MANILA — The mortal remains of the late Secretary of Migrant Workers, Susan “Toots” Ople, were solemnly brought to Malacañang on Monday. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and other dignitaries gathered to pay their respects in conjunction with National Heroes’ Day.

In a heartfelt eulogy, the President openly expressed his emotions and conveyed his apologies for his display of sentimentality, acknowledging Susan Ople as a significant loss for the Philippines.

“While it is often expected of officials to maintain composure and reserve their emotions, today I ask for your understanding as tears flow freely. The enormity of what we have lost, what I have personally lost, what all of you have lost, and what the Philippines has lost, is truly staggering,” Marcos Jr. shared.

The Chief of State emphasized that Susan Ople, renowned as the head of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), was an unparalleled advocate for overseas Filipino workers, standing as an emblematic figure in the history of the migrant labor industry.

“Her departure leaves a profound void not only among her friends and family but also within the hearts of the countless individuals she cared for, loved, and tirelessly served,” he affirmed.

“Her commitment persisted until the very end. She exemplified the essence of compassion towards her fellow Filipinos,” he praised.

Marcos Jr. disclosed that he was aware of Ople’s health struggles and that her passing last week had weighed heavily on him, hoping for a miraculous turn of events. However, in the aftermath of her demise, he underwent a transformation in perspective: “No, I was mistaken. There was indeed a miracle. The miracle was Toots. The miracle lay in her existence, her camaraderie, and her fulfillment of the most vital duty she had for herself and her compatriots.”

With a sense of melancholy, he revealed having lost sleep contemplating a potential successor for Ople, ultimately concluding that her role was “unfillable.”

“Her unparalleled dedication and fervor underscored her work. Such a fusion is extraordinarily rare,” he acknowledged.

In closing, the President expressed that his sorrow was not solely for Toots but for the Philippines, which bid farewell to one of its most exceptional public servants. (ai/mnm)