MANILA - Activist-singer Susan Fernandez passed away Thursday afternoon after battling ovarian cancer for more than a year. She was 52.
Surrounded by her family and friends, Fernandez, who was known for her socially-oriented songs including “Babae Ka,” died at 1:50 p.m. at The Medical City in Pasig.
“Susan just passed away. It’s a sad day. We just lost an important institution in the cultural and mass movement,” Malu Maniquis, Fernandez’s friend, told ABS-CBN News.
The singer’s 46-year-old brother, Edgardo, said 15 people were with her during her last moments. She passed away while her guitarist-singer-friend, Lester Demetillo, was in the middle of playing her favorite song, “Both Sides Now,” Edgardo added.
“In the middle of the song, bumaba ang pulse rate niya hanggang mag-flat line,” he told abs-cbnNEWS.com in a phone interview.
According to her brother, Fernandez had been confined to the hospital since Saturday night. She was already comatose early Thursday.
He said her remains would be cremated. Her ashes will be at the Christ the King in Greenmeadows from Friday until Sunday noon.
Fernandez was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March 2008.
She was married to political analyst and Philippine Star columnist Alex Magno. They have two sons - Inno and Kalayaan Magno.
Warm, strong person
Edgardo, who is fifth in the brood of seven, said he and his eldest sister were very close.
He said Fernandez, the second child, would usually bring him along to a cause-oriented activity to play the guitar for her in her “singing engagement.”
He said this influenced him to also get into cause-oriented activities.
Fernandez, according to Edgardo, was “very nice, very pleasant and very warm,” and when she was diagnosed with cancer, she faced the illness head on.
He added that he will miss her “warm and pleasing personality.”
One of Fernandez’s colleagues, Susan Tagle, for her part, said she will miss her singing, warmth and sweetness.
“Susan was a gentle yet strong person who was loved by her children very much,” Tagle said.
Tagle and Fernandez met in 1976 at the University of the Philippines when the former joined the activist movement.
“Lagi kaming nagkakasama sa rally, kumakanta… nag-gi-guitara paminsan-minsan,” she recalled.
On Thursday afternoon, Tagle said she got a text message from Fernandez’s sister telling her that her friend was already “near brain dead.” As soon as she got the text message, she called Fernandez’s sister but by that time she already received the bad news.
Maniquis, meantime, remembered how Fernandez would always sing “from her heart.” In one of the events attended by Fernandez, Maniquis said the singer “almost cried.”
“This was how Susan felt about the senseless killings, deaths, disappearances and destruction around her,” she said.
Fernandez, known as “The Nightingale of Philippine Progressive Political Movement,” became famous when she recorded the Metro Pop award-winning song "Babae Ka," which is a tribute to women power and feminism.
She was an educator and performing artist who used her songs to raise public awareness on the plight of Filipino women as well as their vital role in the society.
She also hosted one of the longest running cultural shows on television, "Concert At The Park."
When she was diagnosed with cancer, her friends organized a series of fund-raising concerts to share their financial and moral support to the singer.
Despite her health condition, she was still busy teaching at the Ateneo de Manila University and with her nightly gigs.