Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Person That I Am

I left the office 30 minutes before 6 - 30 minutes before the event. Rain greeted me when I stepped out of the building, I hailed a cab and headed home. I had no idea what I was going to wear plus, there was another pool of mixed emotions going on inside of me the whole trip home.

I took a quick bath and just decided to wear nothing really special. I, Jet and my 2 aunts all went to attend the ceremony - my grandfather was to receive an award too so my Aunt (their eldest) was to receive it for Gramps.

As I entered the hall, the smell of alcohol greeted me. Media men were standing around the bar and sipping their scotch or whisky or brandy, chatting away - a common practice amongst the media men of our city. As one journalist stated it - "alcohol begins to sharpen the brain and loosen the tongue, or the other way around. ." And suddenly this GIGANTIC, really HUGE knot formed in my throat. Jet and I took a seat in the back row. I looked around and observed and saw a lot of Dad's fellow media men. One of them passed by and I greeted him - a very close friend of Dad. He asked me why we were not getting any cocktails and I just replied by saying "Oh if Dad were here, he would have been at the bar since forever." To which he replied "Oh, you know your Dad." I wanted hug him and cry.

The event started a good 1 1/2 hours after we arrived. They started with the awards for media men who have, as my Dad always termed it, "have gone to the great newsroom in the sky." Seriously, I was surprised at how many of them have already gone. Sad. And when they called my name to receive the award for my Dad, I totally felt I was going to breakdown. Given the chance, I would have grabbed the mic from the host and would have given a short speech. Control is what took over me. I walked up the stage and got received the award from the Mayor. A few names after, they called my Granpa's name and I found myself clapping very loud. Damn proud.

Before we left, I approached one of Dad's best friends (one of the 2 people we called to the hospital when Dad was dying because Dad did not want ANYBODY to see him on his dying bed). Uncle Ramon is his name. I said my hello's and how are you's but felt he wasn't warming up that much. Before I left, I whispered in his ears "Uncle don't drink too much anymore." And that's when he held me very tight. Oh god, again, I wanted to embrace him and cry. I didn't. I told him to take care.

When we got home, I cried it out. I was happy and proud and lonely. And I missed my Dad terribly. I sorta started to talk to him (my Dad) - I do that sometimes. As if he were there with me in the room.


What are such occasions for? I wonder. And I realize. When people are alive, they are lucky if such recognition is done - to make it known to them that what they are doing is truly appreciated. Is truly loved. Is truly important. But such are done when they are long gone. When their human ears are no longer around to hear them. When their human hearts are no longer pumping with passion eager to feel that their passion has touched the lives of others. It is a sad fact. And often times it fills one with guilt and regret.

The living can only look back and fondly remember- as it warms our living hearts.

If I may say, my father venerated my grandfather. I look up to my mine with reverence too.

As my eldest put it 2 nights ago, "Mom, I wish Grampa Steve were still awake." I do too, I do too.

Below is the eulogy my Dad's best friend delivered during Dad's funeral.


Dacawi: For Steve By Ramon Dacawi

MIDWAY into our seasons in the sun, Steve Macli-ing Hamada, my editor for over a decade, and I paused from beating deadlines and sobered up to the inevitable. We discussed how each of us would want to go, something many people don't talk about. We ended up with pact: Whoever stayed longer on this mortal plane would not deliver a eulogy or write an obituary for the other.

That deal was never brought up again. Not until April 7 last year when Steve suddenly reported to the Supreme Editor. As news of his passing on spread, some colleagues in media started asking me for an obit. It was understandable as Steve and I worked together for more than a decade bedding the Baguio Midland Courier and, later, the Baguio-Cordillera Post. But I was out of my bearings, confused and groping to make sense of the sudden transition.

I made a mess of myself with booze.

Steve understandably didn't tell his wife Lulay and daughter Lu-an about the unusual pact. Given the morbid thought it would evoke and the hurt it would inflict on those dearest to us, I, too, didn't reveal it to Becky and our kids Beng and Boogie, or to anyone until Domcie.

On the second night of the wake on a Maundy Thursday, Lulay saw me without a jacket. She immediately took out Steve's favorite and had me wear it against the evening cold. She asked her daughter if she remembered me. Lu-an, the toddler I saw now grown into a comely 22-year-old answered, "Of course, he's the uncle who fell from our roof while trying to gather guavas!"

