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Tribute to Gina Mapua

By Karen Ochavo

There was never a dull moment with our dear Ma. Lourdes Gina Squillantini Mapua, or simply Gina. Her wit and charm endeared the people she met and befriended in the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP). She had a way of getting along with everyone and getting everyone along. Her congeniality and interpersonal skills were much valued especially when she led the club as president for three years, and eventually as part of the club’s permanent Executive Committee. Aside from WBCP, she was also very active in Toastmasters and Museum Volunteers of the Philippines. Her circles of influence were wide and overlapping, it’s amazing to think she had time and energy to be involved in different causes. The spirit of volunteerism is so strong in her, it was infectious.

Portrait of Gina by Gabbi Reyes-Banaria

I often hear that those who met Gina for the first time thought she was a foreigner because of her tisay looks, then were pleasantly surprised to know that she’s Filipino and speaks Tagalog and Ilonggo aside from English. Language-wise, it was easy for her to connect with people from all walks of life; add to that she was an attentive and empathic listener that allowed her to connect heart to heart. Among her good friends in the club, she was known to give wise and practical advice not only on club matters but also on personal concerns. She was like a fairy godmother but instead of magic, she bestowed a thread and sometimes even a needle to help mend rips and holes on our own. She guided and encouraged to get the job done.

Speaking of thread and needle, Gina was into a lot of crafts and hobbies. She was the origami teacher for kids at the Philippine Bird Festivals. She sewed dresses, tote bags, and quilts. I remember learning about the traditional inabel fabric for the first time when I stayed overnight at her farmhouse in Batangas; she used inabel for the blankets. Aside from wild birds, she was also into native plants and other wildlife, with special mention to the tuko (gecko) family living in said farmhouse. Her bigger family of dogs that she loved so much would welcome guests at the gate and at the front door. Those overnight stays she offered to me and other club members with no cars were a big help whenever there were club trips further down in southern Luzon. 

Did I mention Gina’s passion and expertise in various international cuisines? We were all lucky whenever she shared her home-cooked dishes and pastries at club gatherings. She’s truly talented and generous—it’s impressive and inspirational! She’s the jack of all trades, master of ALL. She had such a huge impact on the club that she made a lasting impression even on newer members who never even met her. WBCP is grateful to Gina’s family for supporting her advocacy for birdwatching and the club. 

Gina, I will always remember your strength (of character, mind, and body—she would carry her scope and tripod by herself while walking over rugged rice field pilapil), your sparkle, and your crazy laughter.

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