As a child, I have always been charming and precocious. I was really cute; being too small for my age and pretty at that, getting people’s attention and sympathy was easy. Everybody loved me; and most of the time, I was given special privileges and I was well-thought of wherever I went. Special considerations and extra showers of affection boosted my morale and uplifted my self-esteem. I always won at pleasing those around me; and in return, I had more than my fair share of the love and care that each growing child needs. To empower, to inspire, to soothe the spirit, and to strengthen self-confidence and self-worth.
People used to say to me, “you’re so cute!” and “you’re so bright!” as I was growing up. I’ve gotten so used to hearing these compliments that sometimes I’d even murmur the words before they can even say it. I had fun each time and I’d secretly laugh to myself. The compliments never failed to flatter me, though.
I had a fascination for information and my curiosity was boundless. I have always been tirelessly finding things out, studying, learning, expanding my horizons and spreading my wings. I loved to explore and plow the field, so to speak. I was a voracious reader, never letting good reading materials pass me up. My passion for learning was burning incessantly. Best of all, my retentive memory has been responsible for my feats. Knowing things and discerning them for ultimate comprehension came easy to me. I was ‘brilliant’, they say.
I had the knack for literature and language was my forte.
“We want you to write the editorial for the year’s first quarter issue of “The Gazette”. I would; and before I know it, I was already editor for that school organ.
What I lacked in height I more than made up for my keen sense of understanding and very daring personality. I was good with people and my public relations skills were excellent.
“Go, go, go Cecilia!”, my friends and classmates would cheer and chant at debates at school or at quiz bees.
As a lawyer, I never lacked the right tools for defense and offense. Whichever party I represented, it’s never a problem going inside, under, above, or beside the workings of the law for either loop holes or cork screws to arm me at the battlefield. I never lost a case ever.
My height didn’t bother me at all. I didn’t have any feelings of insecurity nor did I have ‘inferiority complex’. I was too smart to be infected by that. In spite of the fact that I stood at only a little over four feet, ironically, I was endowed with a very powerful voice. One that never failed to catch attention or demand respect. Almost masculine, clear, strong and concise, my voice had been an asset that impressed the masses, convinced the judges, amused big time politicians, pacified insurgents, assured clients, and consoled hundreds of oppressed individuals who believed in somebody who will stand by them through thick and thin. Likewise, anyone who hears me without seeing the real me tends to have the surprise of a lifetime and it’s always amusing. Thus, I had a powerful personality and I cultivated it well using it to my greatest advantage.
As a student, I was very competitive. I was always among the top students.
“You made it again this year, Cecilia, good job!”, says a teacher.
I tried to be the best in everything I did. It would torment me whenever some classmate or colleague had the edge over me. I felt I didn’t give my best. I would strive even harder to accomplish more and obtain higher grades. It meant so much when I earn respect and appreciation from my fellow classmates, friends, teachers and professors. My sense of accomplishment never waned; as a professional, I still maintained the level of excellence in everything I endeavored to do. I was consistent in terms of proficiency and mastery.
In high school, I could have bested anyone in the classroom if I chose to. In terms of academic and extra-curricular activities, I was never behind because it broke me whenever I failed at something. Losing or being only second best wasn’t acceptable. No one set this criteria for me to follow; that has been my own rule. I set a high standard for myself and did everything to live by it. Being physically challenged myself, I made it a point to be an inspiration for people with physical problems. I wanted to be a living example; no matter what the circumstances are, it’s not impossible to excel scholastically and to succeed in anything you put your mind to. I had all the right gifts; and I vowed to use them to serve humanity.
I was always recognized and given merit for my achievements and successes. But I never let these get into my head. No matter how high I soared, my heart was always below, where it surely belonged- next to my family-for the masses, for civic duty, for justice and truth.
Being an achiever, however, has its setbacks. There are those who are green with envy that they’d try tactics to destroy you, discourage you or drive you away.
“Hey Cecilia, did you know that Anna Marie Lucuesta says you’re a cheat?”, a classmate would ask.
And I would just laugh my solid, throaty laugh saying, “Let her be. She’s just jealous for being such a loser. She failed at American Literature, you know”. And then we laughed together.
But I didn’t mind; it gave me all the more motivation to be even better. As long as I played the game right, I have nothing to fear. I always believed to fight for what is right and to stand for the causes that matter. My gift of gab always made me get through tight spots, holes, nooks and crannies; while my bravado has been misconstrued for conceit most of the time, though. But I didn’t dwell on that; what mattered most was that I stood by my principles and philosophies, and my intentions were never malicious.
My leftist mentality and passion for things social, civic and political were starting to manifest themselves while at secondary school. As early as the fourth year in high school, I became an activist; a naysayer, protestor and oppositionist when I thought something wasn’t right. I also boldly challenged the authorities, questioned rules, guidelines, and ordinances. When something smelled fishy, I was at the forefront demanding transparency. I always read the daily newspapers and I was very updated with current events and I was seething with fury to read about opression, discrimination, deprivations and other forms of injustices, and even impunity; I was ‘inflamed’ to do something to contribute.
“How come I don’t see Miss Cecilia Marquez today”, asked my senior year teacher”. And true enough, my classmates would answer back, “where else, at the plaza or at the city hall, of course”. Pickets and rallies were common then. I used to join them and voiced my apprehensions, opinions, suggestions and protestations. I actively participated that I missed classes at school. I was very passionate to the extent that I traded my honor slots then.
I was good at deductive and inductive reasoning and making logical explanations for, and discussing about events, issues and relevant subjects, modesty aside, was a piece of cake for me somehow. could make generalizations, summaries, conclusions and synopses ahead of everyone else when required of us. And it’s through this that I’m able to infer when there’s some discrepancy or if ever something was out of line.
I was never lazy to learn of new things and it was plain innate in me to be always on my feet doing something exciting and worthy. Instead of lazing around and engaging in things irrelevant and trivial, intellectually challenging undertakings perked me up and motivated me in ways that I become productive. I was always enthusiastic for seminars and fora. I can present ideas and take the floor real well. I got involved and participated and contributed in programs and alliances that were for good causes. I was the proponent for a myriad of groups, associations and organizations. I was also a literary editor, and I was always sought after for what I have to say about a certain issue or concern. My views were valued as relevant and insightful or inspiring or motivating.
It was in college when I started smoking. It’s a bad habit I never really outgrew. In fact, my daughter Nikki reprimands me all the time. My children are concerned because the doctor has advised for me to quit it or else my health will be jeopardized.
“You ought to stop, mom. Or else it’s gonna be the death of you”. “Okay, okay, sure”, I would retort back.
I just couldn’t do it somehow. I can be stubborn and the children complained about it. I go to great lengths to cover my tracks at home regarding my smoking. To keep the peace and stop them from worrying about me and my well-being, I never let them see me smoke the past few years anymore as long as I can help it.
My playing mah jong, on the other hand, doesn’t really get on their nerves. They even encourage me to play sometimes.
“Hey mum! Aunt Arlene wants you to go there to play mah jong! She’s on the phone! Mum! Go and have fun, okay!” and I would shout back from downstairs: “I will later. Gotta finish up some printing. Thanks, Clio…” I feel good when the kids sound that way. It made me feel really special.
When they push me to go out have some fun or go shopping or go to the beauty saloon, the fhaggling takes time but they always win. They just love it when I give myself time. This may be due to the fact that I don’t really have any forms of diversion to get my mind off the volumes of case files at the office and at home, and the never-ending invites for speakerships, guestings, and other social appearances. I’m always requested when it is required for an authority figure’s presence at educational institutions or organizational gatherings. My kids know damn well how much I work hard for them. Plus, they think I truly deserve to enjoy some other things beside the courtroom battles that I love. I am very grateful for having such wonderful children and grandchildren. I am truly blessed in a way.