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Salute to Chito Bertol & Nena Lopez

/ 03:39 AM October 09, 2019

(Here’s a tiny tribute to a couple of God-loving individuals who have quietly and honestly helped make this world a better place to live in. Nena Zumel Lopez, elder sister of the unbending nationalist Antonio Zumel, passed away last year at age 90. They celebrated the babang-luksa, the one-year period of formal mourning, last week. Chito Bertol, a quiet and dedicated Christian environmentalist, departed last Friday.)

Next to Elvis Presley, Chito Bertol, in my book, was the most original King of Rock ‘n Roll in the Philippines. Chito was a natural, his very own Elvis Presley.

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Bertol, 77, didn’t have to enter an Elvis Presley contest; all he did was stand there, no guitar, no hip-swinging, only his pure soulful self, dishing a Presley number in subtle dignity. Nothing fancy, nothing loud or jumpy; a born artist, he was in magnificent control. A video of Bertol performing as guest at Bistro RJ in Makati in 2016 showed a full house, including foreign visitors, rising in ovation, gleefully calling for an encore.

Bertol, a selfless, good-looking gentleman, was himself a perfect tribute to King Elvis.

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He passed away on Friday at age 77. His body lies in state at the Paz Funeral Parlor on Araneta Avenue, Q.C. Interment has been schedule for Thursday.

He was an unsung hero of the environment. As president of the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation (at the corner of Quezon Blvd. and Edsa) Bertol helped vastly in nature propagation by making available to everybody, at tiangge prices, assorted plants, flowering, herbal, edible, including numberless trees, ready as seedlings or for transplanting.

The MSBF, which Berol reportedly managed for free, had been a hit, a big help in nature propagation and beautification of the metropolis. It also provided livelihood assistance. Bertol was known to have helped several very poor families quietly build temporary shelters in selected areas.

If Elvis was popularly propped as the Lonesome Cowboy, Bertol ended up the Lonesome Gardener after the previous Quezon City administration scuttled the plant-and-tree paradise in a brazen land-grab try.

Bertol obviously died of a broken heart.

Nena Zumel Lopez was a prayerful, fervently caring mother who gave and did her best not only for her children but for countless others.

In a narrative prepared by her son Tito, it was noted how they would often find her after Angelus “kneeling and praying the Rosary in the dark.”

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Please share that narrative (condensed) by Tito Lopez:

She was born Feb. 27, 1928, in Laoag, Ilocos Norte. Her father was a successful lawyer, her mother a teacher. She was the eldest of six children and took her role as Manang very seriously.

Her early years were comfortable and happy. She was known for her beauty, poise, intelligence, her musical talent.

She served as a role model, providing support and giving to siblings through trials and challenges from younger years into adulthood and old age.

She was a pianist. Her father gifted her with a piano at a young age. She took to it with natural ability and perseverance. Her father wanted her to be a concert pianist. He also wanted her to excel and concentrate on her studies. She was the class valedictorian in high school. In college at UST, she was a campus journalist and beauty. She pursued two undergraduate degrees in music and philosophy.

Her father died during the Japanese war and her family underwent privations. To support her family, she took a job while still studying. She also had to give up her music (her first love) and piano to pursue a philosophy course. She graduated magna cum laude.

She married lawyer Akong Lopez in the 1960s. Together they worked hard and raised us seven children. She was a person of deep faith. We would recite the Angelus together at dusk. I remember once reciting the prayers quickly so I could rush back to my playtime. When I returned much later, I found her kneeling and praying the Rosary in the dark.

She loved well and much indeed. Our father died in 1984. Some time, our home would become the shelter of relatives and plain strangers who had fallen on hard times. She was kind and generous to all.

Left alone, she gave each one of us all her time and attention, care, material and spiritual support well into her old age.

Thank you Dear Lord for this amazing gift of a very loving Mama Nena.

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