Everybody who has spent time with Professor Editha Cagasan in work-related spaces should know she was one helluva note-taker. She is one of the two persons I personally know who takes down notes almost always, the other being Ate Marissa Miguel Cano.
Her favorite type of notebook was the steno. She didn’t say this and I never asked, only surmised. But this is evidenced by the piles of steno pads at the office, all full of notes. But of course, she wasn’t picky with notebooks. She had grade school notebooks. Even cheap notebooks, yarn-bound ones with celebrities on the covers. Logbooks.
A millennial like me would not understand this habit initially. But Ma’am Edith was not a dinosaur either. She brought her laptop everywhere and she used her phone a lot, too. Two things science says cause distraction. But Ma’am Edith was always on a roll with her accomplishments. How does she do it? How does she stay on top of everything?
Ma’am Edith was not just intelligent, she was brilliant. She knew a lot. She could remember a lot. And she could make connections fast. This is a perfect mix evidenced by her subtle yet striking wit. And I believe it had a lot to do with her note-taking.
Note-taking is often described as “offloading” (thoughts and information and even stress), much like building a “second brain”—an extension of one’s mind. Scientists say that extending the mind onto notebooks and digital devices frees up the faculties of the mind to think and process freely.
I find this to be true. In 2018, I started keeping a bullet journal (it’s like a diary with a system using bullets). And the irony of offloading is that you actually remember details better. In fact, at one point years ago, I could remember gas prices of different fuel stations by the centavo because I took notes of it.
I’m not sure what system Ma’am Edith used for note-taking, but I’m sure I could not measure up to how intentful she was with her notes.
Here, I make a bold claim—
Her note-taking habits were not just an extra to her personal qualities. It’s part and parcel of who she was.
Note-taking Ma’am Edith was the kind, brilliant, witty, compassionate Ma’am Edith we know. You cannot separate it from who she was.
Last night, her sister said that she used to read everything, even the magazine pieces used to wrap market items. She could spot mistakes that easily.
And I think that’s what brought her to the VSU Department of Development Communication.
Edith the note-taker was Edith the editor.
I’ve never encountered a professor who was so thorough with reading. She read every single submission—even our scatter-brained student essays. With patience, she made sense of our confused thoughts. And then like a Godsend, she offered us her sense of clarity. At the margins, she would write down her comments—though poignant at times—but always with contagious optimism that we have what it takes if only we strive to do better.
Her note-taking was the physical manifestation of her rich and deliberate thought-world. But it was also a reflexive exercise: the more she did it, the more she designed her life to be full of intention, and then, the greater a person she became.
And until the end, Ma’am Edith, the note-taker, was larger than life.
Editor's note: Mr. Jed Asaph Cortes is a former Executive Editor and adviser of Amaranth who later on became one of Dr. Cagasan's colleagues in the Department of Development Communication.