Thursday, August 26, 2010

Remembering Melody

Inquirer Southern Luzon
By Ephraim Aguilar and Juan Escandor Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:27:00 08/25/2010

THERE WAS no hint at all that her “small talk” with old friends in Legazpi City on Thursday night at the family-owned German restaurant Wilkommen would be the last.

She happily showed them her bridal photos for Hair Asia Magazine, which has her as cover girl. She talked about her newfound passion for makeup artistry, and the things that kept her busy.

By Friday night, the photos of the reunion were uploaded on Facebook. Melody left a comment to her friends, “I missed you all, too. Till we meet again!”

The next day, Aug. 21, her friends were stunned that Binibining Pilipinas-International 2009 Melody Gersbach, 24, died in a car-bus collision along Maharlika Highway in Bula, Camarines Sur, at around noontime.

Melody was on her way to the screening of Miss Bicolandia, where she sat as chair of the organizing committee. Others who died in the accident were her makeup artist and couturier Alden Orense and car driver Dodong Ramos.

Home buddy

Melody’s life had all been about photo shoots, runways and glossy magazines from the time she became a beauty queen. But away from the limelight, she was just really a simple home buddy, a good sister and a loving daughter.

Her younger sister, Magnolia, 20, remembers how she and her sister would fight over clothes. They were exact opposites—Magnolia is outgoing and the life of the party, while Melody was quite introverted and meek.

“We would often fight, especially about clothes, but those were the times we bonded and felt the love and the care, especially hers to me,” Magnolia said during the wake at the family’s hilltop residence in Barangay Cullat in Daraga town in Albay.

The younger Gersbach said it was only when she became a public figure that Melody was able to enjoy going out. “She was a late bloomer. So it’s funny, parang nabaliktad kami.”

“I was like more of the Ate (older sister). She’d come to me and ask what to wear, and which bar drink is strong like a [curious] teenager,” Magnolia said.

“We were exact opposites, but it’s good because we would complement each other. She was very meek. On the contrary, I’m the type who’d escape without asking permission,” she added.

Very simple

Their mother, Marina, said she would sometimes forget that Melody was a beauty queen. I’d ask her to drive for me and to pay the bills and she would meekly obey.

They would spend most of their time managing the family’s restaurant business together. One time, Marina said Melody told her that she wasn’t so much happy managing a restaurant.

“What she really dreamt of was to have her own clothing line and to be a makeup artist. She was full of dreams and talent. It’s a waste she would no longer be able to achieve them because of some reckless driver,” Marina said.

She said she would temporarily forget about the pain she’s going through when there were people around. “But when the visitors are gone and I’m all alone, I would break down and cry,” she said in Filipino.

“I want all of us to think that Melody just went to Germany and will be back someday,” Marina said.

Gov’t requirement

Marina believes that the government should set stricter requirements for the issuance of driver’s licenses and franchises for public utility vehicles.

She said the bus operators visited her on Monday morning asking her family to forgo with the filing of charges. “I told them that they should not be stingy with the victims and prioritize helping the driver’s family and the couturier’s because they are breadwinners and Ronald Lita, the survivor, with the hospital expenses and for his full recovery in the government hospital.”

She explained to the bus operators to choose from among three options—shouldering the funeral expenses of her daughter, the cost of burial place—a mausoleum—or to compensate the family based on the one-year earning her daughter could have made if she were alive.

Remembering Melody

Melody’s soft-spoken German father, Wolfgang, said he wanted other people to remember his daughter as someone who shared to them a happy life.

He said his daughter knew very well that life was not only about earning money, “For her what was more important was to make more friendships and to share with other people things that make her happy.”

“I want everyone to remember her the same way as how she remembered people whom she cared for, stayed for and worked with,” Wolfgang said.

He added that there was something about Melody that found good in people and effortlessly understood them.

Acceptance about Melody’s early demise will be a painstaking process for her bereaved family. Wolfgang copes by choosing to accept her fate and believing in God’s higher purpose.

“The things in life that we cannot change, we must accept. My daughter Melody died and I cannot get her back. That means I have to accept it and live with it. This is the Lord’s will, which we cannot change,” Wolfgang said.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bb. Pilipinas Int’l dies in car-bus collision

by Rey M. Nasol and Ephraim Aguilar
First posted 23:22:45 (Mla time) August 21, 2010

LEGAZPI CITY--Binibining Pilipinas International 2009 Melody Gersbach was dead on the spot Saturday morning after the van she was riding in figured in a head-on collision with a public bus, an Army officer here said.

Two other persons, the driver and couturier of the beauty titlist, also died in the accident which occurred at 11:45 a.m., according to Maj. Harold Cabunoc, public information officer of the 9th Infantry Division based in Pili, Camarines Sur, quoting an initial police report.

“The accident occurred in Barangay Pawili in Bula,” said Cabunoc in a text message.

Gersbach and her companions were in a Toyota Innova on their way to Naga City when their vehicle collided with a Guevarra Bus Line driven by Wilson Pontillas.

The bus driver surrendered to police, said Cabunoc.

The two others confirmed dead were Dodong Ramos, the driver, and Alden Orense, couturier of the beauty titlist.

A fourth victim, identified as Ronald Lita, survived and was rushed to the Bicol Medical Center.

Police said the bus was trying to avoid a tricycle when it hit the Innova.

A resident of Barangay Culliat in Daraga, Albay, Gersbach, 24, who was also Ms Bicolandia 2009, left her house at 9 a.m. to attend a pre-pageant event in connection with the coming celebration of the Pe├▒afrancia Festival in Naga City next month.

Ricky Gonzales, brother of the owner of the Innova, said the van was a total wreck.

“The scene was really morbid. The red Innova Melody was aboard was totally wrecked that almost only the wheels were left,” added Ariel Guban, president of the Rotaract Club of Legazpi Central.

Gersbach was a member of Rotaract, a Rotary-sponsored service club for young men and women aged 18 to 30.

On Nov. 28 last year, Gersbach competed against more than 60 other contestants in the Miss International contest held in Beijing, China.

Gersbach had said then that “her bubbly character, positive attitude and passion for helping others” would help her clinch the title.

Gersbach placed in the top 15 but lost out to Miss Mexico Ana Gabriela Espinosa.

Beauty queen blogger Joyce Titular-Burton, in an online interview, had fond memories of Gersbach, who was born of a German father and Filipino mother.

“I remember last Christmas when Melody texted me that she had some special German Christmas cakes for sale at their German restaurant on Makati Avenue. I bought a few for my Christmas dinner and loved how they tasted. I even blogged about it,” said Titular-Burton, author of the “Adventures of a Beauty Queen” blog.

“Now, German Christmas cakes will be a bittersweet reminder to me of how we lost Melody. Let this be a call to our President Aquino to really crack down on our terrible bus system. Do we have to lose another beautiful person because of greedy companies and wayward bus drivers?”