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Leonila De La Serna Dimataga: Wife of Pres Carlos P Garcia

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Leonila De La Serna Dimataga: Wife of Pres Carlos P Garcia
« on: October 28, 2020, 05:46:51 PM »
Mrs. Leonila “Inday Lelang” de la Serna Dimataga Garcia

Wife of the most illustrious Son of Bohol, President Carlos P. Garcia

The 8th First Lady of the Philippines, 1957-1961

Mrs. Leonila “Inday Lelang” de la Serna Dimataga Garcia was born on July 17, 1906, in Opon, Cebu, now Lapu-Lapu City. Her early schooling was in Opon and Cebu City. She finished Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at the University of Santo Tomas. Inday Lelang lived and registered in Bohol since she was in her 20’s, thus, making her a Bol-anon. She opened a drugstore on a rented house along Tagbilaran’s main street, now CPG Avenue, formerly called Libertad. It was while practicing in Bohol that she met the young lawyer named Carlos P. Garcia. Chess is Carlos P. Garcia’s favorite pastime and he used to play chess at a store in front of Inday Lelang’s drugstore. CPG purposely used to pass by Inday Lelang’s drugstore on his way to the [old] Bohol Provincial Capitol building. After a conventional courtship and love, mutual attraction and on a connection between two people that bonds them as a couple, while CPG was 36 years old and Inday Lelang was 26 years old, they got married on May 24, 1933 in Virgen De Regla Parish in Opon, Cebu. Their marital union bore an only child that they named Linda Garcia [later married to Atty. Fernando Campos who became Undersecretary of Commerce; OIC Governor of Cavite].

Inday Lelang became the lucky star of Carlos P. Garcia for when they married; it was the start of CPG’s long brilliant career.

During her husband’s political career in Bohol, Mrs. Garcia early established the lines along which she distinguished herself as a politician’s wife. Charitable, religious, and civic affairs were her main activities. Whenever and wherever a helping hand was needed, Mrs. Garcia was there.

This role translated itself into broader terms when Carlos P. Garcia became a Senator, then Vice President and concurrent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and finally President of the Philippines. As First Lady, Leonila D. Garcia readily committed her heart to the nation.

She was soft-spoken, well-informed, simple and unassuming and expects no recognition in any social or political gathering despite her husband’s prominence in public life.

She devoted much of her time to such civic organizations as the Anti-Tuberculosis Society, Community Chest, Girl Scouts of the Philippines, Philippine Pharmaceutical Association, All Nations Women’s Group, Manila Women’s Club, Philippine National Red Cross, the Gray Ladies that had an adjunct in the Malacañang Sewing Circle, and innumerable charitable and religious clubs. This is why she has been called “the lady with a heart.”

Mrs. Garcia took pride in the well-known integrity and fidelity to the duty of her distinguished husband as a man and as a public servant. Her philosophy was to be happy wherever fate places them.

She was friendly to all; compassion has always characterized Mrs. Garcia. Unpublished even while in Malacañang, are her many private charities, mostly to needy individuals, financed for her own pocketbook. She indeed became literally “the lady with the heart” when she organized “Operations Puso” to rescue hundreds of victims of flooded Central Luzon in 1960.

As First Lady, Mrs. Garcia accompanied her husband on state visits to Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, the United States, and countries in Europe. The Republic of China decorated her with the Order of the Benign Cloud, the highest decoration it can bestow on a foreigner, and she holds the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from Cebu’s Southwestern University.

Mrs. Garcia’s hobby, besides reading, was gardening. She loved to work in her garden and found it restful and soothing to spend hours attending her plants. She preferred a quiet life but because of the career of her husband, she still found time attending her social and other obligations in keeping with her standing in the community.

On June 14, 1971, Inday Lelang’s husband Carlos P. Garcia died from a fatal heart attack. Inday Lelang wrote in memory of her late husband: “We pray that nothing of Carlos’ life will be lost, but that it will be of benefit to the world; that all that he held sacred may be respected by those who follow him and that everything in which he was great may continue to mean much to us, now that he no longer with us.”

Inday Lelang died on May 17, 1994 at the age of 87 in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines.

Bohol Provincial Library Archives

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