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My amazing, beautiful mom, Ethel

We asked the eldest of our colleague and friend and my “co-Bruha” (witch) Ethel SolivenTimbol, the lovable Bebeth, to write about her mom and here it is

Ethel Timbol and her daughter Bebeth

In the days before Mom passed, “My amazing beautiful mom” was a phrase I kept repeating to her as she lay in bed with her eyes closed, while softly kissing her forehead. I kept asking her to open her eyes, so I could see them, and she could see me. Mom said she was tired. So I just stayed there, leaning my head on her shoulder like I always did.

Ethel Soliven Timbol passed away in her sleep in the early morning of Sept. 6, the day before my birthday. To think, I was just telling her how she and I would celebrate together this year, the hospital notwithstanding. She clearly had other plans, and it did not include me spending my birthday in that hospital room.

It had been a tough three weeks in the hospital leading up to that day. She tried put on a brave face, as her doctors told her she would have to undergo dialysis–one of her greatest fears—to help her get better. She asked me to let her go home, and that she was negotiating with God to hear her prayers. She had grown tired of the endless tests, of the pain, and the sense of helplessness. As a daughter, that was difficult to hear, more so to accept. I prayed with her, asking for God’s grace.

Her prayers were answered when God finally called her back to His heavenly home. It wasn’t the outcome I was praying for, but I knew it was what she wanted—to be free of pain, to be free of illness, to finally be free.

Ethel’s birthday celebration last year at XO Heritage Bistro in S Maison

It’s taken me a while to write about her, as Mom was my constant companion, sparring partner, travel buddy, and best friend. It will take some getting used to not seeing her first thing in the morning, and having her around to bother with my endless questions. Or to ask what we started calling “her favorite question”—“What would you like to eat today?”

Mom and I fought about a lot of things, if not everything. When I would remind her it was time to go see her doctors, she would say, “I am fine, until I see my doctor.” Mom also loved to scold me when I let my gas tank go below 3/4 full—“because you just never know when you’ll get stuck in traffic,” or if I had a migraine because I had not been wearing my glasses. All seemingly little things, but they were reminders of how much she worried about me, even when she was very ill herself. Yeah, cariño brutal was the Ethel Timbol trademark, even to her kids.As much as we fought, we loved each other much,much more. And that has shaped my life in many ways.

She loved that I loved to write. Mom got me started writing theater reviews for her section in the Manila Bulletin. Same as the writers and editors who started under her, I would get sheets that were “bleeding” with all the red marks. And I learned from them, as I later pursued writing and editorial work for a good number of years. Long after she had retired, and discovered Facebook, Mom gave writing another go with short posts about myriad topics. I was constantly amazed by how she had sentences and paragraphs fully spelled out in her head, requiring little to no editing on the page. And boy, what stories did she tell!

Mom loved to travel, and we loved to travel together. As a lifestyle editor, she went on as many as eight media trips in a year. Once in a while, I would get to tag along. But my favorite trips with her were to places we both dreamed of seeing. My first trip to New York where she made sure I saw all the great Broadway musicals. An Alaskan cruise, which included a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier. Sightseeing and eating our way across Europe—by air, by sea, by land. A dream tour of Petra and the Holy Land.

Bob Zozobrado, Chairman of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Philippines chapter, with Ethel Timbo, the “Dean of Philippine Lifestyle Editors”

On our last epic trip to the US together in 2015, our month-long itinerary included a “five theme parks in five days” visit to Orlando, Florida, exploring Savannah, Georgia (because a favorite book was set there), and to catch the new Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas. I can almost hear Mom say while we’re preparing for a trip, “Always have change in your wallet, pack extra underwear, and always have your camera at the ready.”

As one of the early fashionistas, Mom shared with me her love for beautiful clothes, and how to wear them well. The price tag or brand has very little to do with it. A favorite story was when my mom had just come back from a trip to Paris, and a friend asked if she had bought her dress there, she proudly said, “Oh no. I bought this at SM!” She was doing ‘high-low fashion’ before it was even a thing!

Lastly, Mom had a most generous heart. Whether it was a call for donations because of a natural disaster or that the rescued animals from Taal needed food supplies, she was ready to help. Every Christmas Eve, she would have me make a big batch of pasta to share with the guards and staff on duty that night, so they would have food to celebrate too.

These stories barely scratch the surface of what an extraordinary woman my mom was. All the stories that have come our way from her friends, family, and former colleagues are proof of that. Each one has been truly heartwarming, reassuring us that she will always be remembered by those who love her most.

Mom’s constant reminder to me, more so in recent months, was to choose to show love to others. And to choose to forgive. Even if they don’t appreciate it. “Do it for you,” she would say. “So that you know you have done what you could. Maybe some of that love will rub off on them.” I promise to try my best, mom.

Ethel with friend Bob Zozobrado in Salem, Massachusetts, known for its history on witchcraft

It is impossible to encapsulate an entire life into a few paragraphs, especially for someone who was largerthanlife to those who knew her best and loved her most. Instead, let us celebrate my mom’s life by reaching out to each other with love, kindness, and generosity, with a bit of her trademark “taray” on the side. I think that is how she would want us to best remember her.

Now from a retired top-notch public relations man, Bob Zozobrado, here are his thoughts of his good friend Ethel!

Ethel was a mainstay in all our press familiarization trips when I was still general manager at Northwest Airlines. I was also handling the airline’s PR. Naturally, I had to make friends with the lifestyle editors of all the broadsheets in the country.

Many of my friends already warned me about how strict Ethel was, how “mataray” she was, and how she would trash the press release in front of the PR rep if she didn’t like it. So, when I first visited her at her Manila Bulletin office, I was literally shaking in my shoes.But miracle of all miracles, she was very nice to me and even engaged me in friendly conversation. We hit it off immediately and that’s how our friendship started.

Ethel was part of every yearly trip I organized to the US and the Caribbean.But I now have to admit that I had three personal reasons for doing so. First, I wanted to show off the fact that somebody who scared the wits out of PR reps was a close friend of mine. The other reason was what we had in common.Those years spanned a very difficult period in my life because I was forbidden by my ex-wife to see or be near my children. Ethel also struggled through the same predicament, so she would always give me very sound advice that buoyed my spirits up.Of course, her being “mataray” was very useful on our trips. I didn’t want to be the bad guy and, without being told, she would see to it that all the other lifestyle editors in our group would toe the line, reprimanding those who would come down from their rooms late, or those who would suddenly disappear from the group to do some “blitzkrieg shopping.”

Even when both of us had retired, we would still have our monthly lunches to talk about anything and everything. On those occasions, she never failed to ask about my children. Three days before she passed on, I even went to St. Luke’s BGC to deliver a little gift for her so she could enjoy it when she checked out.

I will miss Ethel, my dear friend, my confidante, my “elder sister.” Her being “mataray” was just an armor. Underneath that armor was a golden caring heart. My children and I love you, Ethel. Vaya con Dios!”

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