Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MILA MAYNIGO DENTON GOLDBERG: Amazing Woman with “Structured Dreams”


It was supposed to be a nice, relaxing Memorial Day weekend for Tina and me.  But the news about the Brain Aneurysm of my youngest sister Mila turned it into the most depressing and stressful couple of days of my life.

The unusual increase of my blood pressure, inability to do my daily chores that include browsing and reacting to updates on Facebook and responding to emails virtually made me “inutile”, unproductive, and helpless.

Thanks to Tina who calmed me down, and who handled all the communications with Christina (our niece) and Claudia (Mila’s daughter) regarding Mila’s situation. 

We learned that while happily enjoying the company of Claudia’s mother-in-law over lunch, Mila suddenly collapsed. She was transported by helicopter to Denver University hospital where surgery was performed to stop the hemorrhaging.

Dr. Art Goldberg (Mila’s husband), and Eugene (Mila’s son) joined Claudia and Greg in the hospital. Our older sister, Manang Nelly Rabara who got the news from Tina, and Dean Torres, our nephew (Manang Perla’s son and Christina’s husband)) also decided to fly to Denver and give company to Mila’s immediate family.

There was never any doubt that Mila was surrounded by and with LOVE not only physically but also virtually.  I was very heartened by the fact that her nieces and nephews in the group messaging with Claudia and Eugene, not only offered prayers and expressions of love but also actually sent their texts, audio, and video messages to their Auntie Mila.  Claudia, Eugene, and Dean made sure that Mila heard all of them while on Life Support. Included in the list, I was able to read the running messages of all the cousins.

If Love, Faith, and Courage were great companions to a Life Support, Mila certainly had it.

LOVE was best reflected in Claudia’s words, “ I love you incredibly, mom.”

Also Alice Duran Bryant’s, “Auntie Mila will know we love her very much and will find peace on her journey.” As well as another niece, Lillian Espanola’s, “She will know how beloved she is to us all! “ Nephew Carlo Maynigo Bernabe’s words was also as clear, “Auntie Mila is well loved, cherished and will be missed in our hearts.”

FAITH was reaffirmed in the words of Eugene (Mila’s son), “Tonight my mom peacefully made her way to heaven. Though her illness was sudden, it comforts me to know this is part of God's plan. I surrender to Him.”
Mila dancing with Eugene and Claudia 
COURAGE was reiterated by another nephew, Homer Rabara, “Auntie Mila is a fighter, she won't give up...” and niece, Tanya Maynigo Loucks, “she’s a fighter, Yes!”

Mila and I were the youngest of eight children. We grew up together fighting each other’s battles unconcerned and unafraid of the odds. I still have the scars in my right arm caused by a barbed wire trying to save her balloon that was stuck in a tree.  Seeing her cry propelled me to hurry up climbing the tree. I fell!

We went to the same high school. Inspired and motivated by our parents and siblings to achieve, I graduated as Valedictorian while Mila did as Salutatorian in different Class Years, of course.  We both duplicated the achievements earlier of our two older sisters – Manang Loreto who graduated Valedictorian, and Manang Nelly also as Salutatorian.  The latter is now my only surviving sibling. Our nephew Joey Maynigo who now resides in San Diego also graduated as Valedictorian in the same school.

Both of us went to the two private schools in Mendiola, Manila: she in the College of the Holy Spirit finishing an accounting degree, and I in San Beda College obtaining AB and Law degrees. 

She was a brilliant CPA who became the Chief Accountant of the Philippine General Hospital. I was always supportive of her endeavors as she was in mine either as students or eventually as professionals.

When she immigrated to the U.S. she met and eventually married Claude Denton, an Electronic Communications Engineer. My father-in-law, former Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Raul S. Manglapus was one of the wedding sponsors.

Claude and Mila were loving and devoted parents to two children, Eugene and Claudia who were raised to become great professionals who are following equally great career paths. Eugene is now a scientist while Claudia is a U.S. Air Force Major who had been stationed twice in Iraq.

Mila became a CPA in California and later on joined the accounting department of the San Diego County government. She was continuously promoted to higher positions and remained in the County until her retirement.  She also obtained an MBA while active in her profession, as a county employee, and in community organizations.  She eventually became President or Officer of the organizations that she joined.

