Gary Valenciano Sings For Gina Lopez And Shares What He Loved—And Will Miss—About Her
Gina was a powerfully positive force in Gary's life
Gary Valenciano said it best when he declared, "I will not forget this woman."
It's a sentiment shared by anyone and everyone who has shaken hands with, spoken to, heard of, stood alongside, or been touched by Gina Lopez, a public servant whose bravery and people-oriented approach to leadership and work are the stuff of legends.
The singer, an icon in his own right in the entertainment industry, recalls how Gina entered his life and most importantly, the lasting impression she left on it. Even after bidding his final goodbye to an old friend and a shining example of what the Filipino can do for her countrymen, he remembers all the best moments they shared as if they were only yesterday.
Since their first meeting 14 years ago, Gary V and Gina have spent countless hours together, but what truly solidified their bond were the lengthy conversations they had about a shared experience: health.
Gina was diagnosed with a disease, and all that she had learned and found effective to heal her became especially valuable insight for Gary when he found out he had cancer in 2018 and that receiving immediate treatment was a life or death situation.
Looking back at the trying time, Gary focuses not on the hardship, but on how Gina was a beacon of hope all throughout. In particular, it was her sincerity in sharing what she knew and the concern she had for his well-being that stuck to him the most.
"When somebody speaks with wisdom, not just knowledge but wisdom about what I’m
going through, it makes me know that the
person is not just throwing stuff for me to try but speaking out of
sincerity... So I think that she’s got a lot
of compassion," Gary describes.
Experiencing this side of Gina proved to be so touching in fact, that it led him to conclude that she was truly a fit leader for the Philippines.
"She loves the country, but what makes the country isn’t the sites, it’s the people. So that’s what she loves first," he says.
Expounding on what he believes Gina's legacy will be on a nationwide scale, Gary speaks on behalf of all the communities and individuals she had partnered with in her life as a champion for the environment and children and women's rights and has no doubt that it's all about strength—strength when there are powerful people who wish to stop you, strength when your body and mind have grown weary, strength when it seems like the work will never stop and the light at the end of the tunnel feels too far to reach.
He says, "Because now she’s already inspiring and had encouraged so many people that they’re continuing to roll. No matter how strong the winds blow, for as long as people remember what she stood for, then her efforts will go a long, long way."
As happy as Gary might be talking about how blessed he was to have met Gina, discussing her legacy makes her death all the more real and her absence much more painful to bear.
Although people have rejoiced in how Gina is no longer in pain, they still wish she was here and they know they will miss her every day—Gary included. The cancer survivor admits to letting his thoughts wander to memories of this old friend of his from time to time, his heart beating a little faster when he remembers just how irreplaceable she is and how her shoes will be some of the hardest to fill in public office.
"She was a leader, but none of it was for her. None of it was for her own gratification; it was really for people... She equipped them to know that they have what it takes to survive—not just survive, but to really live comfortably with the surroundings that they have," Gary reflects.
In the end, Gary was happiest about getting to pay Gina his respects before she breathed her last.
He paid her a visit in her home as she was resting in bed, and after a brief exchange of hellos and how are yous, Gary treated to her a beautiful surprise: an a capella rendition of a Gospel song.
Gina, a deeply spiritual individual, seemed to have kept her eyes closed for all five minutes of the performance and appeared to be taking in every syllable, every note of Gary's gift to her—another showcase of the sincerity of hers that Gary so fondly remembers.
"To see her that way—still as feisty as ever and still with so many dreams... Her room had so many notes on what she should take when she’s not feeling well and what she shouldn’t take. On the other hand, you could tell that there were projects that needed attending to, and that was memorable for me because I’ve always seen her in work mode. Either in a show here in ABS-CBN or in a meeting for Bantay Bata or Bantay Kalikasan, she’s always on that mode. But in her house, it was Gina, the struggling warrior for the country," Gary narrates.
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💔 She will be missed. Gina Lopez was a maverick. Totally out-of-the-box. She would travel from Batanes to Tawi Tawi. She would call & ask me if Gary could sing “Happy Birthday” for her employee who was his number one fan. She would not stop till we said yes. She was funny and a bit crazy (or it seemed to many) in her wild ideas & life decisions but she was authentic & a genuine advocate for children’s rights & environmental causes & awareness. And one day in July we decided to pay her a visit (which she willingly obliged) as arranged by my sister Maricel & Susan Afan of the ABSCBN foundation & it was such a blessing! These videos were the last we had of her before our last visit on Saturday. Gina was the moving force behind Bantay Bata 163, Bantay Kalikasan, Bantay Edukasyon, Bantay Bata Children’s Village in Bulacan, & all the ecotourism communities she had helped establish nationwide. She also championed the cleaning up of the Pasig River, the protection of the Verde Island passage as a global marine biodiversity capital, inclusive growth for local communities - so that not only capitalists & big businesses earn, but that the marginalized & indigenous people’s communities, rights & property were respected & honored, too. She was a warrior for farmers & fishermen, for the forests & mountains belonging to indigenous peoples & tribes. She so loved our country. Bravo Gina Lopez. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 The Philippines weeps for the loss of a national treasure and champion. 😭 I wept this morning as we lost a friend.. so genuine & so pure. Isang BAGSAK para kay Gina Lopez! You can fly now & touch the sky Sec Gina. We will continue your inspiring legacy of love and service. Rest now GL... in His peace. 💚 #ginalopez #abscbnfoundation #paalamginalopez #denr #bantaybata #abscbnfoundation #protectnaturalresources #MaramingSalamatGinaLopez #environmentalawareness #intheserviceofthefilipino P.S. The avocado pâté in the last frame was her recipe. The last thing she served us which we loved. So I eat it 3x a week. 🥑🥑🥑
It was Gary's second to the last performance for Gina, his last being his take on the classic hit I Believe I Can Fly that he performed for her while she was on her hospital bed.
"When I sang, it was the Gina I’ve never seen... She’s the kind of person that when you’re singing she would just close her eyes and listen. And I know she was, and I couldn’t look at her because I could’ve gotten too emotional. But that for me is the most special, and how she said, 'Isang palakpak para kay Gary V!'"
(The statement is a signature of Gina's, as she almost always said it to shine the spotlight on the star of the scene).
There is little to nothing to make Gina Lopez's passing easy to get through, but to those who had the pleasure of meeting her and seeing the goodness and strength of her character up close, they know that this isn't the end—far from it.
To see Gary's performance for Gina, see the video below:
Today is the funeral of Gina. The public viewing of the remains of the beloved ABS-CBN Foundation Chairman was held from August 22 to 23 at the ABS-CBN compound.
Photos from @angelipv