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My memories of Cynthia Barker, Worshipful Mayor of Hertsmere in UK (Part 13)

British-Filipino filmmaker Jowee Morel had quickly advised me one day before that Cynthia Barker, then still a councilor of twin boroughs Elstree and Borehamwood in the Hertsmere district of the county of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom,, would pay Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP)’s main office at Padre Faura Street in Manila.

Cynthia Alcantara, her maiden name, was a Girl Scout when she was in elementary school in San Pablo City, her birthplace and hometown. It was a very exciting part of her primary education experience of the extra-curricular activities as many young girls were encouraged and eventually loved the affiliation to the advocacy. Cynthia was among the colleens who subscribed to the “Laging Handa (Always Ready)” maxim of the young females indulged in helping others.

When Cynthia was still in the UK weeks before her flight and stay in Manila, she already coordinated with the GSP Manila that she wanted to go to the main office of the organization for a courtesy call. She knew, all the while, where GSP Manila stood.

During Barker’s college days at the Adamson University where she took up Industrial Engineering, she was all too familiar with the GSP office because it was just a stone’s throw from her school. Memories of her GSP days in the province gushed in her mind while she was in blue skirt and white blouse uniform and recollecting her green garb with yellow neckerchief.

Chebelle Velasco, the chief publicist and sort of gracious guest receiver of GSP Manila for VIPs, was the one coordinating with the arrival and visit of Cynthia to their office. Barker even went to Chebelle’s house in Parañaque City to personally see and remind her of her official visit to her mother organization. “I feel I am still a Girl Scout even if I am already retired from corporate work,” said Cynthia candidly about her GSP encounter in Manila.

Both Jowee and I woke up early—he coming from Pagsanjan and me from San Pedro, both in Laguna. And Cynthia with her brother Ador Alcantara would also be coming direct from San Pablo City so everyone of us were early risers as the meeting was at 11 am on a Saturday yet when there was also heavy traffic.

Jowee and I were advance parties at the Padre Faura gate. We were led in by the security guard to the main lobby to the hall of GSP where a gallery of mementos and memorabilia of the history of the group were displayed. Velasco came in a little later followed by Cynthia and Ador.

I remember when I was reading a back issue of Philippine Panorama, the Sunday magazine of the Manila Bulletin where Cynthia was featured, there was a black and white photo of hers showing her mom Nelia Bartolome was pinning a GSP medal and insignia to her daughter’s chest. Cynthia was in complete GSP outfit.

GSP Manila was very proud that an influential Filipina in the UK was once a Girl Scout. For the org, it was an achievement. For Cynthia, too, it was a nostalgic prize she had won when she was a little girl.

Jowee had feasted on the relevance of GSP to Cynthia and to the country by taking photos and moving images of the two valued key players in the history of the group which was organized by social worker and socio-civic leader Josefa Llanes-Escoda who had just celebrated her 122nd birth anniversary.

Barker was likewise honored to be part of the long lasting legacy of GSP and Llanes-Escoda for the service of the Filipinos. “It was indeed a memorable experience for me to be a Girl Scout. I am proud of this. I will carry this to the UK and spread the good work of the GSP,” beamed Cynthia.

Chebelle was honored as well to be visited by an important person from abroad who had contributed a lot to the image-building of Filipinos in the diaspora. For Velasco, it was an honor as well for the GSP to be taken pride by a respected Fil-Briton political figure.

 

 

GSP Manila gave Cynthia a souvenir in response to her kindness and generosity to the organization—the newest look of the GSP neckerchief. The time Barker allotted to the occasion was good enough for the advancement of the proud membership of GSP. Once Barker was handed in the neckerchief, Chebelle immediately wore it on her guest of honor, a very fitting show of mutual respect for the individual honorary member and the mother group.

Even if we were just five or six in the hall, we felt the significance of the moment. Here was a political figure in the UK showing up to the local arrangement of the young girls’ advocacy group.

“I am very proud of Ms. Cynthia Barker who doesn’t forget where she hails from and the organization she represented when she was a little girl. We, the whole GSP is honored by Ms. Barker’s achievements,” said Velasco.

Barker was in high spirits when she received the newest version of GSP’s neckerchief. It was for her a symbol of unity and bridging the past with the present and a rosy look at the future of the goodness and kindness of Girl Scouts in the Philippines.

The footage Morel was shooting would be part of the documentary film the controversial Fil-Brit director was doing. It was also a memorable shoot for Jowee who not only managed to have meaningful visuals of Cynthia but a connection to GSP as well. Didn’t you know that GSP is one of the main supporters of www.filcaspro.com. It’s a symbiotic relationship between GSP and the online platform of the filmmaker? Many stories on GSP had already appeared in the site and Cynthia’s narrative was also part of its cyber pages.

“Girl Scout of the Philippines has been very instrumental in my personality development. As a young girl I was trained to be part of society. I learned a lot about respect for the elders, understanding people, helping the needy and many more. I was also thought good grooming by Girl Scouts,” said Cynthia. (To be continued) 

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