Old Friend

Hello friend.

First of all, I know it is your birthday tomorrow. Don’t be impressed that I remember that after all these years. It is just because you shared the same birthdate with my father, that’s why I cannot forget.

I know we have not seen each other in person for several years. But it is not a reason that we have not stayed in touch as friends. After all, we’ve known each other since our “uhugin” days of childhood. We even had that matching yellow shirt that we would often wear at the same time when we were kids, as if we were twins.

We played together. We ate together. We even got lost once together in a farm. We were so small then and cannot see beyond the tall plantation. But you told me that we should kneel down and pray right there in the rice field. After that, we eventually found our way back.

Remember how we played those tau-tauhan or toy soldiers? We would stand them up in the dirt while we were on our hands and knees on the ground, and we’ll hit them with marbles as if it was a war. I think I could hit more than you. And I’ll rub it in, mas asintado ako sa iyo.

Our lives were intertwined, as our families were good friends. We would go to parks and other places together. Remember how we would fit our two families in our “Ford Cortina” – all 4 adults and 6 young kids in one car? Who cares about seatbelts? Those were the good ole days.

Then your family decided to migrate to Papua New Guinea. I was sad that you were leaving us, but happy for you and your family that you would be going to a new country and pursuing a “better” life.

Yet you still came back a couple of times to the Philippines for a visit. You told me about your experience riding that big airplane and crossing the ocean. I was so envious! You told me how excited you were in going down the stairs of the plane that you slipped and almost fell down the tarmac.

Then after a few more years I heard that your family would be migrating to the US from Papua New Guinea. Again I was happy for you and your family for another new adventure. Though I honestly was saddened, as the chances that you would come back to live in the Philippines and we’ll be together again was nil.

But tadhana smiled again and our path crossed once more. Several years later I was given the chance to go to the US too. I remember how you and your family welcomed me with open arms. I even stayed in your place for a short time. You showed me around California in your new Toyota Camry. Your family toured me to Disneyland. And you even took me shopping for some muffler and gloves, as you learned I was going to New York City in the dead of winter to have an interview.

Then I too was able to chase my American dream.

One day you called and told me that you are quitting your job. Your stable, high-paying job. And that you were going to South America with your family as missionaries. I was surprised. But more so, I was so impressed with your admirable faith. I know it’s not easy to give up the comforts and luxuries of life, and leave everything behind, in the name of God’s higher calling. I don’t know if I can do the same.

I understand it took you some time getting used to the change. You told me how remote your location was in South America. That you live almost like in a jungle, and your home was like living in a big tree house. And how it would take you a couple of days to travel to the nearest city. Yet you never forget to call me once in a while when you have the chance. I know you can only make that overseas call whenever you’re in the city.

I heard you say that even though how meager your resources were and how simple your life was, you told me, that you love working in God’s mission. What a remarkable dedication. I have nothing but respect for you.

Then more than a couple of years ago, I learned that you and your family came back to the US. Though I understand, you were still live-in volunteers in a small Christian academy. At least you don’t have to fight anymore, those pesky mosquitoes and poisonous snakes that sneak inside your home.

Once in a while we’ll talk about our families over the phone. And how we would open up about our “little” problems raising our family, just like any parents have. I called you few weeks ago, and I told you that I would be praying for you and your family. I also got your “thank you” card about two weeks ago.

Then I got a phone call from your sister yesterday. What an awful news! A heartbreaking news. That you had a tragic car accident. And in an instant, you were gone.

I don’t know what to think. My finite mind cannot rationalize it. I don’t know why God called you home too soon. But I just have to trust Him. As you always did.

I cannot imagine how your family and children are taking this. I am praying for them. I would continue to support them in whatever way I can, just like I promised you the last time we talked.

I guess I will never hear your voice again. We will never have that heart to heart talk again. At least not here on earth. But hoping someday, somewhere, beyond this earth…….

Goodbye my old friend.

IMG_5013

(*in loving memory of Boying)

(**photo taken with an iPhone)

 

 

Huling Paalam

Paalam na sa mga kamay na nag-ugoy sa ‘king duyan,

Nag-aruga, kumupkop, humaplos at nagpatahan,

Mga kamay na gumabay sa aking mga unang hakbang,

Hanggang sa lumaki’t naging responsableng mamamayan.

 

Paalam na sa mga paang walang pagod sa pagsunod,

Humahabol sa akin para ‘di mahulog at matalisod,

Hanggang sa ako’y makatayong matatag at matayog,

Mga paang wala rin sawang ako’y iniluluhod.

 

Paalam na sa mga matang laging mapagmasid,

Mula sa aking kamusmusan, ako’y inilayo sa panganib,

Mga matang dumanas din ng luha at pasakit,

Ngunit ngayo’y nagpahinga na at tahimik nang pumikit.

 

Paalam na sa mga labi na sa aki’y humalik,

Humimok, pumuri, at sa aki’y tumangkilik,

Mga labing ‘di rin nagkulang sa bigay na pangaral,

At lagi akong sambit sa kanyang mga dasal.

