Death is the road by which we all shall converge. It is not a journey to the unknown places, but a walk towards the path the leads us all home.
I went Naga town late April. It was a secluded village in Zamboanga Sibugay, a province in the southern part of the Philippines. It was an unscheduled family gathering following the death of my grandfather, Primitivo Dablo Sr.
It was a very special place for me. I was born and raised there. Most of my childhood memories were from there. My first school, classmates, and friends were from there. It was the place that introduced me to dream big, bigger than myself.
Catching the last flight via Zamboanga City, I arrived at the historic Crossing Naga past midnight. I saw a shadowed man flanked by his motorcycle by the side of the road.
As soon as I got off the bus, I heard a familiar voice, “Koy?” It was Dad who waited for me to arrive. As he ferried me towards grandpa’s wake, I told my him, “Please drive slowly. I don’t wanna have a scratch.”
He waded me through road with potholes with most parts of them remained dim. The last time I was there was more than a decade ago. Some structures were withered by time. Others only silhouetted by my childhood memories.
Naga still Naga. Still the same. Progress is elusive. Development is slow.
I have crisscrossed the world for dozens of times, yet Naga is still to attune itself to what progress is all about. But this is not the reason of my coming. I shall shelve this issue for now in lieu of the bereavement of my family on my mother side.
I saw familiar faces. I heard familiar voices. But first I paid courtesy to the man that taught me the greatest lessons on manhood, my grandfather. He was there lying in white-painted coffin.
Standing there, his memories and reminders came as a whirlwind.
He was a proud strongman in his time. But he greeted me now in his coffin, lying as if he was sleeping. The difference — he was free from the worries of the world. His wrinkled face – tried and tested by times – has finally rested. Unto his final resting place, he is now ready to bid farewell to his family.
With tears rolling down from my eyes, I asked apologies for failing him on one aspect that he wanted me to be – to be a faithful husband.
“Lolo, I’m really sorry that I cannot do what you asked of me. I am sorry that my heart is not capable of carrying as great love as yours. Or perhaps, I haven’t find the Lola Nesing of my life yet,” I whispered on his coffin.
Lolo Tiboy, as we call him, was an epitome of a loving husband.
I never saw a man so in love to his wife till the last breath of his life. My Lola Nesing was a typical maldita and britanilla woman. Her attitude was a challenge to us all. But grandpa can always tame her with his sweetness and care. I never heard him raising his voice to our Lola in their lifetime. He could scour the mountains and the seas whenever my Lola want something.
He was always a believer of my brilliance. He is always the orchestrator of my bravery against any challenge. But he did not trust my heart. He always reminded me to be faithful and loving to my girlfriend.
“Kokoy, wala koy duda sa imong ka-bright. Pero ang pinaka-importante nga kabalo ka modala og pamilya – hugpong og dili katag,” he said. (Kokoy, I never doubted your brilliance. But the most important is for you to know how to handle a family — united and not broken.)
Grandpa was 80 when he died. Yet on his deathbed he reminded me of what shall I need in the next 40 years of my life.
No, it is not dreams. No, it is not money. No, it is not success. No, it is not glory. No, it is not honor. Above all these things, see to it that you have a family to stand on your deathbed to honor your memories and to be proud of your legacies.
“When you shall start your journey to the other side of life,” he often reminded me, “It is not success, riches, or glory that you need. But a family that would happily bid farewell to your good and untainted legacy.”