VIRGIE TOLEDO stared at me with mock annoyance, her arched eyebrows ready to fly out of her stern face and zap me. "Ano? Apat na taon kang nasa Israel, wala ka pa ring asawa? (What? You spent four years in Israel, and you're still unmarried?)" We were seated in the capacious living room of a mutual friend in Phnom Penh, and we were meeting for the first time since I left Manila four years earlier. "Virge, wala ka kasing clone, kaya single pa ako (You have no clone, that's why)", I retorted. She bellowed forth that laughter I so missed, then dabbed tears off her eyes. If there was someone I could drive to tears of laughter, it was Virgie.
This steely woman of undeniable resolve and strong opinion could shut her detractors off one day, yet shroud them with genuineness the next. The goodness of Virginia Somonod-Toledo (1953-2018) was in always doing the right thing. The best memories of living in Manila in the nineties included late night and early morning spiritual conversations with Papa, Virgie, and her husband Tony at the park, by the poolside at home, in our living room, in theirs. We debated. We bonded. We laughed, while she shed tears, always.
It was my turn to shed tears today, when I learned that Virgie passed on this week. Oh boy, those stern eyebrows must be so busy acknowledging her dear family and friends in the other world. And there must be a lot of loving going on there right now.