REMEMBERING SR. REMEDIOS, R.A.
by Marlu Villanueva Balmaceda
Sr. Remedios Carmen Locsin of the Hidden Life Religious of the Assumption 1940-2023
The following is the eulogy I was requested to share on the fourth night of the novena masses for Sr. Remedios. She was an extraordinary human being whose impact on the lives of thousands will continue to ripple beyond her passing.
My personal journey with Sr. Remedios was quite recent although she was our Mistress of Class and Principal in Grade 7. We graduated in 1974, the last grade school class to do so in Assumption Herran – the old campus in Manila. By the end of that year, Sr. Remedios had begun her new life in Japan.
But in the recesses of my mind, I remember a tall, serene nun with a most reassuring smile when I was not quite 5 years old. I went to Assumption Herran for my elder sister’s First Communion and I was captivated by their white long dresses and the beautiful nun who was shepherding them into the Chapel. That was Mother Remedios, as she was called then, and many Old Girls have precious memories of their First Communion day because of her.
Our paths did not cross again until sometime in 2016 when I joined the Assumption Alumnae Association Board. Sr. Remedios was our co-moderator with Sr. Ana Maria Melocoton. She had returned to San Lorenzo after caring for her younger sister. Little by little, I learned about her mission work in Japan in the past 40 odd years since we last saw each other in 1974.
Coincidentally, I had also lived briefly in Japan which, I think, connected us somehow in that I could understand her dual affection for both the Philippines and Japan. Sr. Remedios spent her first two years in Japan learning the language and once she was fluent in it, she engaged herself in artistic pursuits like ikebana and calligraphy – which are contemplative endeavors. She spent the first 10 years in Japan as an elementary school teacher while she herself, a student of Japanese culture and society.
The turning point in her mission life was in 1984 when a Japanese sister requested her to look into the dubious situation of some Filipina migrant workers. She hesitated at first but after much discernment, she stepped out of her comfort zone and embraced the challenge which would define the rest of her lifework.
Having a dual perspective – that she understood the nuances of both the Filipino and Japanese cultures – gave her a unique advantage and the necessary skill to undertake her mission. I, for one, would never have imagined her to be in the situations that she narrated in her book – rescuing women from organized crime syndicates, tending to patients in mental institutions, reuniting broken families, and ministering to women in jail. Her adventures and misadventures – which she had already toned down in her stories – could be rich material for a drama series on Netflix. She was 76 when we finished the book and told me that she cannot fathom where she got the energy to do all that when she was much younger.
But I think I know where she got the strength. And I realized that just recently when I saw her obituary and learned that her complete religious name is Remedios Carmen Locsin of the Hidden Life and that her personal motto was “My life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
Her strength – her secret weapon – was her concealed and very deep relationship with Jesus. And this, too, was very “Japanese” so to speak, in a country where restraint is both a science and art form. And her heart – was that of a mother’s – as felt in the unconditional love she showered upon so many of us.
When Sr. Remedios decided in 2017 to finally publish her stories in a little book called A Missionary’s Journey: Selected Stories of Filipino Migrants in Japan, I had already deleted the draft manuscript after holding on to it for some time.
Fortunately, we found someone who had about 80% of it in soft files but the remaining manuscript was in Sr. Remedios’ neat longhand on yellow pad paper. Then she gave us just two-and-a-half months to produce it – and we did it with the help of other people and, certainly, with Divine intervention.
As I told Andy and Maylene (Locsin), I had never seen Sr. Remedios as excited and giddy as on the day of the book launch. She was involved in every aspect of it down to the special drink made from a secret family recipe. The launch was held just before she returned to Japan where she had decided to resume her mission.
On Christmas Day the following year in 2018, my family had the wonderful opportunity to visit Sr Remedios in Takamatsu where I saw how fulfilled and at peace she was – teaching children in the kindergarten in the morning, then immersing herself in prayer the rest of the day. Takamatsu is a small seaside town – a far cry from Tokyo or Osaka where Sr. Remedios spent the greater part of her mission. And yet, it had its charm and the stillness or quiet that quenches the soul. Through emails she would update me on how the church community was growing and that this time, she only had happy stories to share.
When she returned to San Lorenzo last year, she called me right away to talk about co-authoring a second book but only with positive stories this time and with lots of pictures.
We didn’t include photos in the first book and hid the identities of the women for their protection.
As you all know, her health deteriorated quite rapidly. I was able to visit her in the ICU and we had an animated chat about the book including the concept for the cover. She was also able to dictate – even while she was in great pain – the book’s introduction to Sr. Barbara.
On my part, I assured her that I will work with the community in Takamatsu to bring their stories to life. All this I was able to tell her again just an hour before her passing last Saturday when I had serendipitously pressed the call icon and Sr. Barbara put us on video chat.
Sr. Remedios – with your Takamatsu community, we have formed a group called Sr. Remy’s Sakura Missionaries. Sakura, as you may know, is the cherry blossom and the image used on the cover of her first book. Sakura symbolizes the duality of joy and sadness. It is a reminder that everything in this earthly life is fleeting. As I promised you last Saturday, I will be with your missionaries on Easter Sunday in Takamatsu when the sakura will most likely be in full bloom. And we shall not only remember you but we will thank Jesus for the Hidden Life that you so generously shared with us and that you are already, on that day, with Him on His day of Resurrection.
In closing, I would like to quote from the dedication that Sr. Remedios wrote on my copy of her book. She had written: Like God’s call to Abraham, I will also respond to His call without fear!
Fearless – that she was to the very end.
And Sr. Remedios, one last – please, please intercede for us so that Book 2 will be ready for your birthday in June.