Viva! Mabuhay! Buhay
By Jean Millare
“You get the best out of others when you give the best of [yourselves].”
Two days ago, I learned of shocking news: Prof. Mabuhay Alonzo had passed away. I could not get over my disbelief and I thought right away of my professor–his wife–Prof. Ross Alonzo…
I met Sir Buhay only once. It was at the UP Centennial book launch a year ago. I don’t recall much of our conversation but there were two things I clearly remember. He was showing us a book he bought–a collection of Ilocano literature, a rare find and for only P25! “We need to appreciate how rich our culture is,” he said. “It’s in the literature that we get in touch with our roots as we learn about our history.”
At the time, we were enjoying some refreshments served after the program. He offered us more, so we were so full. Then he made us get some more at the buffet table. Afterwards, he wrapped the food and shoved it into our bags, saying: “You are students. These will be leftovers soon, anyway.”
I got to know a lot about this interesting personality at his necrological service on Saturday as some students, faculty members at the College of Education, his closest friends and family gave their eulogies. A man who was definitely not your usual professor. He would bring his students to Quiapo to buy ukay and DVDs, to Recto to get piles of second hand books, to small museums one would normally not go to, to the outskirts of the city to visit the wake of someone he probably met on the street. He had his heart on those that other people would typically not give much attention to…
He was not materially rich, but he had so much to give that even the little things he had he shared to others. He would buy second hand clothes and books to give to communities devastated by storms, not minding the five-or-so-hour drive to the area. He was the kind of person who would treat his students to Jollibee, pay for their jeepney fare, or sign their tuition loans at the risk of paying for it if they failed to.
One of his closest friends, my professor at the language department, Prof. Orillos recalled the last time they were together: “He gave me a pack of biscuits and a glass of water and told me to take good care of myself.” Another colleague remembered the time when Prof. Buhay fed them with the sweetest and freshest melons to their hearts content.
He loved to haggle to get cheap purchase but he was willing to pay the cost for something of value to him. His daughter shared about an instance when they were in Real, Quezon and saw a pawikan about to be slaughtered by some village folks. He immediately offered to buy it from them without thinking how much it cost, and together with his family, he set the precious creature to freedom…
He invested a lot of his time in people, generously sharing what he had and even going out of his way to offer help.
But what has captured my interest the most in this man was his devotion to his family and the extraordinary love he had for his wife. “Ama seemed to have done a lot for other people, yet he still had so much time for the family. How could he have done it all?”
Serving was his way of showing love. He would go to the market to choose for himself fresh food he would later prepare for the family… He would patiently look after his grandson, babysit and bring him from school… He would run errands for his wife knowing she had so much responsibility both as a professor and a university administrator.
“To Buhay, Ross was the best thing that ever happened to him.” Had I been in his class, I would have heard the famous love story. He could not stop talking about it even after decades of being married. His colleagues and students wouldn’t have missed hearing about how he courted her, proposed to her and the life they had together since. Whether people cared or not, he would tell his stories anyway.
Mrs. Ross Alonzo seemed to be his exact opposite and never disclosed any personal stories to her students. But I got a glimpse of how Prof. Buhay showed his devotion to her through simple things like returning books she borrowed at the library or driving for her when she needed him to. When a friend told me she seemed all right, I believed deep inside, she must have been grieving so much. True enough when it was her turn to speak, she finally broke down and revealed her heart: “He said we would grow old together.”
I am grieving for her loss but did not have the words to comfort her. Though she has been my mentor, my terror professor I have grown to love, hugging her still seemed awkward. The most I could do was hold her hand even for a while and pray a silent prayer for her and the family.
Prof. Mabuhay Alonzo had his own uniqueness that students and some colleagues may not have appreciated very well. He had his reasons. In the end, it is not so much what a teacher taught in words that he is remembered. It is the life he chose to live and the example he set. He was a man who followed his passions and convictions no matter what others might think. He lived a full life, doing so more for others than for himself.
Prof. Buhay lived up to his name.
Jean Millare is a graduate of the University of the Philippines, with a degree in B. S. Food Technology and a Certificate in Professional Education. She is currently completing her Masters in Education at UP. She is a director of a Korean English Learning Center. She is awaiting release of the results of the September 2010 Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET), major in Physical Sciences. MindGym Philippines is prayerful that Jean realizes her target mark in the LET. She wrote this tribute on August 24, 2009 a few days after the demise of Sir Buhay.