April 23, 2024

Death comes to anyone. It is inevitable. It comes when we least expect it. But we can always prepare for a graceful death when we are always in the state of grace.
Ella Dolog and I visited Sadanga, Mountain Province on Nov. 9. We intended to administer the Sacrament of Anointing to Madame Lourdes Faguingas Ganggangan. She suffered from paralysis due to brain aneurysm. For three years, her life was punctuated with a play of recoveries and relapses, hopes and frustrations, smiles, and tears. Despite the series of medical and spiritual interventions, she succumbed to death on Nov. 10.
I recall good memories with Madame Lourdes when I was an elementary grader at St. Vincent Elementary School in Bontoc, Mountain Province in 1983. She was our class adviser who instilled discipline through temporal punishment like pinching, whipping the butt, and carrying books on extended hands in squatting position.
During the wake, Board Member Andre Claver narrated the story about discipline when Madame Lourdes was their adviser. He said he was never pinched because he was behaved and was the favorite. I too did not experience the pinching and whipping from her but I witnessed my classmates became better from the punishment.
Her manner of disciplining left marks of learning and maturity. We learned better and with a far reaching influence from her strict strategy coupled with healthy fear.
Madame Lourdes taught at St. Joseph Elementary School, Kilong, Sagada sometime in the late ‘70s. It was her first experience of teaching as a fresh Board passer.
During the prayer service, Madame Mary Malidom shared that Madame Lourdes was a vibrant and kind elementary school teacher. She quoted her saying, “How come nobody is courting me here in Kilong?” Madame Mary consoled her and said, “Don’t worry. Soon, they will come to look for you.” Some years after, she left Kilong and remained single.
She transferred at Saint Vincent Elementary School (SVES), Bontoc. I with my batchmates were fortunate to have her as a class adviser. After her quality years in SVES, she left for Sadanga Elementary School (SES) and served for long years. She became stricter but her Vincentian values and catechetical expertise were carried to teach the children and youth of Sadanga.
She was married to Hon. Gabino Ganggangan, the current mayor of Sadanga. They are blessed with successful children whom I had close acquaintance. I consider them as a family friend and relatives. The history of Madame Lourdes did not stop in Kilong because the last child of the Ganggangan family, Guinsadan, is currently engaged to a lovely Kilong lass.
On the same day, the i-Sadangas informed the sudden death of Peter Angyoda who just retired from service as chief of police at Sabangan Municipal Police Station. At 57, he left his family. His activities and plans ended unexpectedly. It was saddening to hear such news. Sir Peter was a good friend of mine when I was assigned in Sadanga especially in our advocacy to advance the common good which is peace.
On Nov. 11, I traveled to Pactil, Bauko, Mountain Province to join the Malinias family and the St. Benedict Basic Ecclesial Community to remember the 40th day death anniversary of Fr. Matthew Malinias. The Holy Eucharist was offered for Fr. Mathew’s eternal repose and for faith-strengthening of the BEC. Fr. Jaefky Dulawan presided the Holy Eucharist while Fr. Pablo Lumiwan delivered a witty spiritual homily. Fr. Jimmy Aydinan, Fr. Allen Basilio, and Fr. William Moguigui concelebrated.
Compared with the 9th day anniversary celebration of Fr. Mathew, the atmosphere was serious, without the gongs and the dancing. I recall celebrating the Holy Eucharist on that day. It was still sad since the mourning memory was still fresh.
After the Holy Eucharist, we gathered for a community lunch with big slices of meat called “watwat.”
The 40th day anniversary was drastically different. It was my first time to learn and experience the cultural practice of the Pactil people to dance with the beat of the gongs to remember the dead. It was strange for me since the i-Fontoks are prohibited from doing that.
There are indeed many substantial cultural differences and yet they belong to one Igorot group.
The 40th day is a festive celebration after the mourning. It is traced from the bible and from the life of Jesus. He went to the desert to pray and fast for 40 days and 40 nights and that is our basis as well for the Lenten observance. Forty days after resurrection is ascension. In short, Jesus stayed with his apostles for 40 days after his resurrection. It is then a strong cultural belief that when people die, they will stay with us for 40 days and after, the soul will surrender himself to the Lord.
We had an abundant lunch with the community. We continued to reminisce the life of Fr. Matthew with the family and friends. Then we had the community dancing with the gong beatings.
On the early morning of the same day, Lecil Gula texted me with a sad news that Pablo Pagandiyan, Sr. passed away. Pagandiyan of Sadsadan, Bauko was among the active and devoted lay leaders of the Holy Family Mission Station. He suffered strokes that gradually made him weaker until it left him paralyzed for months.
It is difficult to imagine how good people are perishing. It is painfully nostalgic to realize that great people are physically absent when celebrating special events of the church.
On the eve of Nov. 13, I visited again Sadanga for the wake service of Madame Lourdes. It was no longer an anointing of the sick but a liturgical rite entrusting her soul to God.
It may be a mourning setting but God gave us consolations. During the wake, we met old friends and acquaintances. It was a happy surprise to meet one of the SLU students whom I facilitated spiritual recollection in 2006. She introduced herself as Marychris Alunag of Parcelis, Mountain Province. To prove that I was their spiritual mentor, she sung my old song composition entitled “Metanoia.” She added, “Thirteen years ago, more than a decade and yet the song is remembered.” It is immortalized because of the message she claimed. Miss Marychris is currently working as a nurse after her work abroad.
Another happy surprise took place in Betwagan National High School on Nov. 14. Having been invited again to talk on youth leadership, a motivational activity of the Mountain Province police under the baton of Jomarick Felina, a beautiful police lady approached me. She sat beside me, confessing that she was once a young i-Sadanga student whom I baptized in 2004 and now working at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. She was so proud to mention that I was the minister of her baptism when she was an elementary pupil. She is Amilyn Angyoda.
It was indeed a happy surprise despite the death of good friends. God is indeed a God of mystery and yet a God of hope and happy surprises.
Now, the week experience of mystery affirmed that teaching the heart is more remembered than just teaching the mind. Second, kindness will always be remembered and unknown to many, it will serve as an inspiration. Third, God works in mysterious ways. We keep trusting in him. Fourth, music is indeed a powerful element of life and relationship. There is always hope after death and joy after the pain. Age, sickness, suffering, and death are realties that speak about the transitoriness of life.
Reach me at [email protected] or at 09051653669.