I forgot what time I woke up on New Year’s Day. All I can remember is that we had a great lunch with my sister Ling and her family at our home. I cooked “nilagang baboy” for lunch and I’m proud with what I did. I already have that confidence of cooking. Our “handa” for the New Year were all instant. Bam-i, fried chicken, lumpia and fruit salad were all prepared by me with the help of my cousin Jan2x. I also bought fruits, chiffon cake, a loaf of bread and soft drinks. My father was not feeling well that time. So I just asked permission from him if jan2x and I can watch the fireworks display at the downtown and he didn’t hesitate to say yes. So there we are meeting the new year with the spectacular fireworks display sponsored by the city government of Tagum. We headed home immediately and ate our Buena Noche.
On the second day of January, I spent my day watching movies. It’s our bonding moments with my family. I watched The Pelican Brief and One Day. I repeatedly watched those movies, and still I’m impressed and touched by their stories. Tatay was not feeling well. He had mild fever and he had difficulty in breathing. It’s a sad picture to see your father fighting that way. I just don’t make him feel I pity him. It’s more painful on our side to hear him cough so hard and chase his breath. It’s been years since my father suffered from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). It’s irreversible, which means it cannot be cured. All the patient needs is to relax and live healthy. But that’s not what my father was doing. He was a man who doesn’t want to just stay in one corner and do nothing. He was always on the move. At our humble home, he would prefer fix anything, look for firewood, attend to his small garden, drink coffee often and smoke perpetually. It’s the lifestyle he used to have.
I told him that I have to go back to Davao since I have to finish checking the papers, prepare for my exam on Saturday, and other commitments. He told me to text my sister to bring the nebulizer and some ventolin solution for obvious reasons. It was not new to us to see our father in that condition. As matter of fact few years ago, he really asked us my younger brother to bring him to the hospital since he had difficulty in breathing. I would rush to go home and bring him to the Davao Regional Hospital for check-up and for some medications. Since his illness is irreversible, he was not admitted. The doctor will just advise the nurse that “paasohan siya.” It means inhaling ventolin solution through a nebulizer and after that, they will tell us that we can go home, buy the prescribed meds, let him take a good rest, stop smoking and drinking liquors. It’s a routinely advice not only from the doctors but most especially from us, his loved ones.
It was early in the evening when I left home. He even asked me if I can suspend my desire go back to Davao the following day. But I didn’t listen to him. I was stubborn with my decision; I headed back to Davao that evening.
The following day, my students and I jogged at the old airport. It’s a routine I usually do when I have free time in the morning. After lunch, I went to school and checked some papers. After a dozen of papers, my eyes were tired already and I remember John Grisham’s book The Testament which I’m about to finish reading. And indeed I finished it. It has a heart-warming end. It’s hard to believe but there are really people in this world who are not driven with money. That afternoon also, my cousin Jan2x has been texting me if I could text my mother since my father has been looking for her. Tatay was worried if classes will resume, no one will attend to his needs since Jan2x will be going to school. So I called my mother immediately and asked her to go home as soon as possible. She was hesitant at first but I convinced her though. I wanted to go home that moment immediately but my mind is telling me that I still have exams in a couple of days. I texted my siblings that Tatay was not feeling well when I left home last night. We’ve been calling each other about the situation of my father. My sister Ling and her husband Tata brought the nebulizer already and Tatay had his ventolin inhalation when I left. I already have mixed emotions about the situation of my father. “This is not like the one before. It’s graver now.” I told myself. Still, I didn’t go home.
I called my mother again the following day and she promised to be home the soonest as she can. Meanwhile, my younger brother PJ has been calling me already to check my father’s situation. I was not feeling okay that day already even though I still managed to meet my college friend and discuss some things about our graduate studies.
