I know I am still grieving. Even though I smile and I laugh at things. My days are still tinged with sadness. But I will be okay.
I have told myself that whatever it was that I wanted to say, whatever it was that I never actually said to my uncle, if I send out in the universe, God will make it possible for my thoughts to reach my uncle. He will know how much he is loved, valued, oh-so-appreciated and respected. The regrets are counterproductive. It is good to acknowledge them, but it won’t be healthy to dwell on them. There is nothing that can be done about the things that I haven’t done. The opportunities have passed and I will have to trust that God will make my good plans and intentions known to Uncle Wawell.
The only way to honour him is to live the life that I am living, the life that he dreamed for me and all his nieces and nephews.
Carlos P Romulo personally asked him to join his team when Mr Romulo was appointed head of the Department of Education. Mr Romulo even sent someone to where they lived in Frisco to invite him to join him in government. Larry Henares called him an Islamic scholar. He was a proponent of the Ninth Ray campaign to introduce a ninth ray on the sun on the Philippine flag that sought to recognise the contribution to Philippine history and sovereignty by our Muslim brothers. He was highly regarded in the UP community and was well known as a poet, a writer, a scholar and a brilliant mind. He was a proud Filipino.
He was a political organism. He ran in circles with the great political thinkers and political personalities. I grew up with him saying he met with this person, or had coffee with that, and then I’d read the name in the newspapers. I know very little of his political involvement, only that he once ran for public office in Toledo, in Cebu. He didn’t win the election, but I have no doubt that had he been successful, he would have served with all his heart, only thinking of what was best for the constituents he served. He helped set up livelihood programs in various locations in the Philippines to help his countrymen improve their lives. He spent his years advocating Mindanao Muslims so that they were represented and respected as valuable, integral parts of the Philippine society, and not viewed as schismatic or separationists.
But to us, his nephews and nieces, he was simply Uncle Wawell. The uncle who wanted the best for his family. To me, especially, he was Koji. When I was little, he was the uncle who visited me and played with me. He allowed me to call him Koji because that was the name of the character he played in my dress up games. He even suffered a busted lip once because we played jump rope and my head hit his chin and he bit his lip. He was in pain, I’m sure, but he said he was okay.
I think he taught all of us how to play chess. I remember him telling me when I was looking at what piece to move that I needed to think, be strategic and plan. Little did I know he was trying to equip me for life. He was telling me that it was necessary to plan and to know where you wanted to go, what result you wanted to achieve and to consider carefully how you planned to get there. He loved his lists of things to do and enjoyed word games, particularly a good crossword puzzle. He loved a good chat and a cup of coffee, and he could talk about anything under the sun. He was brilliant like that. He believed in his nephews and nieces. He was our biggest fan and our biggest defender. He was someone who was always there if you needed to talk. He tried to give us everything we wanted, if he could. When he found out that I needed a portable typewriter for school projects, he just appeared at Don Jose one day with typewriter in hand…just because I needed one. He was like that. He once said that he would do everything to support his nieces and nephews, because he wanted us to realise our potential to make up for him not living up to the promise of his own potential. He loved us, in the way that he loved his brothers and sisters, deeply and completely.
Antonio Porchia said that “one lives in the hope of becoming a memory.” On Friday morning, I received the heartbreaking news that my Uncle Wawell passed away. Koji is no longer with physically with us. I will never hear him laugh or clear his throat, or hear him call his sisters Fems, Gards, Binggay or Jinks, which always made me smile. But he is with God and he is whole, healthy and no longer in discomfort. He said once to me that he never lived up to the promise of his potential. Oh but he did! He has contributed to everyone’s lives in more ways than he can imagine. He has made the lives of a multitude of people better. He has made his family feel valued, supported and important. His memory will live on through his family, his nieces and nephews and their children, and the people whose lives he touched.
We love you Koji. We are proud to call you our Uncle Wawell. You are remembered with pride and love.
You are my hero, my strength, my inspiration and my guiding light.
I am who I am and where I am because of everything you have done, risked and sacrificed. I will never be able to thank you enough. I am blessed because you love us and have always expressed it in word and deed so that we are never in doubt of it. And though we are not together, and your illness prevents you from being the Aba we know you to be, I see glimpses of the father I adore when you smile when we FaceTime and when you try to say our names and tell us you love us.
Arthur C. Clarke said “I’m sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.” I beg to differ.
