April 14, 2024

My feeling went down when a neighbor told me that my first cousin, Bienvenido Carantes Aragones, is gone. His mom is a younger sister of my father. His father was a University of the Philippines forestry graduate who was the chief forester of Kennon Road in the early ‘60s until he retired. He planted and nurtured thousands of pine trees then.
Bien was a pure Igorot as told by my uncle Wolsey because his dad was an Itneg from Cagayan. Bien related to me that Kennon Road was once a habitat of monkeys. But where have all the monkeys gone? Displaced by people who invaded their habitat.
I was shocked as I said to myself that it was only yesterday that we were talking, laughing, and eating in a cañao hosted by the Camdases in their 10-hectare estate in Pinsao which is now a private watershed and whose mother is the youngest sister of my father.
He was so alive and kicking and was enjoying dancing the tayaw with his youngest daughter, the charming Nadine, smiling with glee, following him behind with the beat of gong and the solibaos, minutes before leaving with our “patoks” in hand.
We had a group picture before going home after having lunch and dinner. Thinking about his demise, it was his last tayaw and group picture alive.
Minutes after learning of his demise, I continued walking, and waited for a cab to go to the gym to have my workout. I murmured a little deep prayer for Bien while having my workout. I felt a bitter taste in my mouth and could not focus on my light exercises. Why so soon, why only a day after being united in a cañao as cousins that he passed away?
I remembered a time when we were texting each other as I greeted him on his birthday. I told him, “May you survive to a hundred,” to borrow a line from a song, and he replied that 105 is too long and he would be comfortable enough to go into the afterlife at 85. He was eight years short of his personal life expectancy.
Bien had a successful kidney transplant eight years back. I was expecting that it was his kidney that failed him, but no, it was his heart.
But death is inevitable. You can cheat death but not escape it. The only choice left is to let it go, get over it, and go on with our lives and make the most of what life and time has left of us and do not forget to pray for the repose of their souls every chance you get or as often as you have the chance.
The helplessness is so frustrating. Only Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Death is life’s equalizer, not to mention taxes. I remember my cousin, Dominador Carantes, who passed away last September. Early December it was my brother, Victor, whose heart gave in, and now in less than a month, Bien’s heart as well. There was this anger and pain in me as his sudden demise is “unfair”. The anger wanes, but the pain of their untimely demise lingers. As a saying goes, “You just turn around and they are gone.”
I am presently asking for the Divine mercy of the Lord to please be kinder to us and do not make it a habit of writing about obits about relatives on their passing. Morbid as it is, “Lord in all humility, please don’t make this a habit. Amen.”
Writing obituaries, for me, is one way of giving my lasts respects to my close relatives who had passed away.
Bien was married to Joyce Rulite and they have three children, all professionals and married, and have five grandchildren. A handsome son, Dave, is in Ireland married to a nurse; and the beauteous Christine is in Chicago, married to a doctor. But Nadine decided to come home from Australia to settle down near her parents’ houses in the Bacaoat compound and married to Andrew Bacaoat.
Goodbye for now, manong Bien, and wishing you all the happiness wherever you are.
Thank you for the generosity and the memories.We will miss the warmth of your company, the jokes, the laughter, and smiles of a close cousin for we all grew up together in our beloved barangay.
“May the Lord lead your soul to heaven. May you rest in peace in God’s keeping. Amen.”