Last Wednesday, I learned that Bernadette Ellorin, 30, the feisty secretary general of Bayan USA, was diagnosed with brain cancer. She underwent two emergency operations which were necessary in removing the mass that had formed in her brain. The operations were successful and there seems to be no traces of the cancer. Still Berna will have to undergo therapy and continuing treatment. She’s in New York now and recovering quite well.
The news of Berna’s condition shocked many kasamas here and abroad. Berna was of course a friend to all. She has been a frequent “boarder” of Bayan Philippines, the youth and student movement and Migrante. We have been together in rallies, forums, trainings and countless videoke showdowns that ran on till 3 am. She recently got married six months ago and has been elected to the position of secretary general just last January.
A day before she was rushed to the hospital, Berna even facilitated a meeting for a campaign on the Sentosa 27, nurses who were victims of human trafficking.
Berna was in high spirits after her operation. Her resilience surprised even the doctors and nurses at the New York hospital where she’s staying. She jokes with visitors and even made a long distance call to the Philippines just to tell us of her condition.
A friend of mine said that Berna is the third kasama in the US who’s had cancer in the past five years. It is not yet clear what caused Berna’s brain cancer. I’d like to think that it was caused by what Berna calls “intense videoke”. You see, Berna is a “belter”. She’s Alanis Morissette on overdrive, the decibel experience that breaks glasses and intimidates the rest of the people in the videoke bar. It is a sonic attack not for the faint-hearted. Still, even if she knew she could get cancer from singing at that pitch and volume, knowing Berna, she would still sing Ironic like it’s nobody’s business. Why? Because that’s just who she is. She takes risks and puts herself on the line to do the stuff she believes in.
At first I was really sad upon hearing the news of the cancer. But as updates came in, I realized that sadness was the wrong reaction. She’s fighting and is convinced she will beat the cancer. Her courage is undiminished in the face of extreme difficulty.
Here is the letter she asked her husband Gary to take down while she was recovering in the hospital.
Mga Kasama at Alyado sa Kilusan:
Thank you for your messages during this difficult period in my life.
I realize I am only 30 and facing brain cancer, but I am inspired by the contributions of some of our youngest patriots like Andres Bonifacio, Lorena Barros, Carlos Bulosan, Jose Rizal, Edgar Jopson, Lean Alejandro, etc. In their honor, I know I can beat this cancer alongside my kasamas and most of al my husband.
I am uncertain about my health. But even in this period of uncertainty, I am certain that my patriotism will carry me through this difficult time with my kasamas and with my husband.
Again thank you very much to your well wishes and to your statements. They mean a lot coming from you for a young kasama like me. I hope to recover very fast and honor your wishes and I know we will see each other again in good health and in militant struggle (and intense videoke)!
In Service of the Filipino People,
We are proud to be a friend and comrade to Berna and we wish her the best in ALL her struggles. We used to feel sad. Now we’re just plain inspired.