronda said she remembers me, and then I introduced her to Bob.  Bob told her that his wife grew up in Demarces, and that Rochel used to pass by her house (although his wife has already been in the US when Rochel was born thus his wife never got to actually see Rochel) .  He also told Mrs. Geronda how my blog entries made him and his family feel “closer” to Rochel, and how Rochel’s life has touched his own family.  Bob also lauded her for having raised Rochel as such: diligent, loving, and responsible.

I, Bob, and Mrs. Lani Geronda

Even though Mrs. Geronda  was not exactly conversant in English, I am sure she understood that Bob was honoring her daughter.  She sat quietly as we watched, her tears falling.

One of the touching moments I saw was when Bob gave Mrs. Geronda pictures of all members of his family.  He told Mrs. Geronda to please keep the photos, and to be reminded that when she sees them, she should know that those people were touched by Rochel’s life.

Bob giving Mrs. Geronda photos of his family

Aside from the photos, Bob also gave Mrs. Geronda a pack of chocolates and an envelope containing something “which may help her family” (of course, I did not pry what the envelope contained).

Chocolate bars and envelope

Afterwards, Bob politely asked Mrs. Geronda to have a picture taken of the three of us.

I, Bob, and Mrs. Geronda with Rochel's siblings and cousin

We stayed at the Gerondas’ for at most 15 minutes, as Bob still had to go to IRRI (told you he was a busy man).

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My colleagues and I  were really amazed how this American and his family abroad deeply cared about Rochel.  In everything he did, he asked my opinion of whether it was appropriate.  When Mrs. Geronda cried when he lauded Rochel, he apologized for upsetting her.  Indeed, Bob was very polite and a real gentleman.

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Bob, in behalf of my kababayans, thank you for caring about Rochel THAT much!  Regards to your family and looking forward to meeting them soon!

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  1. That was really touching! Such a great man with a big heart. Kudos to you Dew for creating a bridge to the Geronda’s and Bob’s family :)

  2. Kristine says:

    Meyn, nakakatouch… He traveled and took time kahit busy siya… Meyn, you are really putting your gift into something very “helpful”… Iilang tao na lang ata natitira na ganyan ka-genuine ang concern na kayang ibigay sa iba…

    I’d like to add: To Mr. Bob, it is heartwarming how your kind heart has made that extra-mile of connection to Rochel’s family… The act may not bring Rochel back but your help and concern are irreplaceable (perhaps even the best HELP that the family received)… What made it even more special is that you did it with selflessness… Others do such acts for publicity… You did it out of Genuine concern and empathy…

    I am proud of you Meyn for being a channel of information and CHANGE… (BTW, I couldn’t help but notice how you blossom.. lalo dun sa pic nyo with the kids… perhaps that’s what JOY does)

    Love you

  3. Bob Kemerait says:

    Thank you so much, and to your colleagues, for making my visit with Rochel’s family possible. I know that you fit me into your schedule and for that I am truly grateful. Upon learning of our visit to Rochel’s family, one colleague noted, “Bob, sadly, this happens throughout the world all the time. Why does this young lady and her family affect you so?” Great question, but simple answers- through your blog, Rochel became not simply another tragic story, but a vibrant young lady who had so much to give. Through your blog I learned that her path certainly crossed with my wife’s family, if only on the route to sell sampaguitas. Finally, through you, my wife and I found a bridge to reach out to this special family. Words seemed completely inadequate in addressing Mrs. Geronda; how can I ever have anything of merit to say given her loss? However, the opportunity to sahre with Mrs. Geronda that her daughter had touched our lives and that Rochel would be forever remembered by us, was the best that we could do. Thank you for making such possible. Maraming salamat po sa lahat.

  4. alex jordan says:

    That was, indeed, very heartwarming and inspiring. That brought a smile to me knowing that there are still a lot of good people on earth.

    Mr. Bob, thank you very much for being an angel and a gift to the Geronda family (and, I’m sure, to a lot more). Your family will surely be blessed by God because you are truly a good person.

    Ma’am Dew, you are also an angel who keeps on inspiring and making many people smile, laugh, and cry. Please keep on writing and posting; your blog is an instrument in making a lot of people think and act for the good of others. Reading this post makes my day despite the sad news that Jessica lost in AI.

  5. Irvin Domingo Jr says:

    Being part of this experience, I have to thank God for allowing me to witness that good and genuine people still exist. Mr. Kemerait and Dewmaine’s efforts were truly admirable and made an impact to all of us present that afternoon. I myself almost cried when I heard the exchanges and the conversations knowing how much of a loss Rochel has been to her family and how Rochel’s demise has made an impact in the lives of other people- family or not.

  6. Something unrelated to the topic, but you are so pretty Ms. Dewmaine. You look like Cristine Reyes sa last picture. :)

    PS. Your articles re Cecil Geronda brought me to your blog.

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