[Among those many marvels that Miriam have notched and scored in her lifetime are as follows: Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service and TOYM Award for Law in 1985, 1965 Magna Cum Laude graduate in UP with a 1.0 GPA (the highest in UP history), Earned her Masteral Law Degree and Doctoral Degree in Jurisprudence Science from the University of Michigan in a record 1 year and 6 months ONLY, and the First Asian in a 3rd world country to be elected as Judge in the International Criminal Court in 2011.]
Miriam Defensor Santiago (“Miriam”) was truly a courageous and feisty lady as in fact, she was dubbed before and known to many with her various magnificent appellations such as DRAGON LADY, THE PLATINUM LADY, THE TIGER LADY, THE INCORRUPTIBLE LADY, and more recently as THE IRON LADY OF ASIA.
The late Miriam who was born on June 15, 1945 was the eldest among the brood of SEVEN (7) children of Iloilo City’s former Judge Benjamin Defensor and a schoolteacher by the name of Dimpna Palma.
At age 6, Miriam wrote a wonderful and splendid essay which appeared even to her parents as though crafted and written by a college student. And at that early time, her proud parents have deemed her as an awesome child prodigy.
During her teens, as Miriam was a skilful swimmer, she would often beat all of her male siblings in those swim races (organized by her Dad) with her swimming and cascading as though a rocket through the pool via the back-stroke style. This, while her siblings notable among them is former AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Benjamin Defensor, Jr. (“Gen. Defensor”) doing the swim race via the ordinary free-style technique, with flippers even.
And her male siblings would all the more be awed and embarrassed as in between those swimming laps (as Miriam’s male siblings would do practice laps for a rematch), Miriam would just as perhaps to subtly convey to her brothers that beating them was easy as a pie, would momentarily repair to a nook within the pool venue. And she would be seen reading a book, and would even bring the book near the pool , conveniently lay it on the edge of the pool enclosed in a bag, to prevent it from getting wet; and resume and easily get on the swim race victoriously once again.
Challenged and moved by a sense of machismo, Gen. Defensor wanted to show to their Ate Miriam that they, the male members of the Defensor clan, were academically excellent too. So, one time, during their high school days in Iloilo, as Gen. Defensor was excited to convey to her Ate Miriam that he topped a class exam. And impatient all the more to wait till that evening to disclose it, Gen. Defensor proceeded to see his Ate Miriam at her class. Astounded, he saw his Ate Miriam teaching the class as the class teacher, Gen. Defensor learned thereafter, had delegated the teaching task to his Ate Miriam.
Though I never had the chance to meet the good Senator Miriam face to face, my first encounter with her was during my UP undergrad days in the late 1960s. I have seen her from afar as one of the more attractive member of the UP ROTC Corps of Sponsors, while I and my cadet-mates march along the soggy and grassy fields of the UP Sunken Garden.
When Miriam became the first female Philippine Collegian editor in 1968-1969, I got so fascinated with the word “concomitant” which Miriam used and which I read and learned for the first time, in her maiden editorial feature.
I also remember those days when Miriam (then as Collegian Editor) would mount the front hood of a passenger jeepney which is completely adorned with loudspeakers, as she would entice students from the PALMA Hall (as students-enrollees therein were much more aplenty) to join rallies/demonstrations against former President Ferdinand E. Marcos in Malacañang in Mendiola, Manila. And the street fronting PALMA Hall will have a long queue of crimson red JD buses as these vehicles will bus participating students to Manila particularly in a spot along Mendiola just across Malacañang. Some joiners especially those living in Manila, are usually very much enticed because they will have a free bus trip home. Others are actually allured to the excitement of being called as activists or even more dramatic, as radicals.
Eventually however, though Miriam was a fiery speaker in those rallies and demonstrations; with bombastic speeches railing the likes of President Marcos, Miriam unintentionally became one of Marcos’ speechwriters thereafter. It came to pass that as then Justice Secretary Vicente Abad Santos was one of Marcos’ trusted cabinet members, Marcos would from time to time ask Sec. Abad Santos to draft a speech for him.
Following her graduation from UP Law, Miriam got employed as Special Assistant to Sec. Abad Santos; and to Miriam was assigned the task of drafting speeches for President Marcos.
What endeared Sec. Abad Santos most, that led him to admire and marveled upon Miriam’s talents, all the more, was when, after a lapse, and of totally forgetting that Pres. Marcos asked him to draft a speech scheduled in that very evening when a Malacañang aide showed up at Sec. Abad Santos’ office in the morning of the same day, was Miriam’s true mettle. Frantically directed by Sec. Abad Santos to churn out a long speech (as Pres. Marcos was fond of long speeches), Miriam came up with a speech – and 25 pages long. And Miriam was asked by Sec. Abad Santos to join in the very venue that evening where Pres. Marcos was to deliver the speech. Miriam was herself dazzled, as Pres. Marcos delivered the 25-paged long speech from memory sans any error. My UP Law classmate and Law partner for some time, the late Tonti Abad Santos had an earful of anecdotes about Miriam when the latter was Special Assistant to the former’s father.
Anent the failure on Miriam’s part to top the 1969 bar examination despite the fact that her Dad, who had never even gambled before, made a wager with a close friend and placed a bet of Php 300.00 that Miriam will TOP the 1969 Bar Exam; the real story as narrated by Gen. Defensor, in a recent ANC telecast is this. Miriam was sick for most of the time she was reviewing for the Bar Exam, and that she asked permission from her Dad to skip the 1969 Bar and just take it after a year. But, Miriam’s Dad was not convinced and nixed her plea to skip the 1969 Bar and Miriam only garnered a grade of 78 % in that 1969 Bar exam.
Asked one time in a media interview as to why she became a lawyer, Miriam’s feisty and naughty answer was that their family has a lot of relatives who are criminals. And once irked in another controversy involving, a despicable legislator, Miriam described said legislator as FUNGUS-FACED.
Most Filipinos including incumbent President Rodrigo Roa Duterte consider Miriam as the most intelligent Filipino who has ever lived; and who could have easily become one among the best Philippine presidents.
Truly, Miriam is not only MAGNIFICENT AND MARVELOUS, but all the more METTLESOME. Though diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, Miriam still gave vent to her ambition to become Philippine President, as she joined the 2016 Presidential polls. Indeed, a show of her STRONG and INVINCIBLE METTLE.
In the early morning of September 29, 2016, Miriam died in her sleep at the Saint Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig, Metro-Manila, Philippines.
In heaven, Miriam could surely aid Saint Peter [what with her weighty cerebrum and encephalon (i.e. gray matter)], to quickly and rightfully discern who is diabolically fungus-faced or virtuously angelic-faced at heaven’s gate.