 

Paalam na sa mga tengang sa akin ay duminig,

Mula sa sangol kong iyak, hanggang sa lumaking tinig,

Nakinig sa aking mga talumpati, awit, hikbi, at hinaing,

Ang tulang handog na ito, sana ay iyong marinig.

 

Paalam na sa pusong labis na nagmahal,

Sa akin at pati na rin sa aking mga minamahal,

Ang pusong ito, ngayon ay tuluyan nang namayapa,

Ngunit pag-ibig na dulot ay hindi maluluma.

 

Paalam na, paalam na, o aking ina,

Alam kong hindi na tayo muling magkikita,

Kundi doon na sa pinagpalang bagong umaga,

Doon kayo, pati na ni ama’y, muling makakasama.

slide.001

(*this poem was written and read for my mother’s eulogy)

Goodbye Big Brother

It was his last day with us. After spending several years with our family, that feels like a lifetime, we had to say goodbye to him. As we were driving him to his destination, my son, who actually grew up with him, lovingly said, “Goodbye big brother.”

But before you feel terribly sad, I am just talking about our car.

Our family car, a Honda SUV, was getting old. We bought it 11 years ago, and took it home a few days before my son was born. In fact it was brand new when my newborn son rode home in it from the hospital. We were still living in Florida at that time. We rode in it when we moved to Iowa, and kept it all these years.

CIMG3946_3

In this day and age that many people change cars as often as they change their clothes, it is hard to get attached to a car. But I guess we are different. Though I read a recent article that due to slower US economy, many Americans are keeping their cars longer.

My father, when we were in the Philippines, kept our family car, a Ford Cortina, for more than 20 years. We drove it until it cannot run anymore (see previous post here). Come to think of it, we got it when I was 2 years old, and I even used it to take my girlfriend, my eventual wife, on a date. Too bad my son will not have the chance to take his “big brother” dating.

Back to our Honda, we drove it to parks, markets, church, school, office, hospital, gym, concerts. music practice, birthday parties, weddings, and funerals.  We have taken it on vacations, camping, hiking, and long road trips. From the urban jungle of New York City to the wilderness of Wyoming. From sunny roads of Florida to the snowy highways of Minnesota, and many other states in between. We even drove it out of the US to Canada, from Niagara Falls to Quebec.

IMG_0450

It did not just carry us to places and destinations, but it also carried our stuff, like our luggage, tents, bikes, and other equipments. It even carried our Christmas trees every year from the tree farm to our home. Yes, it carried a ton load of memories.

IMG_3637

But after 11 years of faithful service and with almost 170,000 miles, one day a warning indicator light went off. We brought it to the local car dealer, and after doing diagnostics, they told us that it needed a new transmission and some other parts that need to be replaced. And how much would that cost us? $7000 in total. Ouch!

Then we asked the dealer how much can we trade it in for? We were told that it was valued at about $3000. And the value will not increase even if we have it repaired. Are you kidding me? It would be more expensive to repair it than to trade it in! Where’s the logic in that?

That’s when we decided that it is time to let it go. “Let it go, let it go! Can’t hold it back anymore…(ala Disney’s Frozen)…..Let it go, let it go, you’ll never see me cry.” Sorry I got carried away.

It was cold and blustery that night. We parked it in the dealer’s parking lot. I took a final photo of it with my kids. After doing our final silent “ceremony” with it, we said goodbye to our car.

As we were driving away, I looked at the rear view mirror and took a last glance of it as we left it there in the cold. I felt a certain sadness. I swear, I thought it waved goodbye back.

But the sadness was mixed with excitement, as I hear the roar of the engine of our new playmate. Vroooom!

IMG_3430

Hello there!

 

 

Lullaby and Stairway to Heaven

If you are in an airport you would probably hear an announcement like this: “Flight 201 to Manila, now boarding in gate 7.”

If you are in a grocery store it maybe something like this: “Assistance needed for price check in counter 3.”

If you are in a hotel it may be similar to this: “Ms. Nely Ligaw, please meet your party at the lobby.”

Those overhead announcements are clear and you know exactly what they are calling for.

However, if you happen to visit a hospital, you may hear announcements on the public address system that you have no idea what’s going on, like: “Code Blue in room North 357.”

In case you are wondering what they are about, here are some of the announcements in the hospital and what they mean. Different hospital systems though have different codes, but here is what we have in ours.

Code Blue: a call for a patient that needs immediate attention and resuscitation, like in cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest. (From my standpoint this is the most common call I run to.)

Code Red: there is fire

Code Green: a call to help subdue a patient or somebody with aggressive or combative behavior

Code Silver: a call to find a missing patient

Code Black: there is a bomb threat

Code Pink: a call for pediatric emergency or obstetrical emergency

Of course there are also announcements that don’t need to be decoded, like “Dr. Stork, please call Labor and Delivery,” or “Level 1 Trauma in the Emergency Room now.”

Recently, our hospital adopted a practice of playing a song over the public address system that perplexed me, at least in the beginning.

