By Jon Melegrito
WASHINGTON D.C. Andrea Homeres Guiang of Lanham, MD., one of the founders of Mabuhay Inc. and former chair of the Philippine Festival Committee, which organized street festivals in Washington DC in the 1990s, passed away peacefully on August 4. She was 86.
“Manang Andring,” as she was fondly called by family and friends, was born in Leyte, Philippines. She earned her Masters Degree from the Far Eastern University. After graduation, she was employed at the People’s Home Site, where she met her future husband, Benjamin Guiang, who was also her boss.
In 1962, she immigrated to the U.S. Manong Ben followed a year later. They soon got married, giving birth to their only child, Tina, in 1964.
In 1972, Manang Andring took her oath as a U.S. citizen, one of her most memorable moments. She continued her schooling at the University of Maryland. After obtaining her accounting degree, she worked for the American Council on Higher Education as a Senior Accountant. She retired at the age of 57 so she can spend more time with Manong Ben. He died in June of 1998.
In 1985, Manang Andring founded Mabuhay Inc., along with the late Lulu Alexander. She served as its second president, chairing many of its projects and activities. Deeply committed to causes that improve the lives of the needy and less fortunate, she was always generous with her time and treasure.
Chairing the annual Philippine Festival “is not for the faint of heart,” recalls Mencie Hairston, who succeeded Manang Andring as Mabuhay President. “It required one year of planning as it involved 1,001 moving pieces. To successfully put this event together called for marshalling the exuberant Filipino American community to action, dealing with government red-tape and ensuring festival-goers have a great time. From set up to clean up, and everything in between, she knew how to get things done.”
“But she did not flaunt her good works,” Mencie points out. “Every time I see Tess Alarcon of Feed the Hungry, she tells me how Manang Andring donated her prized collection of long playing records to help build a school for poor children in the Philippines.”
Mencie also remembers Manang Andring as not the typical self-effacing and “don’t rock the boat” kind of 1st generation immigrant. “Don’t ever tell her she can’t do something because she will go out of her way to prove you wrong. We’re all the better for her principled stand on issues.”
Rubie Gonzales Mize, a niece of Manang Andring, said she and Manong Ben took her under their wings when she arrived in the US. “She took me shopping, showed me where all the Asian stores are,” Rubie recalls. “She even took me to political events. She personally knew many politicians, including Gov. Glendening. Many times I thought if she ran for office, she’ll probably win by a landslide.” Her kindness extended to Rubie’s cousin and her family who arrived in Maryland in 2002. “Auntie opened her home to them until they could save and buy their first house,” Rubie said.
Among Manang Andring’s many pleasures were traveling, raising a vegetable and flower garden, cooking (squid adobo and Bicol laing were her favorites), and spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren. Daughter Tina says Daniella and Jessica were “her greatest joy in life. If ever there was a great love in her life, it was the two of them. She took her job as Grandma very seriously, from babysitting, cooking, shopping and picking them up from school every day. Her grandchildren loved and adored her equally.”
In the last years of her life, Manang Andring suffered multiple strokes and the beginning stages of dementia. “So the strong, vibrant, funny woman who loved to sing went from caring for others to being cared for,” Tina said. “As dementia took a stronger hold of her it never changed her strength and feistiness: she has always been a fighter.”
Manang Andring leaves behind her only child Tina, son-in-law Jesse, granddaughters Daniella and Jessica, brother Alejo, Jr. and many relatives and friends who dearly loved her.
We owe Manang Andring our deep appreciation and thanks, for, as Mencie aptly puts it, “leaving our community much better than you found it.”
May you rest in peace.