Saturday came, January 5, the first text I received was not from my cousin Jan2x, or from my siblings. The message was from my professor telling me if I can tell my classmates that he can’t meet us that day. I was disgusted since our exam is one of the reasons why I came back to Davao that early but still I forwarded the messages to my classmates. I decided to go home immediately but seeing my laundry, I was tempted to wash some of them since I need them fresh when classes start after two days. While washing my clothes, I already have that feeling that any minute of this day I will receive any news (sad ones were on my mind) from Tagum. That’s intuition I think. When I was done, I checked my cp and I was nervous with what I had seen. 7 missed calls and several messages. I don’t want to think that my apprehension was true. But it was. My knees were trembling when I read my sister’s text message for me:
“yobs morning. anhi balay karn daun ya wla na tatay. Wla na ni mata c tatay namugnaw na. anhi daun yobs. 9:58 AM, Jan 5”
It’s a text message that you don’t want to receive. I wanted to shout and to cry as loud as I can but I suppressed myself. I forwarded the message to my siblings and my older brother immediately called me. And as I asked him about the message, he said it was really true. Our father was gone. I couldn’t hold my tears anymore. I sob while talking to him. I called my younger brother PJ and he was already crying when he answered the phone. I took a deep breath to feed my body with right amount of oxygen to help me focus. I had to be focused. I’m still 60 kilometers away, and I need to pack my things and leave. Not to mention that I need to bring some money. The Christmas and New Year was just over and that means funds were drained. And I am one of those millions of unbanked Filipinos, workers who do not have enough savings or no savings at all. I called for some help and God is so good to provide people to help me in times of needs. I just grab few clothes and asked permission from my uncle that I have to go home. Kuya Dennis was aslo stunned by the news. I was living with the cousins of my father.
My sister Ting with her daughter baby Ting and I met at Panacan bus stop. It’s awkward moment. Neither she nor I wanted to talk about it. Silence prevailed all throughout the duration of the trip. Along the way, I texted people who are closest to me about what had happen and I told them not to call me. It’s the moment that you don’t want to talk to anyone. The idea of questioning anybody, even God why this thing happens eats up my mind. “****, why is this happening?” I keep asking myself in disgust. When we arrived home, we cried even harder. We leaned on the shoulders of my older brother and wept.
The body of my father was in the morgue already and we have to fix things. You cannot just cry out loud and grief the whole time. We are living in a culture where dead will be placed properly and even settle in a manner which we consider a civilized one. And we had to move since no one will do it for us. I went to the funeral parlor and transact the necessary things to be done. And it’s not easy you know. When finally my father’s body was embalmed and was placed in a casket, I accompany the funeral car going back to our home where we decided that the wake of my father will be done. It’s a scene you really don’t want to be into.
More crying, sobbing and weeping followed during the 8-day wake. There were people numerous people who showed support for us, morally and financially. Everytime I look at the white-coffin where my father lies, I cry. He is should not be there yet. But there are things beyond our control. And it’s difficult to accept that thought.
Yes, we all know we are going to die. We expected that it could happen to our father anytime especially that he has incurable disease. But when that point will arrive, you cannot just live to your expectations. You will be stunned why those things happen and it still feels so unexpected. Suddenly, you will be stricken by the thought that YES, YOU’RE FATHER IS GONE…forever here on earth. And that thought not only saddens me but left me a hollow deep within myself which I think no one can replace. We may have hundreds of friends, many lovers, even couple of spouses, but we only have one father. The idea alone that Tatay is gone sucks me. We will never have those moments again to eat together, to watch movies together, to plainly talk each other, even to argue with each other, or simply doing the households chores together. I wish we could have more laughter together with his grandchildren. I wish I can have more time with him. I wish I should have listened to him. I wish could make him feel more that life is beautiful and I thank him for that.
Life has to go on they say. Well, it’s easier said than done. Even though I spent the rest of January going back to work, watch movies with friends, having field trip, volleyball games, dinner outside, the feeling is not the same anymore. Everytime I’m alone, the thought of what happened to my father stupefy me. I missed him. We all missed him. You cannot just rationalize everything. You cannot just explain or reason out why things happen. And most especially, you cannot easily accept why things happen that way.
“Tay, salamat sa tanan-tanan. I’m so sorry for everything. May you find peace and happiness wherever you are now. God bless you! We love you…”