As I post this entry, the nation is grieving for the peaceful demise of former president Corazon Aquino. At 3:18 am today, Mrs. Aquino died after a year-long battle with Stage 4 colon cancer. She was 76. Together with the Filipino people here and abroad, we offer our prayers and condolences to the family of Mrs. Aquino. She has now peacefully joined our Creator.
* * *
My brother-in-law has just been recently promoted as AVP-Cash Operations – Southern Luzon for Banco de Oro when the family tragedy happened. He was in Naga for a 3-day inspection of the area. It was July 23, when the shocking news of my his untimely death came in as a late night phone call at home. I was talking to my girlfriend on the cellphone when my mom called from downstairs and said that I have a phone call. I told her that I’d call her later. When I answered the landline phone, it was my cousin in a distraught tone. I knew immediately that something was not right since it was unusual for my cousin to call at that time. I asked her, “Chu, baket? Ano problema?” She answered, “Joey, si Kuya Romy… inatake sa puso… Nasa Naga siya ngayon.” I asked how it happened, how he was, and if his family already knew. Apparently, my cousin was called by a former colleague who was with my bro-in-law when it happened. She replied, “Wala na siya. Di ko masabi kay Ate May pati sa mommy mo kasi alam mo namang may heart condition din siya.” She said that my bro-in-law had just finished playing basketball and was already resting when he suddenly collapsed and had seizures. I told her to confirm this first before relaying the message to his family. Five minutes later, the phone rang. It was my sister crying uncontrollably, repeatedly saying, “Joey, inatake sa puso si Romy!” At that same time, I can hear my niece’s voice in the background frantically crying out “Papa!”.
I had to shout for my mom downstairs to help me comfort my sister over the phone at the same time, making sure that she would not go hysterical as well. After grabbing some extra clothes, my mom and I rushed to my sis’ house in Pasig.
When we arrived, my niece hugged us while crying. My sister was still trying to get in touch with people who were with my brother-in-law when it happened when I told my niece to get some rest and that I’d sleep beside her. She kept on muttering, “Babalik pa si Papa! Hindi nya ko iiwan! Sabi niya uuwi siya e.” It felt painful hearing those words from her. She was still in a state of denial. I dozed off for a while and woke up around 4 am. Noticing that my niece was already fast asleep and that the light in the master’s bedroom was still open, I went there. They were already discussing arrangements with the funeral parlor. With no need for words, I hugged my sister and she started crying again. The harsh reality started to set in…
It was almost 8 am. My mom, sis and I were still in the bedroom exchanging stories when my niece woke up and came in the room. She asked casually, “San na si papa?” My sister bravely told her the truth, “Coleen, wala na si papa…” Upon hearing those words, it’s as if her world collapsed and she was trapped in a terrible nightmare. Hysterical crying was instant. I tried to fought back the tears as I saw them crying again. My mom and sis had to leave for a while to go to Arlington (East) here in Pasig so I was left there with my inconsolable niece. I just hugged her and let her cry out while she was repeatedly saying, “Ang unfair nya! Sabi nya uuwi siya. Bat nya kami iniwan…” I told her to cry out all her pains, but eventually she needed to be strong not only for herself but for her mom as well.
Coordinating with some of his relatives in Naga, the local funeral parlor, and Banco de Oro, the body was shipped to Manila friday evening. When the family, together with some close friends were informed by Arlingon Memorial that everything was set, we settled into the area and braced for the opening of the casket. When it was opened, my sister went hysterical again and had to be restrained by 3 of her friends. I was with my niece who was sobbing quietly and refused to be comforted by others. It was such a heartbreaking scene.
Over the next several days, throngs of visitors, friends, colleagues from PCI/EquitablePCI/BDO flocked to Arlington, offering prayers and condolences. During those times, there were some light moments of laughter especially when sharing happy memories.
It was early Tuesday morning when we had to pack up so that the body will be transferred to Liliw, Laguna, where he will spend another day before he will be buried.. his final resting place… his hometown. My sister said that it was her husband’s wish that he be buried there.
Now that he’s gone, I’m now staying with my sister and niece taking over the “father duties” as much as I can… as long as I can. And I’m praying that God give them the strength to move on as they face another chapter in their lives. I know Kuya Romy is now peacefully and eternally happy.