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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, March 5, 2018
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OPINIONS

Written in the Moonlight

Ninfa Leonardia

The frozen body of Joanna Demafelis was finally buried in her hometown, Sara, Iloilo last Saturday. Photos of the event were published in the media and showed hundreds, maybe more, attending the mass and the interment of the woman now the symbol of the Filipina overseas worker who dared to go to foreign and unfamiliar lands in order to help their families. How many Joannas have we lost in all the years that our impoverished women had dared to risk their lives by seeking employment in unfamiliar countries, as workers for people with unfamiliar customs and cultures?

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What is important now is for our own government to ensure that those of our people, especially women, who go out as overseas workers, are protected and provided with means to report any abuses or maltreatment they undergo. Are our embassies or consulates looking out for them, or keeping track of them by regular check-ups where they are, and how they are faring? If that had been done, Joanna’s body would not have remained frozen in that freezer in the apartment abandoned by her heartless employers.

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Now that her employers have been located and identified, what role will our government play in ensuring their prosecution and conviction? It has been found out that they are not native Kuwaitis, the man was Lebanese and his wife Syrian. Thanks to the International Police, they have already been accounted for, and may face the consequences of their cruelty. The publicity and the widespread condemnation of the way Joanna was maltreated and killed will, perhaps, lead to better treatment and better monitoring by our government of our citizens who seek work abroad.

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It seems to be a time for women to be in the news. At the same time that reports keep coming out about our women workers overseas, we have our Chief Justice, who happens to also be a woman in trouble because of attempts to impeach her. The first female to be head of the highest court in the land, however, is braving it out and refuses to give up despite the threats against her. In the meantime, another woman, former Justice Secretary and now an elected senator, Leila de Lima, is still detained for charges that many people do not believe. But she, too, is not giving up. Nor is the elected woman vice president Leni Robredo, despite being ignored by the man to whose position she has the closest connection.

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Saturday afternoon, I spent almost four hours at a piano recital of the students of the SOJ Music Studio of which several of my grandnieces are members. There seems to be quite a lot of piano students there, because there were two sets of recitals, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, which we attended. Meaning, a lot of us in the family, because all the daughters of my nephew, Glenn, and his wife, Rizza, namely Nicole Samantha, Ayanna and Shannika were all participants, and also of my niece, Lisa and her husband Dr. Renan Sanchez, Alissa, were all recitalists.

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Of course their grandparents Mellie Leonardia, and Bob and Connie Lacson were also there, Bob, as usual, with his faithful camera. And we clapped our palms red everytime one of them performed. But of course we were proudest of Nicole, who was the one who rendered the finale number, the Warsaw Concerto, that is quite a handful, even for the professionals, but she did it with aplomb, as young as she is. I teased Bob about his looking teary-eyed while she played, but he said it was because the concerto was his late dad’s favorite piece.

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As for me, the piece which brought memories was the Moonlight Sonata of Ludwig Van Beethoven that recalled how I gave up piano lessons altogether because of it. It was when my music teacher, the talented late Yolanda Fama Caballero assigned it to me to memorize that I disappeared from piano lessons. But I really loved the piece, only I had to admit, I could not live up to Beethoven. But when I had a chance to go to Austria, I insisted on going to his house where I saw displayed his “drafts” of some of his masterpieces, written in pencil, and even the horn, he used when began losing his hearting. And yet he wrote some of his greatest works when already deaf!

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I read a story about Beethoven when I was in intermediate school and it told about a night when he and a friend were walking by a house in Vienna where someone was trying to play one of his pieces. Beethoven stopped and told his friend, “Let’s go in”. Inside they found a young woman trying to play, and he asked to play the piece. As soon as he had played a few bars, the girl, who was blind, exclaimed, “You are the master”! Beethoven was silent and then noticed the bright light of the moon streaming into the room. “I will compose a sonata for the moonlight”, he said. And then and there, played and composed the famous “Moonlight Sonata”. Then, the story went, he told his friend, “Let’s hurry home so I can write it down before I forget”. “Moonlight” is now one of his most famous and well-loved pieces.*

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