“Hindi ka pa pwedeng mamatay. Ihahatid mo pa ako sa altar sa kasal ko.”
These were my exact words to my Tatay while he was in the ICU on my birthday in 2008. The night before, I was partying with my friends and my Tatay sent me a lengthy text message to greet me happy birthday. The next day, he complained of chest pains and they had to bring him to the hospital. I took the first available flight to Davao to be with him, and that was the first thing I told him when I visited him in the ICU. Hindi pa siya puwedeng mamatay… Not yet.
Two weeks after, I was already in Manila when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. We talked on the phone and he said, “Bibigyan kita ng two years (to find a groom). Hanggang 2010 lang ako.”
He died on May 2, 2010.
I was never close with my father. I don’t remember having heart-to-heart conversations with him, or me telling him about my dreams, my heartaches, my failures and victories. We weren’t built that way. But I do recall having moments with him…
Like that one night when he was drinking San Miguel in our terrace and I sat beside him and poured his beer on the glass I was holding. I told him I needed beer to help me with my monthly period and he asked, “Uubusin mo ba iyan?” because he was willing to get more beers in the ref.
I also remember the day he accompanied me when I transferred to UP Diliman and he was with me as I enlisted in all of my subjects. Nakikipila din siya para sa akin.
I never saw my father hit my mother. Nor any of my siblings. My mother told us Tatay was different from other fathers because he never hurt us physically. But he did hit me twice. He spanked me when I was eight because he heard me say the Visayan word for fuck (which I just heard from the wash-your car boys in the area). And he shoved me on the head when I was in college for reasons I can’t remember anymore.
Wala man kaming intimate father-daughter relationship, wala naman akong matandaang incident wherein I hated him so much. Naiinis, oo. But then Tatay loved to annoy me and make me cry. Kapag natutulog ako, inaasar niya ako by continuously poking me or playfully pinching my face. Or when I was engaged in watching a TV show, he’d switch channels just to goad me. Whenever he was drunk, he just loved to tease us hanggang sa mabuwiset kami. Nanay said it was his way of trying to get our attention.
Other than his occasional pang-aasar and pangungulit, wala akong reklamo sa Tatay ko. Well, looking back, I wish we were more intimate. I wish we were open to each other. Sana andami kong nasabi at nakuwento sa kanya. I could have told him about my life in UP, para malaman niya na kahit na-uproot ako sa Davao and got separated with my friends, moving to Manila was the best decisions he made for me. I should have told him how proud I was of him, because he was able to send us all to good schools. I should have told him more often that I love him and appreciate everything he had done for me and to me.
My Tatay never dictated me nor controlled my life. He didn’t want me to take Creative Writing because he said, “walang pera sa pagsusulat” but since he knew writing was really my passion, hindi na siya komontra.
He didn’t want me to quit my corporate job and be a full-time TV writer because he felt I’d be more secure and stable in my previous company. Pero noong first time na lumabas sa TV ang pangalan ko, I heard he literally jumped and cheered with my pamangkins who were all waiting for my name to appear on TV. And since I started writing for the episodic Your Song, he’d text me every Sunday to ask. “Episode mo ba ngayon?” so he’d know kung manonood siya o hindi…
Only my close friends knew about my father’s cancer because I wanted everything to be normal. Ayoko kasing pag-usapan. Ayokong may magbago sa pakikitungo sa akin ng mga tao just because my father had cancer. And we never talked about it with him. He knew about his illness but we were all hopeful that he’d live longer – long enough for him to walk me in the aisle. Chemo was never an option because he was too old for that. He was already 74.
Knowing that his days were numbered, we all gave him what he wanted. Bawal daw ang matatamis sa mga may cancer but Tatay loved chocolates. And so we gave him chocolates. We even joked that if he wanted to smoke and drink beer, okay lang sa amin…
Because of a throat operation in November 2009, hindi na sya nakakapagsalita and he could only communicate by writing. And that’s the first thing I missed about him – his voice. Hindi ko na siya natatawagan sa phone. Dati, every night, I’d call him just to say goodnight.
He lost his laughter, too. Maybe because he was in so much pain. Maybe because he was too sick to laugh. Kaya on rare times that I’d see him smile, we’d cherish those moments. Proud pa ako kasi may isang beses noon na napatawa ko siya.
And eventually, he lost his interests in the things he used to love. He stopped watching TV. He stopped listening to his favorite radio station. And he stopped asking for dark chocolates or cakes or muffins.
And then last March, he lost his capacity to walk. We had to get him a wheelchair. But even getting out of his bed was too painful or tiresome for him.