When Tina, Tanya (our eldest daughter) and I escaped from the Marcos dictatorship, we eventually landed in the United States. Though living in different coasts, Mila and I collaborated again.  In Wasington, DC I was an active leader of the Movement for a Free Philippines fighting against Marcos and so was she in San Diego, California. When I became Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce (APACC), she and friend Cristina Figueredo formed the most active chapter of the chamber.  In fact, when the San Diego Chapter hosted our national convention, it was the most successful event APACC ever had.  It generated a large financial surplus unequaled by any other chapter.

Mila participated in all our APACC national conventions – be they in Washington, DC, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities.

She joined me in the Cory Aquino Movement and supported Manglapus in his successful run for the Philippine Senate.  She also became an informal adviser to the latter when he became Secretary of Foreign Affairs.  Mrs. Pacita Manglapus used to say, “Mila always has Manglapus’ ears.” In fact, some think that she had better access to Manglapus than I did.

When Mrs. Manglapus died, Mila flew all the way to Manila to attend all the services and the funeral. Tina, the Manglapus family, and I were very appreciative.

As she was supportive of Manglapus and me in the successful presidential campaign of Fidel Ramos, she was as helpful in the losing presidential campaign of my fellow Bedan Raul Roco.  She even sponsored a $1000 a plate dinner for Raul Roco in San Diego.

As I have said earlier, my battles were her battles, and hers were mine. Her adversaries became mine as I helped her devise ways to turn them into allies. I have never seen anybody so focused in all her undertakings.

Mila was always a dreamer.  God Almighty blessed her with the tools to fulfill her dreams.  I called them “Structured Dreams”.  Left with real properties due to the death of her late first husband, Claude, she converted most of them into beautiful structures that became several times more valuable.

In fact, one property in Alpine, California was converted into a villa and she called it “Villa Milagrosa”.  The villa and the other properties are being rented out. 

While she was lucky in wealth, she was as lucky in love.  She met, fell in love with, and eventually married Dr. Art Goldberg – a great man who also loved her dearly.

Mila’s children, nieces, and nephews have expressed their love for her.  I am sure that many of them have correspondingly experienced in some way her generosity. I will let them express it. I know because she did it to my two daughters during their weddings. Mila was a sponsor in both events.

Let me quote my daughter Traci, “Rest in peace, Auntie Mila. Your sudden passing yesterday came as we celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary. I share pictures of you now at our wedding. We were so honored to have you and Art there as our godparents. The world has lost an amazing woman, known most of all for her energy and generosity. You will be missed.”

One “Structured Dream” that we once shared involved a property that she acquired via auction in Claude’s birthplace in Ringgold, Georgia.  It is a 50-acre land already surrounded by developed areas and located along the Georgia Highway and about 15 minutes from Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I have visited the area.  Across it is another property that she inherited from Claude.

The dream involved both properties.  Mila had asked me to contact my developer friends in Atlanta for a possible Joint Venture or financing to realize this dream.  I did but the financial collapse in 2007 stopped all plans.

Seen in the picture is a drawing of the proposed project.

An "Structured Dream"
Of interest to her nieces and nephews was her desire for some of their generation or the next to procure a townhouse/condo at the village at a heavily discounted price – thus locating some members of the Gal-lang – Maynigo Clan in one site.  The Club House would be a family reunion place.

A day or two before she left for New Mexico and Colorado, she called me about some things. One was for me to edit a letter to the Ringgold City Council objecting to the conversion from the current Commercial Zone to Industrial Zone as petitioned by a local developer.  I had drafted a similar letter for her years ago and successfully stopped the change for environmental and other reasons.  I edited her letter and sent it back to her with the comment, “You did well.” I meant she had already acquired a legal mind.

She is an amazing woman of energy and generosity, a dreamer, a fighter, loved by many, an achiever, and now a follower of God’s Plan. 

She is MILAGROS MAYNIGO DENTON GOLDBERG – my loving little sister! Our prayers go with you as you enter the Gates of Heaven!

My deep condolences to my brother-in-law Art, nephew Eugene, niece Claudia and her husband Greg!

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