WORDS of adulation for Ophelia Dimalanta immediately flooded the cyber space as the news on the demise of UST’s greatest woman poet came out.

According to Al Dimalanta, son of the late poetess, the number of fans in the “We Love Ophelia Dimalanta” page surged from around 300 to over 800 overnight, just as the news of his mother’s death started spreading online. The fan page now has over 1, 300 “likes.”

The page looked like a “freedom wall”, where family, friends, former students, colleagues, and other Thomasians aired their admiration and gratitude for “Ophie”.

“Thank you, Dean Ophelia A. Dimalanta for teaching us form and substance,” wrote Christian Dimaandal. “You were a shining example of both.”

Alma Anonas-Carpio, one of Ophie’s mentees, wrote: “Thank you for demanding that I bite off more than I can chew so I’d know I could chew more than I thought I could.”

The fan page’s wall also became a memory lane for some who shared their experiences with the late writer and teacher.

Fleurdeliz Altez, a Philosophy professor at the Faculty of Arts and Letters, posted: “I’ll never forget our debate on phenomenology and the 1.0 [grade] you gave me in contemporary literary theory. Ma’am, I still couldn’t believe it.”

“I enjoyed our quiet talks whenever I pass by the Creative Writing office to ask for advice,” wrote Journalism alumna Liza Seco. “Thank you for letting me read and have a glimpse of your greatness. It [was] an honor to have met someone as great as you, Ma’am.”

A Facebook user, who goes by the name Patrik Kintos, posted: “You once said my poem wasn’t even one. And it really wasn’t. Thank you, Ma’am.”

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Janice Valestra wrote: “Dean Dimalanta gave me a chance to teach at UST 10 years ago. Because of her, I discovered my career path and passion as an educator.”

US-based Filipina poet-teacher Rowena Tiempo-Torrevillas, daughter of National Artist Edith Tiempo, posted: “The coat you left in Iowa [USA] for me, and the white dress in cutwork embroidery—I’ll go on wearing them to keep you close by.”

Others expressed their regrets over not being able to meet the literary icon in person, or over not being able to visit her in the past years.

“I never tried to see her because I always had an excuse,” wrote Rhoneil Panganiban. “I kept thinking she would always be there.”

Josua Mariano of the Faculty of Arts and Letters posted: “Sana noon pa hinanap ko na po kayo para magpasalamat. Dahil po sa poem n’yo na ‘Read Me’, nakilala ako ng [Literature professor] ko. Dahil du’n nakapag-recite po ako. Ang alam ko lang, ‘yun ang isa sa pinakamasayang araw ko sa [Arts and Letters]. Thank you po!”

Wall to wall

While the social networking site proved helpful in disseminating information on the late poetess’ interment, there were others who also expressed their thoughts over the sudden demise on their own Facebook walls, and on posts by friends and colleagues.

Former Varsitarian staff member Carmen Dulguime commented that “she (Dimalanta) was the reason why I write poetry” in a “note” calling for contributions for a magazine’s tribute for the writer.

“With the loss of the great Dr. Ophelia Dimalanta, I don’t think UST has enough reasons to celebrate its 400th year,” wrote Thomasian Writers Guild’s Reinier Dave Zapanta.

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Palanca winner and Literature alumnus Angelo Suarez, whose writing talent was recognized and honed by Dimalanta, posted an imagined “confrontation” with his mentor over an essay about her poetry.

“We end up still in disagreement, but I thank her nonetheless for being largely responsible for my formation as a writer, even if I’ve ended up doing the kind of writing she adamantly disapproves of,” he wrote.

Natasha Gamalinda, former Varsitarian literary editor, posted: “Sometimes we forget that mortality haunts even the ones we look up to. Farewell, Ma’am Ophie. I regret not visiting UST sooner.”

Commenting on the Facebook status of UST Publishing House Director Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, actor and former Varsitarian editor in chief Bernardo Bernardo said: “Prof. Dimalanta was such a classy lady, a vital presence during our college life and way after—we somehow just felt she was going to live forever.”

Beyond the famous social networking site, writers and former students also paid homage to their “mother poet” through blog entries, recalling wonderful moments they shared with the literary icon, or merely saying thanks.

Palanca hall of famer Rodolfo “Jun” Lana, who called Dimalanta the “rockstar of the poets”, “the gay icon” and “the fairy godmother of ‘closet writers’”, shared how the writer-in-residence fought for him to win the Rector’s Literary Award when it was re-launched in 1991.

According to Lana, the victory brought about by winning the RLA that year wasn’t sweet, knowing that the Rector didn’t think his entry was really worth the prize. After the awarding, Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, who was on his first term as rector, approached him—albeit with a smile—and told him that his stories were too dark. He felt belittled by the experience and had his “drama queen” moment at the office of the former dean.

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“Simula’t sapul inakay ako ni Dr. Dimalanta, ginabayan, at nu’ng gabing ‘yun na napakaliit ng tingin ko sa sarili ko, at sa mga sumunod pang pagkakataon na nagdalawang-isip ako sa kakayahan ko, tinuruan niya akong magkaroon ng kumpiyansa at maniwala sa sarili ko,” he wrote.

He added that while he could laugh at it now, the wound that the experience gave him was deep, and if it wasn’t for Dimalanta, “malamang tumigil na ako sa pagsusulat. Malamang ni hindi ako nagba-blog ngayon.” Rose-An Jessica M. Dioquino

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