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How an octogenarian lady colonel falls to tears as son and daughter fete her special day

Severina Anacion Rojas, a retired colonel of the Philippine Army, is a cousin to my paternal side.

 

The valiant woman warrior in many wars—domestic and global—recently celebrated her birthday and how.

 

Before going any further, let me introduce first who Severina Anacion Rojas is.

 

 

The soon-to-be military nurse of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was schooled in Lopez town in Quezon Province of her elementary and high schools. After her secondary education, she went to Lucena City, the capital of her province to study nursing where she had her internship at the Quezon Memorial Hospital. The hardworking student—daughter of farmers—passed the acid test in a course not ordinarily taken up by most college aspirants at the time and got off the hook from nursing school on a regular four-year stint.

 

Fresh from graduation, as a free spirited person and a dreamer, she eventually volunteered to be part of the Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAG) as a health worker and a frontliner (yes, Filipinos were and still are known to be brave fighters against any form of diseases—natural and man-made as physical violence or hostilities or wars to conquer and control) in the Vietnam war. In South Vietnam, together with our armed contingent, she was assigned as member of the surgical team who treated wounded soldiers in the battlefield.

 

Because of this gallantry, she was recognized—according to Lopez, Quezon artist and historian Gem Suguitan—with various awards like the Philippine Republic Merit Award of the Presidential Republic of Vietnam and Campaign Medal and Ribbon PHILCON Awards. She was also a recipient of Outstanding Alumnus of the Lopez National Comprehensive High School (LNCHS)—the former Lopez High School during her time and Outstanding Lopezeño from the Local Government Unit (LGU).  

 

            Not shaken by the tormenting imperialist warfare of the US on the Vietnamese people, Severina Anacion later joined the Filipino soldiers who fought against the secessionist Muslim rebels in Mindanao in the 70s and 80s, still as a nurse and medical assistant. It was in this adventure in Jolo that she was under the command of Rodolfo Biazon, who was a major and the Commandant of the Philippine Marines. She had also worked in Jolo with the current Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Roy Cimatu who was a second lieutenant at the time. In Cotabato Severina worked with the officer Fortunato Abat.

 

Her badge of courage had earned her the Triple M which meant Military, Merit Medal, a distinguished achievement.

 

After her deployment in the war zones of the south, Severina was assigned and served at the V. Luna Memorial Hospital from being an anesthetist and later as a nursing supervisor.

 

Because of her invaluable military service, Severina Anacion was bestowed step-by-step the promotional ranks of an officer until she became a full-fledged colonel.

 

Meanwhile, in between her studies and later into her commitment to the battlefield and service to the country, Severina got caught in the fancy of pen pal craze when romance hunt and dating sites at the time were mostly from magazines, song hits, komiks and newspapers’ friendsters’ columns. One dashing man took notice of her and began to write her letters that soon spawned love notes. Until she was caught by his earnestness and soon, they were distant lovers.

 

Roberto Rojas wouldn’t want any stone left unturned so he came to see his pen pal crush personally one day. The virtual love affair became a physical reality until they decided to get married.

 

Severina would still be active in the military service after the matrimony, though. It was a beautiful union, after all.    

 

Her birthday would have been happier if not Roberto untimely passed on 2006.                                                                                                                                                                     

 

Life had to go on, anyway.

 

People Kuya (a term of endearment to an older brother or an older man by blood or by affinity) Bert had left behind those who would make her the most of it.

 

Last week was still a pandemic natal day celebration alongside paying homage to All Souls Day and there were still strict observances of quarantines and health protocols but our celebrator braved the threats of the COVID-19 with all the necessary precautionary measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.

 

 

It was supposed to be a trek to the splendor of Ridges and Clouds in Tanay, Rizal which was organized by a coterie of Ret. Col. Rojas, also known as Tita (a term of endearment to an aunt or an older woman by blood or affinity) or Ate (an expression of respect to a sister or an older woman biologically or by affinity) Vener. Heading the army of preparations was her son, Roy Rojas, who would always call or remind me of the event and the health condition requirements like a travel pass, a health certificate and most especially, swab test clearance in going up the nature park. It was with strict compliance to stick to the protocols as the authorities were rigorous in checking elderlies and children. In Roy’s group, there were senior citizens and kids. 

 

So the Tanay outing was cancelled but the Tagaytay trip was pursued on the last day of October. The Rojases—Roy and his sister Cielo—led the pack. They and their kith and kin all went up the city by Taal Volcano ahead of the celebrator who arrived at the half-way house in the late afternoon.

 

The Airbnb reservation was a perfect venue for Ate Vener’s exclusive birthday bash.

 

A sumptuous dinner was served with many of the dishes prepared and cooked at home. It was a memorable gourmet to partake. After meal, the limited guests were busy with anything they could hold on to—parlor games, online gigs etc. The group was wearing face masks, face shields, spraying or rubbing disinfectants and practicing social distancing. 

 

 

On the eve of Ate Vener’s b-day, Roy and Cielo maneuvered and advised all the guests in advance to turn off the lights at the strike of twelve midnight. “Nagulat na lang ako, aba, nagkakantahan na silang lahat (I was startled when they all started to sing),” exclaimed Col. Rojas who turned eighty years old at twelve 0 one on November 1, 2020. “Akala ko, kaya nawalan ng ilaw ay nag-brownout (I thought we had no power because it was brownout),” she chuckled.

 

The morning after, all were ready to return home. Roy and Cielo once more went ahead of the celebrator. The siblings would then be the advance party for another surprise.

 

“Kaya pala ako ay pinahuli ng mga ‘yan ay dahil may handaan pa sa bahay (The reason why I was told to lag behind was because there would be a party at home),” said Ate Vener.

 

Those limited guests who weren’t at the Tagaytay highland came—mostly cousins in red in health protocols. They all sang “Happy Birthday” to their beloved colonel, considered the grand dame of the family.

 

The retired military officer who was and still is supportive of the causes, concerns and needs of the veterans like filing or follow ups of their life pensions was amazed of the love showered on her. 

 

“Naiyak ako (I cried),” the celebrator admitted.

 

Tears of joy and fulfillment.

 

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