Marie Alexi Bolongaita, or deejay “Maxi B” to her young listeners at radio 89.1 Power FM, was a girl who shone brightly on stage.
It was through theater where she was best able to express a personal advocacy in raising awareness for the rights and welfare of women.
But last September 21, away from the bright, blinding lights of the stage, and in the darkness of dawn, Maxi walked her talk one last time, as she valiantly fought for her own right before an attacker who was armed with a gun.
She lost her life but not her fight for women’s rights, as her death now serves as a reminder of the things Maxi stood for.
Tribute to a ‘warrior’
On Wednesday afternoon, after a requiem Mass inside room 202 of St. Peter Memorial Chapels–Imus and as her remains were brought to a crematory, the disc jockey’s love for theater brought together family members, relatives, co-actors and friends in a three-hour program.
There was no shortage of hugs and smiles as new and old friends greeted each other.
Save for sympathy flowers inside the room, it did not feel as though people were attending a funeral as laughter filled the air.
The venue was transformed into a mini-theater as Maxi’s friends and fellow thespians performed song numbers, read poems and shared funny anecdotes of Maxi’s strength and positive spirit.
Her mother, Marives Ortiz, also a theater actress in her younger years, read excerpts of a piece from “The Vagina Monologues,” an episodic play written by Eve Ensler which aims to empower women.
Ortiz performed The Vagina Workshop, which was described by artistic director Sarah Mae Enclona-Henderson as one of the longest monologues in the play.
Maxi graduated with a Political Science degree at the University of San Carlos in 2009. She finished high school at St. Theresa’s College in 2005.
“In 2005, Maxi was watching her mother perform. In 2015, she joined Vagina Monologues and she begged me to give her The Vagina Workshop which her mom performed several years ago,” said Enclona-Henderson.
She said Ortiz belongs to the first-generation of vagina warriors. By joining the group, Maxi embraced the stage that her mother once stood on.
“Maxi was an emotional creature. You could not stop here. She needed to express. She had to share her views. She was one brave warrior, a second-generation vagina warrior,” said
Enclona-Henderson. Maxi brought humor and fun to rehearsals with her hilarious and bubbly personality.
But when it came to event day, Maxi was a natural-born actress who could nail a presentation and send people to outer orbit from intense laughter.
“The Vagina Workshop is a long monologue. It became longer because people kept on laughing. Even the line you don’t expect people to laugh is well received. She was a natural,” said Enclona-Henderson.
Charlene Virlouvet, Maxi’s friend of 15 years, emceed that afternoon’s tribute for Maxi as, one after the other, she introduced friends and thespians who performed song numbers, read poems and shared anecdotes of Maxi’s strength and positive spirit.
Virlouvet revealed Maxi’s love for the medieval fantasy epic series “Game of Thrones” and how loyal she was to the show.
A singing group performed “The Rains of Castamere” from the show.
Friends alternated in sharing how Maxi’s zest for life made them realize the beauty of being alive.
According to them, the “vagina warrior” was a loyal and true friend and was always generous in giving love.
Her best friend, Benjun Yu, recalled Maxi inviting him to a belly dancing class.
“For some reason, I said yes. She always had that warm and welcoming spirit. Even when she had problems, she still made people happy. She thrived in the happiness of her loved ones,” said Yu.
Another friend, Mayan Benedicto, put together a compilation of videos which showed her enjoying the beach, dancing with fellow thespians and teasing friends to remind everyone of how Maxi lived a short but meaningful life.
She was also captured excitedly wiping the sweat from the forehead of former Cebu City mayor Michael Rama who was performing a song number during the 2014 Cebu Literary Festival at Ayala Center Cebu.
Bea Evardone, Maxi’s fellow vagina warrior and friend for three years, described her as a person who drew attention because of her positivity and fun nature.
“By the way she carried herself, you know that she is the kind of person you do not want to mess with. She is spunky and empowered. She is a definition of a warrior,” said Evardone.
By joining Miss Press Freedom in 2016 as the representative of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), Evardone said Maxi made a statement that “you can be a beauty queen even when you don’t look like a typical beauty queen.”
Maxi was declared first runner-up in the competition.
In what was to be one of her last public appearances, Maxi turned over the crown (in the absence of the 2016 winner) to the new title holder, Desza Rubio of The Freeman during the 2017 Mr. and Ms. Press Freedom night last September 16, five days before she was killed.
Maxi was a warrior up to the very end.
When suspected drug dealer and notorious robber Reynante Mambiar barged into her house in Nivel Hills and attacked her, she bravely fought her assailant.
Maxi was shot on the chest which ultimately killed her; but not without injuring Mambiar, who sustained lacerations, stab wounds and a gunshot wound.
“Maxi was known for her zest for life. She was free spirited, inquisitive. She knew what she wanted, she got what she wanted. She had no fear. Maxi was fearless to her very last breath,” said artistic director Enclona-Henderson.
Before the end of the tribute, everybody was requested to stand to jointly say “I love you, Maxi.”
Up to the moment when her physical body was turned into ashes, Maxi united everyone in the spirit of love, friendship and theater.