Lulay asked if I could say something after the funeral mass, before Steve was to be laid to rest beside his father, the venerable Sinai Carino Hamada, at the city's public cemetery. The Baguio boy that he was, and is to us, Steve, I thought, would understand why I had to accede. A funeral is also for the living, for those who mourn, and a word or two won't hurt but help console. After all, Steve, with whom I shared secrets of the soul, relished narrating how he tried, and failed, to follow the rule of silence in a spiritual retreat he underwent in childhood. "After two days of silence, I went to the priest-in-charge and confessed I had to utter a word."

The worst (or best) punishment you can mete media is to make them silent. They speak out their truth, even beyond the regular broadcast or the printed page. Here in Baguio, we speak our pieces late into the evenings, not in unison but often at the same time, especially when alcohol begins to sharpen the brain and loosen the tongue, or the other way around.

We learned to speak our pieces, sometimes with lips frothing, through the bullhorn in college. Willy Cacdac, Joe Dacawi and the rest who preceded us in the parliament of streets, did the live broadcast of those protests that they actually helped hatch for us. In the wake of their coverage, they lost their jobs and eventually joined the establishment, in the same rut I'm in right now. Steve came home from a promising but highly competitive career with IBM advertising to help live out the four guideposts of community journalism that his illustrious father established - fair, fearless, friendly and free. He inherited a staff in Oswald Alvaro and my brother Joe. He found the two friendly and struggling to be fair, fearless and free.

He took me into the Courier in 1980, a cub reporter expected to earn his wings. He saw through my burden of having to fit Joe's shoe and guided me on, despite putting up a front of being tough and stern, as editors are known to be. Later, I realized he was in a more unenviable position. In the words of younger generation newsman Frank Cimatu, Steve struggled to climb Mt. Sinai, whom he venerated.

We discussed and argued a lot, before, during and after press work. Curiously, I can't remember now any of those things we debated on. What I can't forget was that time we fell asleep on our desks and woke up to a nightmare. Without waking us up to proofread the editorial Steve had labored on with his antique Underwood, the printer ran almost all copies of the opinion page. The editorial, which was set on linotype, was garbled beyond any sense. Steve was visibly aghast, only to be devastated when the printer turned into a Job's comforter. "Saan ka kadi nga madanagan, ading Steve; ammom met nga awan to agbasbasa ti editoryal (Don't worry, ading Steve; you well know nobody reads editorials)," the printer offered to console him.

In 1985, Steve, with nary a stripping knife or table, much less a printing machine, started out on his own and launched the Baguio-Cordillera Post, another weekly. He took me in to the Hamada home in Camp 7 where we labored within the limited givens. We had his mother, Ma'am Gerry, wife Lulay, sister Briggs and even nieces Dooly and Tanya as our cooks. I also had him as my driver aboard his brother Lionel's 4x4.

The Post folded up after more than five years, but not after serving as the training ground for Rene Acantilado, Norris Falguera and other younger journalists molded by Steve.

Steve later wrote a column for the Sun.Star Baguio Daily, served Baguio in other capacities, including being director of the local water district. Together with Peppot, Willy Cacdac and Gerry Evangelista, he ran for the City Council and the four newsmen lost.

Steve repaired back to Camp 7 and turned to painting while serving as nurse to his grandson, Joshua, now three.

With this, I've broken our pact again. ( for comments)
(April 11, 2005 issue)


mommiesconfession said...

Your dad is Special and always will be remembered, treasured and loved...

SusieJ said...

I don't know what the point of these ceremonies are. Do they come too late? Grief is such a private thing... and I can't imagine how hard it was to keep a stiff upper lip all night. I would have been bawling like a baby.

I do know, that in a few years, you will look back on this night with pride, and share it with your sons, when you talk about their wonderful Grandfather. That is probably their point. And, the event needs to sit in your hear awhile before you will receive its blessing.

Sophiagurl said...

Hi Louann, have given you two awards, please visit my site if you have time. God bless!

Not Afraid to Use It said...

I am sorry about your dad. There is something about the need for public grieving that make ceremonies like this continue on. Stay strong.