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Clothed in strength and dignity: Amabel (Amy) Aldridge

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Dina Mananquil-Delfino
Dina Mananquil-Delfino
Dina was former editor-in-chief of The Philippine Times and has been its columnist for over 20 years. She has written two books, "Colours of Life" and "Under His Wings". Dina has been in the helping field for 40 years in the various roles she has fulfilled – teacher, employee in different organisations, volunteer, pastoral care worker. She is a member of Australian Counsellors of Australia (ACA) and Counsellors Victoria (CV). DINA IS A QUALIFIED COUNSELOR AND PASTORAL CARE WORKER. She can be contacted on 0430 214 917. Email evamarie09@bigpond.com for comments or feedback on this story).

Amy was born on 11 December 1943 in the high mountains of Negros Occidental. Her father was an army officer and jeweller. Her mother was a teacher who was on the verge of entering the nunnery, but the war broke out.

Amy never got a chance to know her father, except for the picture and beautiful letters he sent to her mother before he got killed in the war against the Japanese. Amy was only seven months old then. Her mother never showed these to her, but Amy found them in her mother’s suitcase after she died. To Amy, that was the only memory she had of her father.

Amy grew up with her maternal grandparents who, because of the war, built a community as an evacuation centre in the mountains. Priests, doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers and many others sought refuge at this hidden place for safety. 

The Death Poem - Belita Andre Ad
The Death Poem - Belita Andre Ad

Amy grew up in this community that was filled with kindness, love, compassion and accepted whatever came along. War limited everyone. 

Her grandfather of Spanish descent built a church made of bamboo and nipa grass which was also used as a school and a hall. Amy’s mother taught catechism classes and English subjects, such as reading and writing. 

Amy was brought up learning to pray in Latin. She loved going to church and, as a child, became a solo singer in the choir until high school, for which her grandparents were very proud. From the age of eight, she was always called to play the role of the Virgin Mary in plays and performances. As a member of the Legion of Mary under the Augustinian priests from Ireland, she grew up very devoted to Mary.

After the war, they moved to their barrio. Her mother continued to be active in the church, the Red Cross, and was the first woman in Negros Occidental to sign the Women’s Suffrage. Her mum and the whole family were always helping people, especially the underprivileged. 

Amy went to many schools. She was a favourite declaimer, orator, and performer. As she had the courage, the boldness, and the desire to be competitive, challenges never bothered her. She graduated valedictorian in Grade 6 and high school. She went to various high schools and won awards, and her ambition was to become a criminal lawyer. 

She got a job as a legal secretary, and at the age of 17, she decided to venture out again, moving to Iloilo. As she could speak Spanish fluently and looked mature for her age, she landed a job at the governor’s office as a telephone operator, then became the social secretary to Governor Jose Zulueta at the provincial office. She was once awarded the national title Secretary of the Year in the Philippines.

Amy was introduced to the social highlights of life and was busy attending events many times on behalf of her employer. But she never missed going to church and connecting to her faith. 

She was being eyed as the future bride of the governor’s nephew, and at age 20, she found herself married and having to raise three children. Sadly, her husband passed away and at age 25, Amy became a single parent. 

Amy decided to go into business and be headstrong once again. She met another wonderful man who accepted her children, but it meant leaving them behind for a while as she stayed in the USA. Her children were left in the care of her mother.

Despite 17 years of being together, her second marriage did not succeed fully. Still, she continued to work at the Department of Defence in Quantico, Virginia. After a few years, she decided to return home to the Philippines and restart her business. Amy spent 23 years doing small businesses, running fashion boutiques and a restaurant. 

Her migration to Australia started when her daughter Alma sponsored her. It was a difficult time at the start, but as Amy is resilient and friendly, she was able to settle down quickly.

Jobs were hard to secure as employers deemed her overqualified, so she started volunteering, not only to give back to the community but find ways to navigate the employment industry. Her volunteer work included serving in cultural programs, palliative care, and to get a job, she studied courses in Gerontology. One day a friend encouraged her to join the Dandenong Lions Club. This started her long-standing connection with this highly-respected international organisation.

In a newspaper article where she was featured, she was described as: the second female to hold the top job in the club’s 41-year history. She is also believed to be the first Philippine-born woman to be president in Australia.

This became one of the busiest and most active seasons of her life. She joined in 1997, and in 2000, she was nominated and elected president of the club. She made herself “renowned” as the “Lions Iron Lady” of the Dandenong chapter being the prime and firm mover of the club’s projects and initiatives. She is very blessed, she says, to be supported by kind but like-minded people who took her seriously and encouraged her every step of the way.

She clarifies the comment of being an iron lady. She says this was because “when I say something, I mean it, and I am quick to resolve issues the soonest possible time.”

Interestingly, at age 78, after 21 years, she was again elected as president of the club this year, 2021-2022.

Despite all these, Amy is securely founded on her faith and religion, and her three wonderful children, 11 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren are her treasures.

Amabel Aldridge at 75
Amy Aldridge on her 75th birthday in 2018 | Source: Facebook

Amy’s friendly and beaming face comes from knowing that she has a good God who will take care of her, so she works around the values of joy, contentment, love, compassion and kindness more than worrying about her daily life and trials. 

Amy considers this life as her second. In 1994, she was a victim of a serious assault in San Francisco, USA; she was stabbed and left to die in the street. In her sharing, she describes that she was aware that she was dead and experienced a mystical place – she was sitting on a white bench, surrounded by huge trees. She felt very light. She saw a man come towards her in a white robe and asked her to hold his hand and they walked together, leading her towards the outer gate. He said to her: “Peace be with you.” She found herself hearing human voices again in the hospital, heard the doctor giving orders and she started to feel her physical pains but survived the tragic accident. She attributes her miracle to her devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague.

It is the reason she says she is not afraid of death, as she stared it in the eye and beyond this life, is a place so beautiful, so peaceful and so magnificent – beyond compare. 

To serve with love and compassion” is her motto as the president of the Lions Club, and a customary kiss or hug when greeting is one of her trademarks. Under COVID-19, this has become a test of human encounter. Amy admits she is strong-minded, but if this is done with love, compassion and kindness, people respond from the heart, so no challenge is daunting and threatening.

A strong woman stands up for herself. A stronger woman stands up for everybody else. – Unknown

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Dina Mananquil-Delfino
Dina Mananquil-Delfino
Dina was former editor-in-chief of The Philippine Times and has been its columnist for over 20 years. She has written two books, "Colours of Life" and "Under His Wings". Dina has been in the helping field for 40 years in the various roles she has fulfilled – teacher, employee in different organisations, volunteer, pastoral care worker. She is a member of Australian Counsellors of Australia (ACA) and Counsellors Victoria (CV). DINA IS A QUALIFIED COUNSELOR AND PASTORAL CARE WORKER. She can be contacted on 0430 214 917. Email evamarie09@bigpond.com for comments or feedback on this story).

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