Remembering Pem

Dr. Rebecca F Catalla, or Pem, was one of the first Filipinos I met when I first arrived in Cambodia about 10 years ago. She gave me my first writing job; trusting me even if she didn’t really know me. Meeting the siblings Ted and Pem actually contributed to my decision to stay in Cambodia to strike it on my own there. Through Pem, I secured my first few projects in Cambodia. She was a strict and exacting boss but she was also very generous if you do your job well. Through her I discovered the power of research, igniting the interest that I still carry today.

my last photo with Pem c2010

my last photo with Pem c2010

In the 3 years since returning from Cambodia we kind of lost touch, but I’ve always considered it an honor to have worked with her and to have been one of her friends. I’m sad that I didn’t make it to her wake & funeral, and the other night I wrote this poem with her in mind. To mourn her loss, to pay her tribute, and to celebrate her life.

That Winter

I remember that story
Of that long-ago winter in Iowa
When a graduate student
Stepped into the cold night
To do a chore another person
Would’ve postponed without

A thought or bother.
But walked into the snow
You did, single-minded and
Steadfast, pausing only
To make sense of the act,
Well after the fact.

You told that story so well
That for a moment I too
Felt the chill of that winter
Within my body, even if
It was noon in the tropical
Country that adopted us.

Such was your power:
Your words exuded a casual
Elegance from which wisdom
Flowed freely; your manners
Evoked a quiet dignity and
Grace one can only aspire to.

I recall, standing beside you
Felt standing beside greatness
And I basked under the joy
Of learning from you, of
Working with you, and just
Being one of your friends.

Your leaving seems so like
That evening when you charged
Into the cold seemingly without
Any thought for your safety,
Steadfast and determined,
As we all know you to be.

That winter comes uninvited;
The bitter wind might have
Snuffed your very flame, but its
Warmth and bright light remain
On all those you have touched
In your rich and glorious life.



About the pensive poet

development worker. kasuyo. bugtong na anak. retired drag queen. kalaguyo. kaibigan. future carpenter, bread-maker, or bar-tender. feeling manunulat at makata. borderline obsessive-compulsive. control freak. book worm. isnabero. mahiyain. astang cineaste. aspiring photographer.

Posted on October 21, 2013, in journal, poetics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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