By Marivir R. Montebon
Very recently, I was saddened and shocked at the demise of a friend and classmate in high school, Jen Calomarde Siarot.
Jen was buried last Saturday in our home place in Cebu. She battled against a debilitating disease for three years, and left behind a flourishing fashion and furnishing export business, a bereaved husband, and a ten-year-old son.
In our batch in the exclusive girls school Colegio dela Inmaculada Concepcion, Jen was among the financially successful ones – before reaching the age of 40, founding and running a business that has been widely acknowledged by peers and the government as exemplary. Her relationship with her husband multi-awarded artist Arden Siarot, as I saw it, was that of a great friendship and disciplined business partnership. He held her hand until her last breath.
Jen was humble, hardworking, and very sure of herself. Even on the last few months of her life, said our high school friend, she was so in control. Jen had arranged for her own funeral and decided as to who she allowed to visit her or who to speak with for very important instructions and loving messages.
The last time I spoke with Jen was about 10 years ago, when she and her husband were planning to undergo a delicate medical procedure so that they could have a child. In a few months, Jen joyfully announced that they would have twins, but by nature’s rule, only their little Adam survived.
In one of our few business meetings, Jen told me that she wanted to brand their award-winning crafts with her own name Jen Elizabeth, because it would give them an enormous margin of income as compared to just being outsourced suppliers of brands like Ralph Lauren and Salvatorre Ferragamo. With that plan revealed to me, I was ecstatic. Go Jen! I remembered encouraging her.
Since then, we moved on with our busy lives, and got to see each other rarely. I am not certain if they had already gone into their company’s own branding strategy using her name. Her husband would likely continue with the venture.
Jen’s wonderful young years is a testimony to the great poetry “A Time for Everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Hers was a fleeting life well-spent in humility, hard work, innovation, faith in God, and love.
In this journey, between life and death, there are happy and abundant moments, as well as grief, scarcities, and tragedies. Jen reminds me that God is in the finer details – the inspiration from friends, the tiny help from strangers, or even as big as a successful medical breakthrough.
My friend Jen played it cool, just like how I’ve known her in high school, bearing a quite certainty of herself. On top of a successful business, she had no ego and mean bone in her body.
Happy birthday in heaven and thank you, Jen Elizabeth for the inspiration.