Unchained Melody. Miss Gersbach on a red Innova

melody gersbachRevised 22 August at 0920 hours

MANILA - How do you say goodbye in Bicol? How do you say goodbye to Miss Melody Adelaide Manuel Gersbach, Jewel of Beauty (Mutya ng Magayon) 2008? I never even saw her; I didn’t know her at all. I didn’t meet her when I was in Legazpi City for 6 days from 04 August in an e-journalism visit courtesy of Albay Governor Joey Salceda. So why is it that when I think of her, I think of that song as old as me, “Unchained Melody” and want to sing it - and cry?

Come on, sing with me! Cry along with this 1955 song by The Righteous Brothers (Wikipedia). It is one of the most recorded songs of the 20th Century, with 500+ versions; music by Alex North, lyrics by Hy Zaret.

Unchained Melody

Oh, my love, my darling 
I've hungered for your touch 
a long lonely time 
and time goes by so slowly 
and time can do so much
are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love 
Godspeed your love to me
Lonely rivers flow to the sea, to the sea 
to the open arms of the sea
lonely rivers sigh 'wait for me, wait for me
I'll be coming home wait for me.’ 
Oh, my love, my darling 
I've hungered for your touch 
a long lonely time 
and time goes by so slowly 
and time can do so much
are you still mine?
I need your love
I need your love 
Godspeed your love to me.

I cry because she breaks my heart just when I have started to love everything Albay. Because Melody Gersbach is dead at 24, Miss Bicolandia 2008, Binibining Pilipinas-International 2009. The Princess I never knew.

Melody was from Daraga, Albay. The well-known old Cagsawa Ruins are in Daraga, Albay - from now on, there will be added the new Daraga Ruins of a Career of a Beauty Queen. She was managing their family restaurant business called Gasthof (German for inn) with branches in the cities of Makati, Naga, and Legazpi (Joyce Burton Titular, 12 November 2009, ABQ). She was born 18 November 1985 in Offenbach, West Germany (Florencio P Narito, 13 March 2009, skyscrapercity.com). She finished high school at the St Agnes Academy in Legazpi City.

The car-bus collision happened at the village of Pawili in the town of Bula in Camarines Sur (Andreo Calonzo, 21 August, gmanews.tv). It was a Guevarra Bus. Melody, her driver Santos Ramos, her manager Alvin Orense died on the spot at about 1100 hours 21 August. From Legazpi City, they were on their way to Naga City for the final screening for Miss Bicolandia; she was the Chair of the Miss Bicolandia Committee (Titular as cited). The 4th person in the car was Ronald Lita, in critical condition at a local hospital. It was a red Toyota Innova and, Joyce quotes Ephraim Aguilar, Southern Luzon Inquirer correspondent, as saying, it was a “total wreck” - only the wheels remained intact.

On collision, the car went under the bus, and the big machine ripped off the little machine’s top before ramming itself on a tree along the highway (abs-cbnNEWS.com). Someone was rushing time until time stopped. The driver of the bus was Wilson Pontillas.

Melody Gersbach was a Management graduate of the University of Asia and the Pacific (Fidelio Blas, vimeo.com). Blas says that as a young entrepreneur, she kept “a keen interest on online marketing” and “she dabbled in drawing and kept some of her most precious memories in a scrapbook, a hobby that gave her great pleasure.” Although written “9 months ago,” Blas’ original is in the present tense; unhappily, I had to relegate it to the past.

Blas also says she was born in Germany with a German father and a Filipina mother; this stunning beauty stood 5’6” at 34-24-34. If she won the Miss International crown in 2009, she would have made it her mission to promote education among the poor youth to help them secure a better future for their families. Her father is Wolfgang K, a chef; her mother is Marina Manuel, a businesswoman (Narito as cited).

Melody was Beauty & Brains herself. Here’s the final Q&A in the Bb Pilipinas contest:

Question: Do people think you’re not intelligent just because you’re beautiful?
Melody: Well, for me, beauty is not only the physical. It is beauty of the intellect, beauty of our insights. And I see that people misjudge those who are beautiful. We are beautiful within, which shines through, for myself, through a beautiful smile. Thank you.

We will have to make Melody’s beautiful smile in that photograph last forever!

Chair of Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc Stella Marquez Araneta sent expression of her grief (abs-cbnNEWS.com):

Our sincerest condolences and prayers go out to her family and friends. Her death, unfortunate and untimely, has left everyone at Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc deeply saddened. Her passing will not only leave a void in our lives, but also in the hearts of everyone who knew her. Melody’s memory will always remain deep within our hearts.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda himself sent out this message by email as I wrote these lines:

Albay mourns the death of Melody. Melody has done her part and could have done so much more. The entire province deeply feels the loss and shares the sadness of her family. I just hope the tragedy will not affect Venus in Las Vegas and instead use this event as a challenge and to uplift the plight of Bicol.

I say, Gov Joey, let Venus cry. Let us cry.

If you didn’t know, Venus Raj is Bb Pilipinas-Universe 2010 competing in Las Vegas for the Miss Universe title; Venus is from Bato, Camarines Sur, but she is a beloved adopted daughter of Albay, having graduated from Bicol University in Legazpi City and having been selected as Albay’s Youth Ambassador on Climate Change. I have predicted Venus Rising (see my “Aphrodite Rising. Venus in earthy dimensions,” 10 August, American Chronicle). Melody Gersbach’s death is Venus Falling. Nong Rangasa, head of the Albay Centre for Initiatives and Research on Climate Change says Venus and Melody were close friends; the 2 girls were both climate change action advocates. Arjay says Venus says Melody convinced her to join the Bb Pilipinas 2010 contest (annalyn.net). What do you do when your friend dies? Cry.

If you want to blame people in the government for road accidents like that, go ahead - I won’t. I’m concerned about something else, that which is not obvious: Buses from Manila to Legazpi City are driven over long distances along a great many sharp curves; ever heard of Bitukang Manok? (that’s chicken intestine, meaning many twists & turns). I rode an Antonino Bus 04 August from Ali Mall in Cubao in Quezon City to Legazpi City; I rode a Bobis Bus 09 August coming back. I noted 2 drivers taking turns for the 500 km distance. Can you imagine yourself sitting out 500 km on a bus, 9 AM to 9 PM? I was relaxed most of the time. Willingly, I went for the ride. Alone, I was enjoying the change of scenes, the quiet beneath the engine roar. Given that, I can imagine that driving 250 km, half the distance, even with many pit stops, any driver gets tired, gets careless and wants to rush to his destination; his reflexes are slower. Soon, at every twist and turn, he is a reckless imprudence waiting to happen.

When his bus meets a car head-on, his bus wins, the car loses. We all lose a beautiful soul, and another, and another, and another.

I will not blame faulty brakes or missing road signs. I refuse to blame corruption of public highways officials. I do blame poor management of bus companies. I saw bus drivers with beer stomachs with my bare eyes. The music was loud; the video on board wasn’t working. They don’t take care of their buses and drivers like they used to anymore. Go visit the Ali Mall Terminal in Cubao and see for yourself.

Given all that, in the meantime, if you’re a little car, you’ll have to learn to drive extra carefully and defensively in the long and winding roads to and from Bicolandia. Do that and you will also be able to enjoy the changing vistas more. It’s lovely out there in the countryside, and you may find a longed-for paradigm shift somewhere along the way. At any rate, if you are a little car, don’t look for righteousness; instead, set things right for yourself. If the Big Buses don’t care, the Little Cars should.

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