Sunday, September 27, 2009

Odette Alcantara—a friend of chess and of earth—left legacy

Photo by Ramon Flores

ODETTE Alcantara, environment activist, writer, artist, friend of chess, and of the earth.

She breathed her last on Monday, September 21, after suffering from an aneurysm at the age of 68.

She collapsed on Sunday, September 20, after a luncheon with her sons and grandchildren Ara, Ika, Miguelito, Tish-tish, Nicolie, Super-love, Bambino, Bola, Tam-tam, Gio, Gia, Ryan, Ashton and Brianna (all pet names given by their lola) at the Heritage Art Center on Main Avenue in Cubao.

Odette Alcantara is a well-known ecological artist and environmentalist who is the convener of Mother Earth Philippines. She owns Heritage Arts and Antiques gallery which is the venue for many an artist’s exhibits and sometimes host to chess events.

She campaigned for the environment; an ecological artist, writer, convenor of Artists for the Environment, founding member of Earth Philippines and the ecological waste management project ‘Zero Kalat para sa Kaunlaran Foundation’ (Zero Waste for Progress Foundation).

Among the notable quotations from her many speeches and writings was the opening words in her speech at the celebration of the national hero Jose Rizal's birthdate June 19 - an activity organized by her at the Orchidarium, Luneta Park: "Ang Kalikasan ay mukha at katawan ng Diyos" (The environment is God’s face and body).

Odette has a passion for the game of chess. She has been very active two to three decades ago in organizing chess events for artists and writers like her —the group who would not bother to play in more competitive environment.

A journalist friend, Alex Dacanay, explained why Odette loved a chess game: “She didn’t see it as symbolic aggression, which it is, and which is why men are attracted to it. She saw it as a metaphor for planning and doing.”

“She had no problem holding up her game against fairly strong players. We called her Odettesky in mock Russian. She would challenge even [Florencio] Campomanes, the grand daddy of Philippine chess, with this line: ‘Defend yourself against the conqueror, men.’ Everyone took this in good humor and [they] were ritualistically slain.”

“Later, this became applied chess. It was how to checkmate garbage in three moves: One, segregate; two, compost; and three, recycle. Basura (garbage) resigns.”

Odette left her legacy as an institution in the environmental movement; she fought for Mother Earth and gave herself back to her…literally.

Thank you, Odette.

Online tributes to Odette Alcantara can be read from these links:

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