And just like that, my friend, boss and mentor for 25 years of my adult life is gone. Cancer sucks and it took her away from this earth too fast, too soon. At 53 years, her life here was done. She fully lived it.

I grieve and I feel her loss. I am sure there are countless others whom she has touched so significantly in her lifetime who feel the same. As a way to somehow pay it forward, I recall and now share some of the many lessons I’ve learned from her.

  1. Tough love. As a boss, she was all for showing empathy and care but was best at taking me to task when I failed. A praise or a reprimand was the same to her – immediately given, straight forward and factual, and I knew it came from a place of love and genuine concern. Her carefully chosen words gave me the reassurance that it was the misstep and not me. It enabled me to not only understand and accept what she said and happened, but also reflect later about it and learn to discern and be better. Successes where announced to all and usually came with food or some token gift. It made me realize how appreciated I was, even for my small little steps of progress.
  2. Grace under pressure. As a friend, we experienced many life moments together and almost lived parallel lives. While she had many medical issues, I had relationship ones. Ever efficient, life went on despite her many challenges, at times ridiculously so that I’d tell her to stop, go home and rest already. Even when confined to her home or bedridden, she would still call for meetings and updates. She carried her physical weaknesses as her strength and never let any of it make her not live her life fully, or get away from the tasks at hand. By her example, she helped me wade thru the intricacies of staying focused at work despite my home life challenges. I learned that I can still smile and be brave, despite anything and everything, grateful for the opportunity to be. I learned that mental fortitude is key to successfully overcoming obstacles and that every action merits my best effort. I learned that whatever is thrown my way can be met with a fierce and determined heart that can make a seemingly dire situation better.
  3. Confidant. She was my single, most trusted confidant at work and I didn’t need anymore. She had a great listening ear and a heart with no judgement. This allowed me to be totally open without fear of being unmasked in public. She had wisdom beyond her years. She would somehow know the right words to say and always with the right tonality that motivated and inspired, and pulled me to act towards resolution and not continue to wallow in frustration. We somehow knew how to be friends but also maintain the work relationship. We straddled between the two effortlessly. Even after we went our separate ways in the corporate world, we managed to keep tabs with each other and I still talked to her for life decisions and cross roads. At times, these were just moments for updates, but more often, these were also to seek guidance or validation of a decision. She continued to be my most objective sounding board.
  4. Find your joy. While she had a very successful professional career, she didn’t let that define her. She found time to enjoy and be joyful in the simple things she loved doing – spending time with family, travel, reading books, and the like. Baking was a way for her to destress. She once told me she was happiest in the kitchen. Perhaps that was her version of nirvana – whipping up dishes and cakes for friends and family to enjoy. By her example, I found my happy place thru running. It’s a physical exertion I do everyday that somehow tires yet exhilarates me, zones me out yet clears my mind at the same time. A moment with myself, my surroundings, my God.
  5. Faith. She strongly believed in the goodness of people. She strongly believed that life is to be lived with purpose. And she strongly believed in the greater One. And that faith, I believe, gave her the tenacity to face every difficult situation calmly. Even in the midst of the most trying times, her faith was rock solid. I admired her for that. If I can muster half her faith, then I am good. I try.

I have always wondered why she seemed to be in a hurry. She was always masterplanning everything. In retrospect, she might have known deep down how short her life would be. She was, after all, orphaned in her 20s so maybe that was her sign. Or maybe, she just knew how to live every moment fully. In her short 53 years, she accomplished so much and touched so many lives.

Thus despite the grief, there is beauty in knowing how well she lived. Much like there is beauty in seeing the sun set at the end of a glorious day. I can reminisce the good times and look forward to the next day. There is hope and opportunity to be better at how I live my life, bringing the lessons I’ve learned and helping others do the same. There is comfort in knowing that she has moved on to an even greater, happier life.

About this post: I started writing this post on the evening of her death, as I tried to process my grief and the missed opportunities for an even closer relationship in recent years. I worked with her in three companies: Del Monte Philippines Inc, SKYCable, and Globe Telecom Inc. Now wished I heeded her advise to come back to the Philippines to work together again. Rest in peace, Chinky (Ma. Concepcion De Castro Alcedo: February 26, 1965 – August 25, 2018).

Originally published at


  • Joy Santamarina

    Solo mom. Corporate nerd. Joyfulness advocate.

    Joy Santamarina has more than 20 years of business and marketing experience in stewardship roles across multiple industries and markets; of which more than 15 years have been in the telecommunications/media/technology (TMT) industry. A solo mom of three, she is likewise a running and wellness enthusiast, an advocate on various issues, and a writer advocate on joyfulness thru her website