Tribute to Nedy


Jullie Y. Daza

For the longest time and many times evermore I was sure that sooner or later Nedy Tantoco would be named Philippine ambassador to Italy. When that did not happen, I imagined that the post might have been offered to her, but she declined the nomination for love of Rustan Commercial Corp., which was her mother Glecy’s legacy and which was the family’s crown jewel.

The few times I was near enough to Nedy I would remind her, “You’re still the best ambassador to Italy that we’ve never had,” and she would smile her Mona Lisa smile, as if it was a secret just between the two of us. Well, a few nights ago (May 15) Italy’s ambassador to the Philippines, Marco Clemente, paid tribute to Nedy and her behind-the-scenes work to promote Philippine-Italian relations even without a formal title. Conrad Calalang, president of the Philippine-Italian Association, said as much.

Even the heavens agreed, for right after the evening’s speeches and music – Vivaldi, Puccini, Gounod, Pergolesi – as concert goers lined up at the foyer of St. Scholastica’s College to be picked up by their drivers, rain fell for more than 20 minutes, signaling the end of a very dry, very hot season amid a fear of water shortages. That’s Nedy tweaking the clouds for our pleasure and comfort, I told my seat mate, for if Zenaida Rustia Tantoco was not a force of nature, she was a gentle miracle worker who did what she felt was required even when she was no more than a willing, smiling volunteer, all for the love of music.

The concert featured nine musicians, faculty members of St. Scho, playing an all-Italian repertoire that was more lachrymal than joyful. The lady seated beside me said wistfully, “It would have been nice if the program had included Nedy’s favorite melodies.”

Anton Huang thanked the audience, including his mom’s friends and admirers. Compared to the throng who attended Nedy’s funeral, this was a cozy, intimate event, family-like. I was too far away to ask if Anton had felt her presence again. The first time it happened, he was taking a leak in the bathroom when suddenly the shower was turned full blast on him – a curious prank or one of those out-of-nowhere “accidents”?