Armida Siguion-Reyna—better known anywhere as Tita Midz—hosted a dinner on December 18 at the ritzy Lolo Dad's Brasserie at 6750 on Ayala Avenue, in memory of the first death anniversary of her husband, Leonardo, whom everyone fondly called Atty. Sig.
Atty. Sig was the big man at the Siguion-Reyna, Montecillo, and Ongsiako Law Office, but was better known around his office as the man who, in their 60 years of marriage, always treated his wife like a queen.
It is said that he never denied her every wish. Through all her many incarnations—as wife to a prominent lawyer, as mother of three, as grandmother to six, as film and music producer, as cooking-show host, as actress, as activist, as censors chief, as newspaper columnist, as political campaigner, as lobbyist, as film preservationist, and as formidable personality—he was there for her.
Now his queen was honoring his memory with a gathering.
Following Filipino custom, one year after a person dies, a "babang-luksa," literally meaning a shedding of grief, is held. It is generally thought that the dead, by this time, have found their way to where they are going, and now allow their loved ones to shed their grief, pain, and black clothes, to go on and live their lives with new hope.
Atty. Sig's law office would itself host a gathering to mark the occasion. But his queen wanted—and got her wish—to have another gathering, a dinner she would host herself and to which she would gather her close friends and allies.
GUESTS FROM POLITICS & SHOWBIZ. From the political scene came Vice President Jejomar "Jojo" Binay and his wife, former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay. The Vice President is, of course, a regular presence in Siguion-Reyna family gatherings, in part because the latter are his solid supporters and in part because they have become good friends.
Also present were former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada and his wife, former Senator Loi Ejercito. Erap and Tita Midz are long-time allies, as everyone in both showbiz and politics knows. She backed his successful run for the presidency and stood by him through his impeachment and beyond.
During Erap's term as the 13th President of the Republic, he appointed her chair of the Movie Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), where she distinguished herself as, unarguably, the most enlightened censors chief the country has ever known.
As MTRCB chair, she earned such a reputation for championing artists that, it's been said, if Erap's critics have to find something sterling in his aborted term, it would have to be the presence of Armida Siguion-Reyna in his Board.
Until Armida was widowed and became frail, she was consulted, as needed, by the present MTRCB chair, Grace Poe Llamanzares, who acknowledges Armida's formidable stock knowledge about censorship, freedom of expression, and the legislation surrounding these all-important issues.
The intelligent and always-composed Grace was herself present at the intimate dinner, although her mom, Susan Roces, often seen with her at Armida's parties, was not. Susan and Armida became solid friends following Armida's unbending support of Susan's husband, the late Fernando Poe, Jr., in his 2004 run for the presidency.
From the movie, television, and musical scene came, among others, the respected actor-couple Barbara Perez and Robert Arevalo, director-actress Gina Alajar, veteran director-actor Eddie Garcia, writer-actress Raquel Villaviciencio, director Mel Chionglo, singers Bayang Barrios, Bimbo Cerrudo, Rachel Gerodias, and other mainstays of the long-running Aawitan Kita musical series.
GMA-7 corporate communications chief Butch Raquel, former ABS-CBN PR chief Maloli Manalastas, and TV5 top executive Bobby Barreiro, writer-translator-editor-poet Jose "Pete" Lacaba and his wife, poet Marra Lanot, and reporters Mario Hernando and Mario Dumaual also came to join Armida.
Incidentally, the host's left shoulder and arm, recently fractured in a fall, were elegantly slung in a soft red cloth that blended quietly with her gold-flecked red top and long skirt.