I was making my hospital rounds one morning with the medical residents when a lullaby, the first riff of “Rock-a-bye Baby,” was played on the overhead paging system. Were they trying to lull the patients to sleep? But it was the wrong time of the day! A lullaby can only make me and the other doctors who are already sleep deprived, more sleepy.

The residents then told me, maybe after seeing my confused look, that the lullaby song was a public proclamation that a baby was just born. Now, it make sense. A lullaby to herald a baby into this world. Since then I have been hearing “Rock-a-bye Baby” being played overhead several times.

As we take care of the critically ill patients, especially in the ICU, and we deal more of deaths than births, my residents and I wonder if we should also play something overhead when a patient passed away, like the tolling of the bells.

A child’s birth is a happy occasion, and the hospital can be proud to announce that kind of event. I don’t think you can say the same with a patient dying. I see a reason why a hospital would not like that to be made public. Yet death is a normal occurrence, especially in the hospital, and is a reality of life.

If they would play a song for every death, then what song would it be? Maybe a bugle call like “Taps.” Or perhaps a hymn like “Nearer my God to Thee.” Or maybe a beloved song like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

One medical intern, who is perhaps a student of classic rock, jokingly suggested “Stairway to Heaven.” I smiled at his suggestion and told him that I like his idea.

I don’t mean to disrespect the dead and their memory, nor do I mock Led Zeppelin and classic rock. My point only is that perhaps we can play something in honor of those who depart, just like we play a lullaby to welcome those who enter this world.

But maybe a lullaby can also be played for the departed, as we bid them a final goodnight.

*******

Here’s Chloe Agnew’s (Celtic Woman) version of Brahms’s Lullaby.

Goodnight Kuya Boy: A Eulogy

(Since I started this blog, we have experienced some deaths in our family and friends that I have mentioned here. Few days ago we lost another friend, who is more than a family. This piece was read on his Eulogy.)

My wife and I are adopted children of Kuya Boy’s family. Albeit unofficial. And I know there are many of you here as well.

We came to know Kuya Boy and Ate Angie when we first arrived from the Philippines, and moved to Morristown, New Jersey. That was almost 20 years ago. Time flies indeed.

Malou was just a little girl and still wears pigtails on her hair. And Joe…..was already Joe, with his “pretty boy” image, as he still is today.

Having no immediate family closer than 8000 miles away, Kuya Boy’s family became our instant family.

When we didn’t have a car yet, Kuya Boy’s white van became our official ride. Every weekend they would go out of their way from their home in Livingston, to pick us up in Morristown, so we can attend the Fililpino Church.

With Kuya Boy, Ate Angie, and their kids, John, Mark, Melissa, Joe, and Malou, there was still room for my wife and I in their van. In fact if there’s two more that need a ride, they probably would make a room for them too.

That’s what Kuya Boy is all about. There is always room for you, irregardless of space and circumstances.

When we don’t have any “happening,” Kuya Boy’s house was our “happening.” We don’t need any reason to party. Any day was good enough to hang-out in their home and party.

That’s how Kuya Boy is. Any day is a good day for celebration.

Kuya Boy may not speak much. In fact, I remember him silently nodding off or down right sleeping, while sitting in a corner. Perhaps due to working too many long hours to provide for his growing family as he was such a hard worker, and we all know that. But when he speaks, you better listen. Because they are words of wisdom.

Kuya Boy will do anything you ask of him with no questions. During the Sing Men days, our male chorale group, Kuya Jun, our conductor, would ask him to sing bass, and he’ll sing bass. He would ask him to sing baritone, he would sing baritone. Sing second tenor, he would gladly do so. First tenor? He was one of the most booming first tenor I’ve ever heard. And Kuya Jun would ask him to soften up a little or he would drown all our voices.

That’s what Kuya Boy is. Accommodating and versatile.

When we had no home – yes, there was a time we were homeless, when I was in-between work for several months – Kuya Boy’s home became our home. Kuya Boy and Ate Angie lovingly took us in, even letting us sleep in their own bedroom. They sheltered us and fed us, expecting nothing in return.

This just show you how Kuya Boy is. His home is your home too.

And during that time that I was jobless, broke and had no money, Kuya Boy and Ate Angie would even hand us money, saying it was for my daughter’s needs, who was two years old at that time. I know that they were not rich by the world’s standard. They just have enough. But they were rich in love.

Yes, Kuya Boy and Ate Angie shared that love. Love that was overflowing.

When we left New Jersey several years ago, it was a sad farewell. And even though we moved on to a new State and a new home, we kept in touch with them and their children, our adoptive family. Somehow, we left our hearts here in New Jersey.

Now, these hearts are broken.

Only three years ago, we said our final goodbye to Ate Angie (see post here). Today, we say goodbye to Kuya Boy.

Somehow New Jersey for us will never be the same place that we know. In fact, its not just New Jersey, but our world will never be the same without them.

Yes we weep for this loss, yet in the same time we celebrate their lives, and the privilege of once in our life time, we came to know them.

Good night Kuya Boy. We’ll see you, with Ate Angie, in that great new morning.

IMG_2749