Sabi ko nga, nabaliktad ang mundo. Kami ngayon ang nagpapakain at nag-aalaga sa Tatay ko. I’d prepare his meal at sinusubuan ko siya. And whatever it was we were doing, no matter what time it was, if he’d call us (by ringing the bell), we had to drop everything to attend to him.
Last March, we had another moment together. It was almost midnight and he couldn’t sleep. He was sitting on his bed and I was hugging him from behind. I asked him, “Pagod ka na, Tay?” he nodded. “Gusto mo na magpahinga?” He nodded again. I was already crying but I didn’t want him to know it… I tried to control my sob when I said, “Sige, magpahinga ka na… Okay lang kami.” And in silence, we stayed that way for how many minutes – me hugging him from behind while crying.
The day before he died, na ER ako sa Makati Med because of heartburn. Buti na lang hindi ako na-confine because I got a call from my mother asking me to go home. That same day, I went to Davao.
Naka day off ang caregiver pag weekend kaya salitan kami ng Nanay ko sa pagbantay sa Tatay ko noong Sabado, May 1. At 1130 pm, he said he was hungry and I asked him what he wanted to eat. Gusto daw nya ng Bear Brand cereal drink. Hindi man lang niya nakalahati ang drink niya and he told me to put it sa ref at iinumin niya next time.
Around 12 midnight, I slept and left my Nanay to watch him. Nagising ako around 230 and went to his room because I heard my Nanay talking to him. May nakikita na daw kasi ang Tatay ko, hindi niya kilala so my Nanay said, “Angel mo iyun, binabantayan ka…” Humiga ako sa tabi niya and held his hand, while my Nanay held his other hand. He didn’t want us to leave him so we stayed. He asked me if I could read the writings on the wall. I didn’t see anything. I started to cry… I knew his end was near.
When he started to mumble inaudibly, we assumed he was praying. It’s as though he was talking to someone. I held him tightly and whispered, “I love you, Tay. Thank you…”
Although he was having difficulty breathing and moving, he kept on asking me what time it was (through hand gesture) and I’d update him, “2:30” “3 o clock.” “4 na…” That time I thought he just wanted to know the time so he could take the medicine at 6am. Looking back, maybe he had a different reason why he kept on asking what time it was.
I told my Nanay to take a rest and sleep at ako na bahala sa Tatay ko so she slept around 4am. Kami na lang ng Tatay ko ang magkasama sa kuwarto. He was holding my hand, parang ayaw niya umalis ako sa tabi niya. I asked him if I should call my sister (who lives beside our house) and my brother and he shook his head.
Everything was so surreal after that. So surreal I couldn’t even describe it. All I knew is that around 5am, I saw the sun was already rising. He was lying, staring in a blank space, his hand between my two hands. I told him, “Tay, may araw na. Gusto mo tawagan ko na si Bru (my sister) at papuntahin dito?”
He didn’t answer. I thought maybe he was asleep. Asleep with his eyes wide open… I texted my sister and in a few minutes, she arrived. My Nanay woke up, too and went to his room. That would be the last time we’d see him alive…
I am writing this entry in the funeral homes, while everyone is asleep and I’m in front of my Tatay’s casket. Ilang beses akong tumigil sa pagsulat dahil sa humahagulgol ako.
I thought I was ready for this. We knew this would come and we told ourselves we’re okay with it… Pero nothing could really prepare you pala. I am crying because I miss him. I will miss him.
But I take comfort in the thought na hindi na siya nahihirapan ngayon. Na siguradong he is in a better and happier place, kung saan he can talk and laugh again. Kung saan walang pain, walang suffering.
He waited two years for me. He waited to bring me to the altar and see me get married. Hindi man niya nagawa iyun, I’d like to think that he was proud of what I have become, with or without a groom.
Sabi nila ang pinakamahirap at pinakamasakit na panahon daw ng mga namamatayan ay pagkatapos ng libing. Iyong uuwi ka ng bahay at wala na physically iyong taong mahal mo. Iyong everywhere you turn, whatever you do, you will always be reminded of that person.
Hindi ko alam paano ko haharapin iyun… Ngayon pa nga lang na kasama ko pa ang katawan niya sa iisang kuwarto, namimiss ko na siya ng sobra-sobra. Siguro dapat ko na lang isipin na although hindi ko na siya mayayakap, hindi ko na siya maririnig o makakausap, darating ang araw, magkikita din kami uli… makakasama ko din siya uli. Until then, it will be a daily struggle for me. I just have to find ways on how to cope with the loss and to continue living in a world where my Tatay no longer exists.