It is said that while the passing away of a person leaves a void that no one can fill, and a heartache no one can heal – it is love however that leaves a memory no one can steal.
Atty. Susan Dumlao-Vargas popularly known as Ching Vargas, former Deputy Executive Secretary of Administration and Finance, Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, passed away on March 29, 2014 at 6:45 p.m. after battling the Big C for almost two years, a battle she fought courageously that she hoped she would win – but was not afraid to lose either – as she knew that her journey to the after-life would lead to her blissful meeting with her Creator who gave her life.
Ching Vargas left behind four finely-molded children and loved ones, good-looking Vanesa or Bunny, the eldest, who succeeds her as the Madre de familia of the Vargas family, Allan Unlayao , Bunny’s husband, and their kids, Vincent, Victoria, Yong and Vittorio; the second daughter, pretty and charming Veronica or Caron, whose lovely features and winsome demeanor take from her mom, Caron’s husband Erick Cruz, and their children, Camille and Cali. Ching’s third child is Alfred or Alfie, the handsome movie actor and now Congressman of the 5th District of Quezon City, his with beautiful Yasmine or “Yash” Espiritu, and their three (3) daughters, Alexandra, Ching-Ching and Aryana, and Ching’s last son, debonair businessman, Patrick Michael or PM – his fiancée, statuesque Christine or Krissy.
Ching’s husband Alfredo Vargas, Jr., who hailed from Sta. Maria, Bulacan predeceased Ching three years ago.
The endless stream of people from a cross-section of our society that trooped to the Sta. Maria Della Strada Parish in Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City to view Ching’s remains, and to condole with her loved ones during the wake, as well as in the last funeral rites at the Our Lady of Pentecost Parish in Xavierville, Quezon City, gave a glimpse of how Ching Vargas was viewed with love, respect and admiration by these who paid homage to her on her last days on earth.
Ching Vargas was a classic beauty and brains individual. She graduated Valedictorian in her high school class at the San Nicolas College in Surigao City, where she grew up like every typical probinsiyana lass fond of movie actors and actresses, and even collected pictures of them, dutifully and fondly brought to her by her sister, Miren Dumlao-Santos, a Ph.D in molecular biology. She was a candidate for Binibining Pilipinas in the late sixties.
Her 1972 classmates, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, former Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez, Atty. Teddy Cruz, among others from the Ateneo Law School, from where she finished her Bachelor of Laws degree, recall that Ching was the classmate with beautiful face that had a captivating smile, who was a bubbly and kind student who had a talent for singing, guitar-playing and dancing. It is no wonder that daughters Bunny and Caron had exceptional singing voices, who together with Ching’s grandchildren, who apparently got the same genes, gave an excellent performance at her wake.
Ching Vargas had also a talent for oil painting as evidenced by four (4) of her oil paintings of various beautiful flowers. Ching’s law classmates, who called themselves Barangay ’72, also dished out a song for their dear departed friend. Basil Valdez, the singing sensation of the seventies and eighties also did live renditions of beautifully crafted songs that contributed to the solemnity of the occasion, flooding back memories with beautiful and unforgettable moments with the person lying in state.
Likewise, the famed violinist John Lesaca played the favorite songs of Ching. Speakers after speakers at the necrological rites eulogized Ching, from her dorm-mate at the UP Diliman, Carmen Roa-Africa, her law classmates, former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, former Ombudsman Mercy Gutierrez, Atty. Teddy Cruz. Even retired Supreme Court Justice Flerida Ruth-Romero, who was incidentally my law professor in the UP College of Law, paid tribute to her and so with many others as well as this writer.
They were all one in saying that Ching Vargas was the epitome of grace, kindness, competence, honesty, caring and thoughtfulness. Her thoughtfulness as a friend is legendary. She always remember to greet her friends on their birthdays, on Father’s Day, on Mother’s Day, in every special occasions – gifting them with all kinds of souvenirs that she brought from her travels abroad.
Ching Vargas was a loving person, a principled wife, a caring mother, a doting grandmother, a very thoughtful friend. Ching Vargas not only was a public servant, par excellence – but one with solid rock integrity, unsullied and unchallenged. In sum, Ching Vargas was a walking testament of a caring, generous, and compassionate human being. She was the quintessential mother, friend and public servant – that is to say, she is the perfect example of a class or quality.
I met Ching in the UP College of Law when she was freshman in the Ateneo Law School though a mutual friend, Freddie Alday, who is also a lawyer. Freddie Alday describes Ching as an “extra-ordinary person” and “super kind”, who accommodated every referral he made for her assistance, regardless of their status in life or political beliefs.
Ching Vargas touched and moved many lives. Her wholesome persona, her humble ways, her accommodating demeanor, and her limitless extension of her helping hand to those who sought her assistance won her the hearts of those who had the golden chance to cross her path – and they were legions – which was apparent from the continuous flow of people who went to her wake from day 1, to pay their last respects and say their prayers for her.
She spoke highly and proudly of her children, Bunny, Caron, Alfred or Alfie, and PM whom she showered with undying love, endless tenderness and unyielding devotion as a single parent for twenty (20) years. That she molded her children to her admirable image is quiet evident by the boundless charming traits they have exhibited to those who came to share in their grief.
Ching Vargas reared her children under circumstances not exactly comfortable and ideal, yet her innate goodness and fierce mother instinct moved her to raise them into fine individuals. That she deserves admiration from those who look for a role model of a mother, in unquestionable.
In her death bed, Ching Vargas asked her children to strictly live by the highest standard of ethics, of which she herself lived, of which qualities are apprehended to her name: integrity, competence, compassion and honesty.
On July 16, 2013, 10:07 a.m., apparently hearing from the news that I have been engaged by Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to handle the case of Davao policemen charged of murdering the kidnappers of a Chinese businesswoman while she was in captivity, I received the following message from Ching:
“Good evening Sal! Hurrah, you are the Davao cops’ lawyer. My heart bleeds for the police. Warms regards to you and Mayor Duterte. Hope he remembers me.”
Her compassion for the policemen despite adverse public perception on men on uniform could not be hidden.
Of course, the popular and controversial Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City remembers Ching Vargas. Despite Mayor Duterte’s hectic and back-breaking schedule, coming from Kuala Lumpur, as an official guest of the Department of Tourism of Malaysia, he went to pay his last respects to her personal friend at her wake on April 2, 2014, at about 2:00 p.m. before he flew back to Davao.
Merci Gutierrez, the former Ombudsman, one of her closest and dearest friends, she is a wedding Godmother to Caron, while Ching was the baptism Godmother of Mercy’s daughter, lawyer Marge Gutierrez, Ching, and I had dined together at a fine dining place in Ortigas Center sometime before she fell ill – and in our exchange of text messages – we planned to have a three-some dinner as soon as Ching got well. Of course, we had hoped she would lick the big C – but as faith would have it, we finally have that dinner at the wake on April 2, 2014 – with Ching in our midst but in the spiritual plane.
Farewell our dearest friend Ching Vargas, we will miss your abundant charming ways, your unparalleled thoughtfulness, your beautiful face and endearing smile.
Your children will miss your boundless love, your everlasting caring, and your unending tenderness – but the sweet memories you left behind shall be in our hearts and minds forever – and as we look up above the galaxy of stars – we will remember you as we see the brightest of stars – because among the mortals that walked amongst us – you were the brightest, the kindest and the most loving. We love you Ching Vargas.
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