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I can’t believe that 8 years have passed since my Tatay was laid to rest and went back to Our Creator. 8 years … and the pain and sadness of the loss still leave me speechless from unshed tears ,words left unsaid and heart full of regrets.

My Tatay succumbed to complications of Lung cancer on February 24, 2004. When i look back, i thought i understood it all. Why it happened, of all people, to him? He, who’s the strength of my family, the happiness of my mother and children, the inspiration of many, the help of the poor and those who were inflicted with injustice. My father is no lawyer nor he is a very rich man. But he lived his life caring for and loving his family in whichever way he can and  rallied round the less fortunate ones.

I have hundreds of memories of my father ever since God gave me the wisdom to remember. I  cannot remember him being cruel or getting angry with me except that one time when he almost spanked me as a kid because i was being a brat that i rolled my little self down on the floor and hollered hard. That was the first and the last… and i wasn’t even hurt.

When we were kids, my parents never surrounded us with all the trendiest things in life. Not all but things that were enough to make us happy as children.They both taught us  to be contented with what we have and that we can live and be happy with just some things.  Some of  the most valuable moments were the times we’ve spent together, when we were young, as a whole family, playing Poker Keno, fighting over Atari games, whoever got to use the Speak and Spell first, reading  Komiks , playing Hide and Seek when there was no electricity, taking us on trips, watching lunar eclipse together, etc, etc. We were never really hungry for things … and that’s partly because of him.

Tatay taught me how to be strong, to stand my ground when I know I’m  right. With his life, i found out that friends will come and go. Only true friends will remain… those who’ll stand by you even in the toughest of times. He showed us to forgive those who have wronged and hurt you; to be a blessing to other people and share what you have; to rely on one another during hard times. ….when one stagger,stand up with head held high… to be humble at all times, to live simply  and to have deep relationship with God.

Work and politics may have eaten a lot of my father’s time as we grow older but we never missed him because he was always there whenever we came home from school. Whenever we need him, he was always there. He stood by us and he never allowed us to glimpse his pain in every aspects of his fruitful life. For us, he was that pillar… the lighthouse that guided us… an icon who inspired us, and whose memories and good deeds inspire me still. My heart swells with pride whenever i meet someone who sings his praise, people who received his help during the difficult moments of their lives. He offered kindness without asking for anything in return. And i am one proud daughter.

I know Tatay was not without flaws. He had his faults and made a lot of mistakes like we all do. But for me He’s perfect … the best father in the world… and he will be forever remembered as such. And always, i will be grateful to God for making him a part of us.

I rummaged through my mother’s most precious and treasured photo albums and here, i compiled some … a celebration of his life.

with my 3 older siblings, Kuya Jojo, Kuya Ariel and Ate Anna

His first years in Cursillo. He's the one on the topmost row, 3rd from left

A Kursilista till the end

He inherited my grandfather's love for politics. He served as a councilor in the 70's.

Tatay was happy being with people even those who were strangers to him.

With the late Senator Ramon Mitra. They were both "sabungeros". And they were talking about it in this one...i'm sure.

I didn't know why i didn't inherit his confidence and talent in public speaking. Each time, he spoke what was truly in his heart. Lots of time, people were moved to tears...including me.

He's at his happiest when surrounded with his family especially his grandchildren.

Many years ago, i learned about Walt Whitman’s poem from the movie Dead Poets Society, O Captain ! My Captain ! And this was aptly written for people like my father.

O CAPTAIN ! MY CAPTAIN !

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!

This arm beneath your head;

It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

But I, with mournful tread,

Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.

As Morrie said in the novel by Mitch Albom :

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

And i knew that Tatay had a meaningful life and lived his purpose. And why can we never forget him… why we love him so? Because…

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”  – Tuesdays with Morrie

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