Last June 01. 2009, at the first day of the new month, Zafiro L. Ledesma II was found in his room, dead. The body was in a position that would lead one to conclude that he had trouble breathing and was gasping for air. The doctors pronounced him dead on arrival due to cardiac and respiratory problems.
Zaffy as he is fondly called is the curator and head of the Museo Iloilo. The news saddened and shocked the community. Just the week before that, he was busy with preparations for the improvement and renovation of the Museo Iloilo, by way of a grant given by the NCCA. Zaffy has been a tireless worker and a believer in local culture, regional pride and all the art disciplines and the developing, showcasing and furthering of the same in the region. He has slowly attracted artists from all walks of life to come to the Museo. Most arts group finds home and refuge in the Museo Iloilo.
I have always shied away from the Museo as I have seen how the visual arts group seem to have hogged the place as a venue cum gallery for their exhibitions. Not until I attended a book launching for Mother John Iremil Teodoro's Book of Kinaray-a Love poems "Mga Binalaybay Kang Paghigugma" (Poems of Love). Then on, more books from Libro Agustino were launched at the Museo Iloilo. eventually, when I was tasked to coordinate and launch Mama Felino S. Garcia Jr.'s debut book of love poetry "Heartsong and other poems," I considered launching it in Museo Iloilo. The place was just perfect. The space is intimate yet not too small nor cramped, the location is right smack at the heart of the City, it being along Bonifacio Drive, and yes, Zaffy was a fuss free and easily approachable person.
1st Western Visayas Regional Literature Summit Held @ Museo Iloilo
The week before that, I dropped by the Museo. We had a talk, as usual, over cigarettes, and he was telling me of the renovations that have been taking a bit too long in starting. He was asking me about any recent 'activities' I was handling, or if I came to book another event in the Museo. I just told him that I missed the place and the people, and I came from the Iloilo Hall of Justice, my other 'life' and just decided to drop by for a visit. I was even encouraging him to ask for a grant, after this one, to improve the facilities of the Museo. During events, we would make do with the Karaoke of the Museo, so I told him that, maybe, it was about time to ask for a 'decent' sound system, audio-visual equipment, such as speakers, amps, projector. Wide screen TV, CD/DVD Player, and file videos of 'cultural' stuff that can be used for film showings, lectures and other events in the near future. He was open to the idea, and I promised to help him with the proposal should he start on it. He wanted to 'sponsor' or launch a writing awards, much like the Palanca, for Hiligaynon Writing. He wanted a big prestigious event, and he wanted to name it either as the 'Magdalena Jalandoni Prize, or the Museo Iloilo Prize for Literature. I jokingly told him, "Why not call it the Zaffiro Ledesma Prize?" He cheerfully replied, "Hoy, indi pa ko patay para magka Memorial Awards ha! (Hey, I'm not yet dead to have a Memorial Awards for Literature in my honor).
He was also joking me that the next time, if I do the whole 'slumber' concept again, we should get a full sized bed, and maybe feature a 'live show' of a couple doing it. So gay! We both laughed and snickered at the idea. I also joked that no matter how beautiful the concept or the set up was, he is no where to be found during the event and would not be there. He promised that he would be in attendance if it would be my own book that would be launched already. He told me that with the distinctions I have won lately, it is high time I come out with my own collection. It warmed my heart to have a believer in him.
Now he's gone. Back to the arms of the Master Scribe, up above and beyond the skies, to reap the rewards of a life well lived and dedicated to culture and the Arts, and today, June 13, we bid goodbye to this great guy. He was cremated in a very solemn and intimate ceremony. I look back and take stock of future plans we have with Museo Iloilo as the backdrop. I wrote my first ever shot at a one-act play for fellow stage actors who miss theater, and we were planning to mount it just right outside Museo Iloilo. If ever this should push through, it should be in a way, a tribute for the great man that was Zaffy. There is a certain fear and apprehension in my heart, and wish is that, whoever takes Zaffy's place at the Museo Iloilo, would be as supportive, sympathetic and open as he was to activities for Culture and the Arts, most specifically, Literary Arts.
As I visited the last night of his wake, I made a vow. One day, when I finally launch my first book, it must be at the Museo Iloilo, and I know that Zaffy would be there, smiling and proud of how far I have come, bed or no bed in the set up.
Thank you Zaffy, for a life that has been a gift to all of us; for being a source of strength and support, and inspiration to all of us, whose lives you have touched. Pahuway nga dayun, kag Himaya sa Kalangitan Sir Zaffy! Hidlawun gid kami sa imo!
Photo Credit for Iloilo Museo Logo: