Its been four days since I heard the news that Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, one of the most renowned literary figures in the country and considered also as a mother of Thomasian poets-had passed away at the age of 78. The realization is just now sinking in. Nakakapanibago ang feeling na wala na ang premyadong awtor ng maraming kalipunan ng tula gaya ng Lady Polyester at Montage. Bagama’t hindi ko siya nakilala nang lubusan, I feel privileged of often reading about her, the poems she had written, and learning about the contributions she had to Philippine literature and the University of Santo Tomas (UST). Nakakatuwa ring malaman na naging assistant editor siya noong dekada 1950s sa The Varsitarian, the campus publication of UST where I would be also writing for more than five dec ades later. In reading some of her poems such as “Rat Story,” “Montage” and “She Must Have to Go and Soon,” I notice her deft handling of words and stringing of images in conveying the emotions of the persona in focus. Ang husay. At the same time, she avoided being highbrowed even though her poems were profound and insightful.
I’ve visited her wake at the Floresco’s funeral parlor in Navotas last Saturday. And it was a reunion of sorts of the people Ma’m Ophie, as she was fondly called- had influenced, directly or indirectly. Nakita ko ang mga kasama niya sa dating UST-Center for Creative Writing and Studies, ang ilang personahe sa literary scene and newspaper indutry like Rebecca Anonuevo, si sir Lito Zulueta, sir Felipe Salvosa and others. At inaasahan kong maraming pupuntang dating estudyante, kapanalig at colleague ni Ma’m Ophie sa UST kung saan dadalhin ang kaniyang mga labi, pati na bukas kung kailan gaganapin ang isang necrological service at pagbibigay-pugay sa kaniya.