October 29, 2007

Remembering our dead

Posting here Joanne Zapanta's column which came out on Sunday in the Phil. Star. The Jong she refers to is my late nephew, son of my first cousin Bingbing Arcenas Cariño. Didn't realize Joanne was the one who helped cradled Jong at the accident site until Bingbing texted me to read the column. I thank Joanne for her humanity, as well as others who have helped ease the passing of our dearly departed, such as my good friend Tito Mon, who also helped me bring my pop to the hospital last May just before the latter passed.

(Okay, so I take back every nasty thing I said about Joanne's dressing up of the Presidentita. But not what I said about the fashion-challenged - and more! - Presidentita herself ha. Scary 'sya talaga!)

Talking to my dead
UPTOWN DOWNTOWN By Joanne Zapanta-Andrada
Phil. Star, Oct. 28, 2007

Unlike millions of people who flock to the cemeteries to visit their dearly departed once a year, I choose to commune with my dead friends and relatives on a fairly regular basis. I find this Gabriel Garcia Marquez-like practice to be one of the most therapeutic activities one can conceivably do when alone, awake at night. Instead of analyzing one’s significance on Earth — a train of thought that inevitably leads to depressing images of one’s own death, I choose to go a step further and mentally reach out to those I love who have already crossed over. Rather than imagining what death could possibly be like, I choose to reconnect with those in the know and from there, selfishly cast on their shoulders the burden of my anxieties and curiosity.

My nocturnal visitors are many and it is such a pity that space constraints will not allow my readers the introduction of a colorful village of characters. There is my Aunt Emmy from Pampanga who I always found to have been a vivacious woman — interested in the latest fashions and always willing to try something new. She had a congenital heart problem that claimed her life much too early. I remember going down to the morgue soon after she passed away, looking at her so uncharacteristically lifeless on the metal slab and thinking that the best gift I could give her was a stylish send-off. So I took my makeup kit with me and proceeded to enhance her naturally pretty features (I was going for the elegant yet natural look!) in time for her formal viewing. When Aunt Emmy visits, I share stories of the latest gossip. It is to her that I run to when the nighttime proves terribly somber.

During the nights I feel reflective, I reach out to Jhong, a teenager whose motorbike accident bonded us forever. I witnessed Jhong’s crash as his vehicle hit a curb, the impact of which hurled the 17-year-old smack on to a tree. Within seconds, a group of villagers and I shot out of our vehicles and ran towards him. The hours after that saw us desperately trying to save the bleeding boy. Maybe it was because I was the first one to run to him or maybe it was the intense investment of self in trying to keep him alive that made me emotionally commit to Jhong. Regardless of the reason, his passing was one of the most profound experiences in my life and it is to him that I run to during those dreadful nights when, exhausted and depressed, I find myself needing to believe that my existence has any meaning. I remember asking his parents to take the transparent partition off the casket for a minute so that I could kiss him goodbye. How ironic that I bid farewell to someone who I never said hello to. It is Jhong that makes me believe that I have an angel watching over me.

The most revered of all my spiritual companions is my maternal grandmother Elena Adriano Gozo. Despite the many years that have gone by since her leaving, I still feel a quick of pain when I remember her. She was a very beautiful woman with exquisite skin and hair so long it touched the floor. She made dresses during the war. She sewed all my school uniforms when I was growing up. She also introduced me to the wonders of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the world of Hans Christian Andersen. Perhaps unconsciously, I have become a writer and researcher on fashion because of her. I was by her bedside half an hour after she died. It was then that I keeled — not cry, not howl, nor sob. I keeled — an almost animal like wail that desperately tried to purge the incredible pain that wracked my entire body. Despite her advanced age and frequent bouts of dementia, I was not ready to let her go; there was still so much that I wanted to tell her. I believe that it was at that time that I began my conversations with my beloved souls.

The world is made up of people from various faiths who speak to their deities as a means of connecting with a trusted, loving being. In prayer, we bring forth our worries, our hopes and requests for attention and reaffirmation of love. Reaching out to those who once we have spoken to, laughed with and embraced is not very different. In doing so we re-establish the fact that we are all connected in love, whether it is within this world or across another dimension. I shall be talking to my dead for a very long time. Perhaps up until the time I shall be happily amongst them, at the other side listening.


Unknown said...

OMG I can't believe I finally find you again. I lost your cell number a few years and a few phones ago but you've been in my thoughts. Text me at 0917-2035928 please.

Ana P.

Stella Arnaldo said...

Sorry, can you please refresh my memory who you are?