IN MY EYES
By Edward B. Antonio
Miriam is a popular name, fellas.
Miriam Makeba was a South African singer and a political exile from 1960 to 1990, a strong vocal opponent of the South African racial segregation policy of apartheid. For her anti-racism advocacy, her records were banned in South Africa, then the center of apartheid in the world.
Miriam Arguello was a brave woman in the 90s who headed Nicaragua’s National Assembly and known for her anti-Sandinista stand. The Sandinistas were a left-wing rebel group that staged dramatic raids and overthrew Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza Debayle and installed a Marxist government in 1979.
Miriam Silverman was the real name of Beverly Sills, 1980 awardee of the US’ Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, in recognition of her service to the arts. She was a an American soprano, who combined critical success with international popularity as a result of her clear, supple coloratura voice and sparkling personality. Her ability to give dramatic substance and vitality to her roles further advanced her success. Her autobiography, Bubbles (1976), received its title from her childhood nickname.
Miriam Rambert was a world class dancer and teacher who changed British ballet dancing forever. Opening a school in 1920, she trained such notable British dancers and choreographers as Antony Tudor and Sir Frederick Ashton. Her company, the Ballet Rambert, now called the Rambert Dance Company, promoted the work of many British choreographers and stage designers.
Miriam Ferguson was the name of a fighting lady governor candidate who defeated a Ku Klux Klan opponent in Texas in 1924, ending the political force of the racist anti-black organization.
During those periods, the Klan was a dreaded society. Attired in robes or sheets and wearing masks topped with pointed hoods, the Klansmen terrorized public officials in efforts to drive them from office and blacks in general to prevent them from voting, holding office, and otherwise exercising their newly acquired political rights. When such tactics failed to produce the desired effect, their victims might be flogged, mutilated, or murdered. These activities were justified by the Klan as necessary measures in defense of white supremacy and the inviolability of white womanhood.
It was customary for the Klansmen to burn crosses on hillsides and near the homes of those they wished to frighten. Masked Klansmen also marched through the streets of many communities, carrying placards threatening various persons with summary punishment and warning others to leave town. Many persons were kidnapped, flogged, and mutilated by the Klan; a number were killed.
Miriam was also the name of a prophetess savior of the bible’s Moses. She was a sister to Moses who led the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, and of Aaron, the first Jewish high priest. When Miriam was young, she watched as her mother put baby Moses in a basket and sent him down the Nile River to escape the Pharaoh’s decree that all newborn Hebrew male children be put to death.
Indeed, there are many Miriam greats in the world, fellas.
But our own Miriam Defensor Santiago was a world class of her own.
Like Makeba, she was a staunch fighter for justice and equality so she was branded as “The Iron Lady of Asia.”
Like Arguello, she was a strong advocate of democracy, a graft-buster in the Bureau of Immigration and in the Department of Agrarian Reform and an incorruptible judge and senator.
Like Silverman, she was a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service and TOYM awardee for Law and a great book writer with her Idiots series.
Like Rambert, she was a great dancer and a great dancer of times, too. When she was “cheated” in her presidential bid in 1992, she gracefully danced with the river’s flow through the years and even earned a seat in the International Court of Justice.
Like Ferguson, she was an uncontrollable tongue in the senate, castigating the young and the old senators and giving them lectures on parliamentary procedures and legal issues.
Like Miriam in the bible, she was a superb supporter of the young who were wowed of her steel-willed stand against corruption and all that were evil. Even Mr. Big C who afflicted her lungs for several years did not put her down immediately. It took many years for it to triumph over a woman as strong as Miriam.
Despite her fiery tongue which she balanced with her comic presentation of ideas, Miriam Defensor Santiago will go down in Philippine history as one of the greatest local and international political figures RP has ever produced.
Indeed, she was a Miriam for all seasons!
Goodbye Maid Miriam.
‘Til we meet again.