Morning becomes Electra. Melody, smiles to you!

francis melody joeyMANILA - Morning has broken, and another. Morning becomes Electra, not mourning. It’s the morning after the day before, and the day before that, and I, while mourning the death of young, business-minded, beautiful, bright Melody Adelaide Manuel Gersbach from Albay, Miss Magayon 2008, Miss Bicolandia 2008, and Miss Philippines-International 2009 - you may pause at this point and read my “Unchained Melody. Miss Gersbach on a red Innova,” 21 August, American Chronicle) - I now have to be moving on. I shall be moving on to, yes, smiles.

That certain smile of Melody Gersbach was what she left us, and we have to hang on to that. Gladly.

She was a stranger to me, but Melody’s smile was also offered gladly to strangers. Stranger still, you know what, a few years ago when my mother died, Baket Satur Agapito of the village of Sanchez in the sleepy town of Asingan, Pangasinan, my brother Emilio hired a chorus of young, pretty girls to sing and dance through the night. I was shocked silly. My mother was 100 years old and would not have approved, or understood. Then I understood; that was for the entertainment of the living; that was like saying:

Hey, you guys, you should be glad you had her for so many years; you should remember her for all the good days you had, and surrender to God the bad.

Smiles? I don’t remember my mother’s smile but, hey, I thank God my mother gave birth to me, never mind that I didn’t learn to walk until I was 3! So, never too late, here’s my love offering of smiles, starting with this photo of Magayon smiles (thanks to skyscrapercity.com).

First, here’s 3 cheers!

You’re looking at a photograph taken as Melody & Company was about to toast Magayon Cheers, the opening rites of Magayon Festival 2009 (Jose M Briones, 03 April 2009, skyscrapercity.com). 3 is a crowd, but not this one. 3 is a crowd-pleaser.

Remember, this was last year. That’s Senator Francis Pangilinan on the left (right hand on the glass), Albay Governor Joey Salceda on the right (left hand for the toast), and Melody Gersbach in the middle (also left hand on the cocktail glass); for the 2 guys, these are positions of convenience, not strengths. Melody Gersbach is Queen, and those 2 gentlemen are her escorts. 3 cheers for Magayon, 3 cheers for beauty! Magayon Festival is designed for tourists to come to Albay and go home with smiles on their faces, having enjoyed glimpses of the beauties of Albay, this year including adopted daughter and current Bb Pilipinas-Universe Venus Raj. (Venus, this too is a toast for you; win or lose, you’re already a winner.)

Then, 3 smiles.

Baby-faced Pangilinan’s smile is tentative, not 100%; remember, this was last year - To run or not to run for President? (He didn’t.)

Salceda’s smile is half-cocked, 50% - there’s more to come, that’s what he seems to be saying. Yes, he has great plans for Albay; there’s more to come for Albay, and from what I learned early this month a little up close, in terms of leadership and followership, what’s good for Albay is good for the Philippines too. (You may want to check out my “Salceda in excelsis. “The NPAs are part of my forest,” 06 August, American Chronicle.)

And Melody’s glowing smile. Her smile is 100% - to the one(s) she was looking at, at the moment. This was also the occasion when she was joined by Pangilinan in “thanking the people of Albay for their support and prayers in her bid for the title” of Miss International 2009 (Briones as cited). She didn’t win, but she said, she did her best (Robert Requintina & Aaron Recuenco, 21 August, mb.com.ph), and “Being a semi-finalist is a big thing for me.” (Was.)

Remembering smiles

Bb Pilipinas-World 2009 Marie Ann Umali remembers Melody Gersbach’s one-in-a-million smile, saying, “It’s one in a million. It can light up a whole city” (Ricardo F Lo, 23 August, philstar.com). This morning, beyond the mourning, I can say that Melody’s smile can light up a whole country.

I’ll call it a radiant smile. Melody’s smile radiates from her whole face, from her whole being, to people next to her, to all the people in the same room with her and, I can imagine, out the door.

And so, remembering Melody’s endless glow, we can sing with unforgettable Nat King Cole what he sang 56 years ago:

Smile
Smile though your heart is aching 
Smile even though it's breaking 
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by 
If you smile through your fear and sorrow 
Smile and maybe tomorrow 
You'll see the sun come shining through for you.

Even if I’m not smiling, my heart is light. For 6 days on the 2nd week of this month, August, I was one of a dozen e-journalists in Legazpi City invited by the Office of the Governor of Albay to discover for ourselves the province’s initiatives in climate change affirmative action. (Never mind the technical term - but if you want instant education, you can read my “Climate Change Academy. Albay as lessons to learn, 13 August, American Chronicle.)

At that time, I wasn’t aware of Melody Gersbach, that she was Bb Pilipinas-International last year, that she lived in Legazpi City, that she was managing Gasthof, a chain of restaurants for her family, and that she knew something about climate change action herself and along with close friend Venus Raj, having been taught by Nong Rangasa, head of Albay’s Centre for Initiatives and Research on Climate Adaptation. Not knowing Melody could be somewhere in the city, not knowing Gasthof was within an easy taxi ride that I could have easily sneaked into as I’m always hungry, I could concentrate on the duty at hand.

So, gladly and with full attention I listened to the climate change lectures; I watched the presentations; I took fast notes touch-typing with my 15-inch HP Compaq Presario laptop - but mornings, I was watching out for Mayon’s beatific smile, ready with my daughter Graciela’s Casio Exilim Ex-S5 camera - waiting for this shy girl of Legazpi City who hides behind slow-moving sheets of white most of the day. I saw the sun come shining through for me, but Mayon hid her beautiful, naked body.

Light up your face with gladness 
Hide every trace of sadness 
Although a tear may be ever so near 
That's the time you must keep on trying 
Smile, what's the use of crying? 
You'll find that life is still worthwhile 
If you just smile
.

Not having seen all of her beauty, I couldn’t smile. I left Legazpi not ever having been enraptured with a personal, one-on-one full-body view of Magayon, beautiful Mayon, and I vowed to return. I will too, but first I have to stop mourning for Melody Gersbach and get back to rooting for Venus Raj as Miss Universe 2010. (For starters, see my “Aphrodite Rising. Venus in earthy dimensions,” 10 August, American Chronicle.)

No, I am not going to allow a speeding Guevarra Bus trying to overtake another vehicle and in so doing crushing and tearing off the roof of a red Toyota Innova, to take away that certain smile. This smile is forever. With the mellow sound of Johnny Mathis and with my out-of-time but not out-of-tune voice, I sing:

A Certain Smile
A certain smile, a certain face
Can lead an unsuspecting heart on a merry chase
A fleeting glance can say so many lovely things
Suddenly, you know why my heart sings!

That certain smile of Melody is what a reader, rotogold called “a contagious smile” (21 August, Joyce Burton Titular, ABQ). I would have gladly been contagioned with that smile! Still, I can sing with Love King Solomon: “Stay with me flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love” (Song of Songs 2:5 KJV).

You love a while, and when love goes
You try to hide the tears inside with a cheerful pose
But in the hush of night exactly like a bittersweet refrain
Comes that certain smile to haunt your heart again.

I remember a certain smile, in Lewis Carroll’s magical Alice in Wonderland, where the Cheshire Cat gradually disappears from view, its grin the last part to vanish. So, thinking now of the Cheshire Cat, I vow to not let go of the Cheshire grin - or any other smile for that matter.

So, Melody, I will allow that certain smile to haunt my heart again, and again.

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