CABATUAN, ISABELA–White lights. Photos. Bouquets. Candles. A cross. A casket.
In the brightly-lit room, a service every night. After each, coffee, candies, nuts, soup, and biscuits. And singing onto the wee hours.
It’s the image of loss, one I did not see in this wake-slash-vacation-slash-reunion with my father’s clan up North.
Sure I saw occasional tears and reflective looks from my aunts and uncles as they gazed at the coffin. Yet with the eulogies interspersed laughter; and with the solemn songs, songs of praise. In the midst of games or stories, we would mention her–even call to her–and smile as we remember.
Our Mamang herself could smile at such a tribute.
I remember her as grandmothers are–mild, quiet, and with a smile that reflected a fount of experience. She doted on the whims of 22 grandkids–usually the play of youngsters and the joking of teenagers. Like her name, she stood as a pillar of faith and silent strength to 11 children and us who followed.
For all I recall, I only regret not knowing her more as a young adult, she being the last living among my grandparents. Growing up abroad, I only saw her once a year. And when I stayed here for good, she moved to the United States to live with my aunt’s family.
She would have made a great interview subject for this journalist-to-be. I could have asked her how they survived during the war, how she dealt with the turbulent 70s, and how my dad was at my age.
Now I can’t remember having played a song especially for her, as I’ve played the night away during the wake. I wish I could have told her my own stories and dreams, as I’m now telling my relatives.
Like my cousin Marvin in the States, I could have even debated with her on which between ABS-CBN and GMA 7 was the better station.
Her children call Mamang’s passing a sacrifice somehow. She and our relations in the US and Saudi Arabia were to come here early this year for the clan reunion. They put off the trip for financial reasons.
Yet she still came back here and all of us reunited here in Cabatuan–something that might not happen again. The reasons, though, were less than jovial.
In one of those nightly singing sessions, our eldest aunt had me play the classic gospel “Because He lives” over and over. Until the singers got the harmonies right, she said.
The song spoke of the hope we had and why we were joyful while we mourned:
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just
Because He lives.
With gratitude for her life, we know that because our Savior lives, Mamang still lives.
It tells me too that somewhere in the future, I’d get to have my interview with her.