Every Filipino clan, they say, has its own version of Tito Boy. Ours just passed away last night due to heart attack. Tito Boy, Alfonso Bagtas, is my mom’s youngest sibling (my mom is the eldest of 8).
Tito Boy had been the most ‘malambing’ tito, always the emcee at family reunions and one of the tito singers of the family but one who would always join singing contests and, as I remember, would always have duets with my mami. The total performer, as they say. I would have to give him the credit for instilling in me that one has to always be at performance level when singing/performing (although sometimes, I’m not at par).
He was also one of the 2 most visible titos while I was growing up (I only had the chance to know most of my relatives from my mom’s side, and by ‘visible’, meaning aside from family reunions), since both our families lived in Mandaluyong at the same time. And even when we moved to Pasig, and they, to Laguna, we would still see each other at school retreats and functions since he was teaching at the Dominican School of Sta. Rosa Laguna and I was studying at UST High School, which is also run by the Dominicans.
I can just imagine how hard it would be for an eldest — the panganay — to lose her youngest sibling — the bunso — who treated her like his second nanay after my lola, that I had to travel 3 hours back to upstate NY on a weeknight, on peak hours, also having to miss work the next day, and be with my mom when my eldest sister delivers the news to her. That sacrifice, though, is minuscule as compared to my mom not being able to come home for her youngest brother’s — her original bunso’s — wake or funeral, for obvious reasons that she’s thousands of miles away and that scarcity in resources is something that migrant workers also have to contend with (contrary to what kababayans in the homeland might think that ‘OFWs’ have a lot of money in hand). In her absence, all she hoped was for some of the contents of the balikbayan box that was meant to be for my tito could have reached him in time for Christmas, especially since she reprimanded him a few months back for something he was not able to deliver. But that won’t happen now.
Standing in front of the house where my mom takes care of an elderly (mind you, she, herself, is turning 70 this month), waiting for her to open the door knowing she wasn’t expecting me and that I just had to be by her side when my ate tells her the news, was probably one of the longest seconds of my life. But more than grief, this propels me to ask friends, and everyone, actually, to think of a future wherein millions of Filipinos would not have to go through something like this again. This may sound too preachy or cheesy, however you would like to take a look at this. But I really do hope millions of Filipinos would not have to learn about a death in the family this way, stuck in the thought that nothing else can be done and that we can’t see family members one last time before they’re sent to their resting place. Let us please change this and let us not allow this to continue. Our OFWs, our migrant workers, our families, deserve better.
Salamat, Tito Boy, sa lahat. Pasens’ya na rin at naging reflection post pa itong post ko tungkol sa iyo. Pero pahinga ka na. At tuloy ang kantahan kung nasaan ka man ngayon! Salamat din sa huling comment mo sa post ko last week. Mami-miss ka namin!