(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a fitting tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Oct. 27, 2019)
During one of my four out-of-school years, since I wasn’t doing anything anyway, my dad asked me if I could accompany him to Pangasinan, where a high-ranking government official of the Macapagal administration was to be interred later that day.“Why, did you know him?” I queried my old man.
Blushing a bit, my dad replied that (while) he had attended countless funerals of politicians and other government big shots, but never that of a patriot.“Dad, patriots are those who serve and die for their country, was he like that?”
“Yes,” he answered, “he died at the young age of 42, of a heart attack, because he was working too hard if only to make life a little better for the Filipino. Did you know that he held four different Cabinet positions at various times?”
“Look, pops,” I said, trying to wriggle myself out, “you know I can’t stand the lowland heat.”
Neither can I, my dad retorted, but I consider it both a duty and an honor to be there on his final farewell.
I begged off from going, one of my many mistakes in life when it comes to my dad.
But I would later have a chance to attend the funeral of a good and wonderful person that I shall always remember with fondness in my heart when my dad passed away some years later.
My mom too, a heroine in her own right, taking care of five boys and two daughters while her husband was in Law school, after quitting his City Hall job.
Both, by the way, were former public schoolteachers.
And let me just say this – classmates who got better grades than me (a handful, actually) were children of public schoolteachers.
Dammy Bangaoet in Law school; Winston Flora in my sixth grade; Des Bautista, at the old Baguio Central School.
On All Saints’ Day, my siblings and I will again reminisce the happy times we had with our folks and other relatives.
My mom’s great cooking, my ever-generous dad with his money, on occasions that he had some, neither rare nor often.
My mom taught me how to cook, wash and press my own clothes, how to play chess, which she learned from one of her many suitors, the beauty that she was; while my dad taught me all about life and how to play it according to the bidding of the Almighty Father and the teachings of His Son, Jesus. If only I had listened to him.
All my cousins I grew up with have all gone ahead to the next world ahead of me, none reaching the age of 70.
I will turn 78 this December, and the only cousins older than me are Dr. Julie, Fiscal Begong, Dr. Pete, Kapitan Manuel, and gob retiree Frank.
All have grandkids of their own, while my granddaughter will first see the light of day in late December or early January.
I am of course thrilled, but deeply sad because my Minda is no longer with me to savor the moment.
Minda, my beloved wife of 44 years, my best friend of 50 years, always there for me, she, whom I took for granted, like most husbands do their wives, and whom I now dearly, dearly miss.
Prayers and flowers for my beloved grand folks – Quidno and Kensha, Juan and Valeriana, my beloved parents Pedro and Catalina, my beloved parents-in-law Melecio and Socorro, my beloved siblings Pito and Marichu.
Poor Pito or Doc, each time I played tong-its with him, he always had a bottle of gin blue and two packs of Winston blue by his side. He was 64 when he passed away.
My sister Marichu, on the other hand, loves eating more than any other, downing her food each time with a large bottle of Coke.
Soft or hard, drink is always dangerous.
I likewise miss my cousin Robert’s piano virtuoso, and playing pusoy with him; my cousin Susie, like my manang Mary Paz, watching over me like elder sisters, playing scrabble with kasinsin Dick; Asin sorties with his brother Bebot; the naiveté of my cousin Alex, and brother Urbano street smarts.
And my other cousins, Enster and Amac, Labo, Andoy, Bugay, Peting, Warling, Sweet, Reming, Paulita, and Almay.
My Torralba cousins Mary, Eving, Imelda, Rody, Jaime, and Berting; my Suello and Bajateng relatives and in-laws former governor Bantas Suanding and Rocky Molintas, also Paul Sagubo Alabanza, Gemo, Trason, and Walter, cockfight aficionados like myself.I still feel a bit guilty over the demise of my cousin Ines, who died of leukemia, because each time we donated blood, her mom, my Auntie Nenita, would pay us 50 bucks per donation, a princely sum in those days.
All my aunts and uncles on both sides of my family tree are no longer with us, and I miss all of them, with their kindness and idiosyncrasies, fatherly advices, and motherly concerns.
But that’s life. Here today, gone tomorrow. And while the whole country will mourn their dearly departed, the flower vendors will make a killing.
C’est la vie, c’est la mort. Such is life, such is death.
But first, Happy Halloween!