In my opinion, Brigadier General Florencio A Medina had one of the most brilliant minds in the Philippines. He was a soldier in the armed forces of the Philippines and fought the Japanese in WWII, when he was captured, he endured the Japanese prison camp he was put in and survived it. He was instrumental in the development of what is now the Department of Science and Technology. He was a proponent of the Philippine Science High School (which paved the way for excellent and specialist science-centred-education and this gave a lot of Filipino students a chance to study in an excellent learning environment for free) and served as one of the early chairmen of the school board. He was the first Filipino to be elected chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He was a mathematician and a chemist and a published author.
But most importantly, he was my grandfather. He was a good father and provider to his 13 children. To those of us, his grandchildren, who had the opportunity to grow up with memories of him, he was a loving and very present grandfather. He was very active, larger than life and…just…there. I will forever cherish the memory of our time sitting together at the square table in the apartment in Mabuhay with the blue and white porcelain mantle clock and you teaching me how to tell time.
You would have been 111 today, Lolo Isiong. I am so proud to be your granddaughter.
So this little girl is celebrating her birthday today…well at least it is still her birthday here today. I wish I could hug her and say how proud I am of her, of how she has taken on so much responsibility. I wish I could tell her that I so believe in her capabilities and that I believe she can do anything she puts her mind to.
I hope you had the most amazing birthday Duckie! I know that William being well and truly married and Harry not really finished looking for himself is a huge disappointment, but remember this:
Clara Ortega said “ To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” And I agree.
To me you will always be the little boy who “break dances” by spinning on the floor, on his tummy, the one who invents words, our source of joy and entertainment. I pray that you will be blessed beyond your desires, because we are so very blessed by you.
It’s been quite an eventful July for me. Eventful being the operative word and the understatement of the year. It’s been a doozy.
My father has been ill and in and out of the hospital again. We’ve been through a lot since he suffered a stroke two years ago and he was diagnosed with artherosclerosis. But he is stubborn. Wonderfully stubborn. I think his stubbornness has buoyed him and coupled with his determination to get better, he has overcome a lot of obstacles. But he is now back home again. And I am so thankful that he is such a fighter.
We’ve had a mini-heatwave and I’m suffering! Can you believe it? The Filipina who has lived in a tropical country for 4/5 of her life is now suffering in temperatures that would be considered cool in the land of her birth?!? I’m still recovering from a possible heatstroke from being in London last weekend!
Work has been work and I constantly get on the work carousel where I love it and hate it in a sequence. At the moment, another change has happened that I’m really pleased about. So I think I’m going to be happy waking up most mornings and logging in to open my emails. I just need to pace myself because I think my carpal tunnel syndrome is rearing its ugly and horrible head again.
But the unthinkable happened on Thursday. I lost my phone. And it’s not something I can blame on someone else. It was all my fault.
The trains were late on Thursday (surprise, surprise!). When the trains finally arrived, I got on the usual carriage and noticed that it was strangely empty in the front half. I simply thought, “oooh more seats, yay!” Little did I know that the front half of the carriage was empty because of Mr Smellyman, sitting in the 6 seater section. I plonked myself gratefully on the seat and my phone beeped. It was a text message from home. When it’s from my sister or my mum or my friends, I kind of drop everything to look at the message. After I replied, I noticed the stink. It was horrible. It was then that the reality sunk in that the reason that part of the carriage was empty was because of the man I was sharing the 6-seater section with! In my haste to vacate the premises, I must have put down the phone on the seat instead of into my bag. I only realised that I lost my phone after the train left Marks Tey and it was probably too late by then.
When I got home, I rang my number and it went straight to voicemail. My heart sank because no amazing and kind soul handed in my phone at a train station. But I still lived in hope. You hear all these wonderful stories about people handing phones and purses in. I, myself, have done that a few times. I’ve handed in a shopping bag with lots of purchases, a man’s wallet, someone’s ticket holder with cash, a Blackberry when it was still fashionable to have one (around 2011, I think) and the first incarnation of a Samsung Edge. I had hoped that someone would also do that for me, if I lost my phone. It’s been 48 hours since I lost the phone. No one has gotten in touch and no one has handed it in.
I have accepted that I have completely lost my phone.
And yes, it was quite painful…I am still recovering.
To date, I think this is what I’d call my mense horribilis.