Not SM Stories
For most of you, as you've mentioned to me in the many conversations I had in the last few days -- you'll remember my dad as the man in SM, seated just outside Mandarin, always with a ready smile despite his advanced years. While that will always be a memory for me too, those are the years I will now try to forget for those where the same years where he was already sick, when each day would be a gasp for life, each step and breath getting more difficult. No daughter or son would ever want to see that or remember that of their parent.
Instead, I'll have sweet memories of my dad in his pre-SM days, some of which I'd like to share with you now...
He taught me love for nature and it's beauty. As a kid, most of you probably had dogs for pets, right? I had that and then some. Because he was into cockfighting for a time, we had roosters at home and I was his self-proclaimed mini-assistant -- so he taught me how to take care of them, and I can actually handle a rooster quite well. I even had a pet rooster called Piyok, who was the remaining half of a Siamese twin and therefore couldn't fly and just walked around in funny circles til he died. I also had pet turtles, which I kept in my pocket and even took to school in a small Snoopy sling bag, which we found while walking to the sawmill plant, where he used to work. Talking about walks, we also used to take walks from our house in Juna to Times Beach with the dogs or sometimes to swim (for it was still clean then) specially when I had colds and used the sea water as salinase. I think those memories are the reason why, even now, I walk and run not just for exercise but also as a way to clear my head and be at peace with myself.
In a way, while my mom taught me my ABCs, he taught me love for reading by having so many books lying around the house. Books I wasn't even supposed to read at that time given my age then, but which I did and therefore opened my mind to different worlds beyond the confines of Davao. Think of the combination of authors like Leon Uris, Mario Puzo, Corrie Ten Boom or even Harold Robbins or books like Chariots of the Gods - which I all read in grade school together with my borrowed Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys from the school library. Maybe that's why I read two to three books at a time now and have quite an eclectic reading taste and book selection.
"Believe you me, Jennifer!" were his frequent words to me as a teenager.... A way to make me shut up and listen and for him to win an argument for I was a highly opinionated child. I still am! And so are my kids! I guess the love for a good debate runs in our blood.
Most of all, he, together with my mom, taught me, my brother Topet, and sister Cacay. - graciousness even in times of difficulty, sharing whatever it is that you have, transparency in living one's life. Ours was a financially difficult life growing up but we always had an open house - where people go to before and after school, or mass at San Pablo where daddy was a lector-commentator, or BNP activities where he was active, or work. Every day was almost a party -- if there's food, then we eat, if there's none, then it's just good conversations. For many of our friends, our house was a refuge with my parents as older barkada* cum guidance counsellors. For their friends, it was a quick or sometimes not to quick pit stop as they go about their daily lives. I guess, this is also the reason why in the last few years of his life, he loved going to SM - perhaps to relive the days in Juna where there were always people dropping by to say hello.
So you see, I can go on and on about those years not spent in SM. The way he taught me how to play chess, remove a garapata** from a dog's hair/feet/ears/etc, etc and those are my sweet memories of my dad that I choose to remember. I enjoin all of you to do the same so that we can celebrate my father's life, and not his death.
I thank my sister Cacay, for always being there for him, specially in his twilight years. You were always his favorite, you know, and perhaps that's also why you stayed in Davao. Don't let your heart be heavy with the thought of not being with him till the very last. Rather, because you were his favorite, he opted not to do so -- so that you may not have that memory of his dying moments.
Brother, when I look at you I see daddy but without hair. I thank you for being here today despite the many challenges. Don't think of the lost years away but rather recall the ones we spent together with him - the good, more than the bad.
Mother, please stop smoking! You are really sometimes as stubborn as him so maybe that's also why it didn't work out. Let go of the pain, and just remember the handsome student-actor Espanyol you fell in love with. Where he is now, he is devoted to you.
Death does not end a life, but it starts a new one. In the last few days, we got to meet so many people - his high school friends, SM barkada*, even relatives we didn't know of; and heard so many stories of a life well-lived. That in itself is a beginning of a different life which I hope will continue rather than end today. I thank you all for coming, for your kind words, that brought us comfort.
Even as today is a very sad one, I am at the same time happy for my father is with a new life -- one without pain anymore, and one where he can breathe easily. I pray that God opens the gates of heaven and make his new life much easier now. I can imagine him doing his tai-chi again, sharing cockfight stories with St Peter, or maybe even taking care of some roosters up there with my sister Carmelita, and arguing the hell out of Abuelito***, Abuelita*** and even Tito Rolly and Tita Jet. These thoughts put a smile on my face.
Believe you me, Father! We love you and will surely miss you but we are happy that you are in a much better place now. Rest well. Inhale and exhale all you can.
* Barkada: Filipino word for friends, group mates
** Garapata: Filipino word for animal ticks
*** Abuelito / Abuelita: Spanish for grandpa and grandma
About this Eulogy: I wrote this eulogy on my iPad early morning of May 8, 2012, the day of my father's interment. My father, Angel Nilo Joven Santamarina (Sept 26, 1938 - May 3, 2012) lived a challenging life of paradoxes.