May 30, 2023

(Editors’ note: Pura Suello Suanding-Molintas is pitching in this tribute for her cousin, the late Atty. Benny T. Carantes. Molintas served as Tourism Attaché with postings in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York from 2015 to 2019, and now team head of Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, Turkey, Israel, New Zealand, and Guam).

In the wee hours of Monday morning on Sept. 20, I was roused from my slumber when my mobile phone sounded off an alert for a message.
I never put off the alert on my phone as I work round-the-clock monitoring messages on Viber groups, Messenger chats, Telegram or WhatsApp from our Department of Tourism overseas offices and marketing teams in Europe and the Mediterranean with time difference ranging between five and seven hours behind the Philippine standard time.
I reached for my phone and alas, I got the message that my cousin Benny “went into cp (cardio pulmonary) arrest…”
The medical staff at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center was “not able to revive him after 10 epinephrines.”
It didn’t occur to me that six hours after niece, April, and cousin, Alice, called seeking help for medical assistance I would be so blatantly astounded with such news of Benny’s passing.
And then suddenly, thoughts of the long overdue clan reunion of Suello, Zoillo, Bajating, and Quidno-Cuidno Carantes propounded by our lone surviving 96-year-old aunt, Remy Suello Pidazo, which has been postponed for over a year now due to this pandemic became blurry again, having just interred another cousin, Manny Carantes, a few days earlier.
Thoughts started racing in my head when I heard the cock crow at four that morning. And so, I thought it was his way of letting us know he is well on his way to Elysium – the heaven or home of the blessed, the heroes, and the nobility after death as foretold in the classical mythology just like the concept of Mt. Pulag being the home of the spirits.
Fast forward now that he is interred, I would like to believe that he will be riding his horse soaring to the high heavens. Sons, Marc and Mel, and siblings, Victor, Alice, Jingjing, and Cesar have provided him with one which, in the Benguet Ibaloy custom and tradition, is equivalent to a Mercedes Benz taking one to his resting place. It is the mark of one’s family status in the community as a mortal. Bereft of one, his ancestors who have enjoyed the family fortune will be mocking him why he didn’t come in such fashion.
Benny has a large throng of friends and family and all will tell how generous he has always been. As cousin Alice puts it, he was the binding force of their family, as he wanted his single siblings sharing every meal with him.
I would like to think that before he reaches the final portal of the Elysian fields, his friends will be queuing in protocol on a red carpet waiting to warmly receive him like a rockstar or Johnny-come-lately.
At the head of the reception line would be friends long gone before him like Jun and Frankie Abalos, Bony Tandoyog, and many more I could not name for the list will be too long. Trailing behind them would be my hubby, Rocky Molintas, who went onboard recently.
Unending handshakes and pats on the back will be aplenty.
Sorry but I am not sure there will be glasses of wine or bottles of beer. Perhaps, Rene Cortes, Tonyboy or Abe de Castro can vet on this decades later or by anyone in the know.
As the honoree Johnny-come-lately takes his steps on the red carpet rolled out only for him, he will be entertained by a skyline derby parade of Clarets, Sweaters, Kelsos, Round Heads and Hatches. The honoree will probably be sizing up the blue feet, yellow feet or white feet then sounds from the drum and bugle corps will fill the air and when the angels’ trumpets begin to blast, wife Minda will be there to meet and escort my cousin Benny to the final portal of Elysium.
She has waited for some years praying the rosary piously and endlessly for his acceptance to the gates of heaven. Whoever gets there will know the answer to the “True or False” of Elysium. I need not know the answer for now.

To Benny,
Forever you are gone now
He who calls me his favorite as a term of endearment
Our family joys and sorrows were always shared
He was always there in times of the highs of glorious moments
And the times of our lowest ebb
We shall hear no more of your booming laughter
Nor your wit or humor
No more lines from Othello or Romeo and Juliet
Nor verses from “The Sonnets of the Portuguese”
We will miss the songs when you carry a line or two
My Way, Moon River or Blue Spanish Eyes
I call them “Best of the ‘50s, ‘60s and the ‘70s”
Thank you for the good memories
Your journey leads you to your final destination now
It’s a one-way ticket, one-way visa
Bon voyage and Godspeed!

P.S. Carantes sons, Marc Benedict and Melpether, have this message of thanks:
To all those who have extended their condolences, expressed their sympathies, offered prayers and shared comforting words as well as those who in one way or another, eased the grief and pain of the untimely demise of our dearly beloved father, Benedicto T. Carantes, thank you very much. Our sincerest gratitude from the bottom of our hearts.
May heaven smile on you and the angels guard and guide you through.
Above all, thank you Lord for the 79 years we had Bennie in our keeping.