Carn Abella, the student leader from Maryknoll College (now Miriam College) was ahead of her time. She spoke in fluent English all the time. She laughed loudly when you least expected her to. She led the dancing around a bonfire during the last day of the conference. I felt so threatened by her and did not vote for her during the election of officers for Student Catholic Action.
Fast forward and I met Carn in the Development Academy of the Philippines. She was in-charge of running leadership programs for senior executives in government. I realized then that first impressions could make us unjust and unkind. Carn was a truly caring person. She had the gift of listening which made you feel that you were the only one that mattered in the world. She had the depth and the intelligence to take you through self-analysis to help crystallize your vision, and translate it to maximize your being and be of service to others. She had the skill to help sort out your thoughts and systematize them using diagrams and work flows. She was always thinking in terms of systems and processes.
And so I always invited Carn whenever we needed to organize our thoughts into strategies. She facilitated workshops where we articulated our ideas to define the direction we need to take and translate them into work programs.
I called on her help again to be part of a small group to fight the suspension of the Mayor of Naga City, Jesse Robredo. We published an advocacy for Jesse, and organized a small rally to make our advocacy heard. Carn was a bit concerned that her Trustees may not approve of her signing public manifestos as President of Ramon Magsaysay Foundation. But being Carn, she did anyway. More advocacies followed, e.g. advocating for the appointment of the best man for the DILG, standing with Secretary Robredo who was blamed for the Rizal Park fiasco, and, mourning with the nation with his passing.
Our paths crossed again when Carn and I joined the Board of Trustees of “iLead” a think tank that focuses on strategic policy work to strengthen democratic institutions, devolution, empowerment and protection of civic spaces. Carn led our planning sessions on how we can promote analytical thinking among citizens, strengthen institutions, protect civil servants and promote the rule of law. Sometimes, Carn was absent in our meetings, but she made up for her absence, through the richness and depth of her thoughts in the ensuing discussions. In our December meeting, she distributed neatly wrapped presents to all of us. I was sorry and embarrassed that I had no present with me. From then on, I resolved to be more proactively thoughtful and kind.
I am sorry that I passed up on many opportunities to work with Carn. She always invited me to lectures of Ramon Magsaysay awardees which I foolishly declined. I should have joined her for coffee and small dinners and should have learned immensely from her wisdom and wit.
Thank you so much Carn for all the men and women whom you helped form to become servant- leaders. Thank you for helping us think clearly and strategically. And thank you to the Creator who blessed us with your life of service and love for country.
SOURCE: Manila Bulletin > https://business.mb.com.ph/2020/03/24/carn-abella-a-woman-ahead-of-her-time/