Installments of The Friendship Files typically feature a conversation between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or more friends, exploring the history and significance of their relationship. But this week she speaks with just one person whose friend passed away from COVID-19 earlier this year.
In this interview, Mary-Ann Ortiz-Luis shares the history of her friendship with Baby Herrera, whom she’d known since they were girls growing up together in the Philippines. She discusses what made Baby special, how they stayed close even when Mary-Ann moved overseas, her memories and regrets from Baby’s final days, and how the void left by the loss of her friend will last long after the pandemic is over.
Mary-Ann Ortiz-Luis, 62, who oversees a food-packaging business and lives in Hillsborough, California.
Maria Lourdes “Baby” Goyena Herrera, the vice president of an industrial park, who lived in Manila, the Philippines, and died of complications from COVID-19 on March 31, 2020, at the age of 61.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Julie Beck: Who was Baby Herrera?
Mary-Ann Ortiz-Luis: She was born several months after her older brother died. When her mother was pregnant with her, they were going to migrate to the United States. But then there was a terrible car accident. Her brother died, and both parents were in the hospital for a week or so. Because of the tragedy, they were so heartbroken; they did not want to leave anymore. So they stayed in the Philippines. Several months later, Baby was born. She grew up like an only child.