Thank you all for coming today. I want to start by sharing with you my favorite Latin saying: “Omnia mutantur, nihil interit - Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost.”
I first came across that line in my favorite comic book called The Sandman. There’s another translation that I found in Google that goes: “Everything changes, nothing perishes.”
But I like the Sandman translation much better. Maybe Google’s is a more accurate translation, but I still like the comic book translation. Why? Because things can and do perish. Death is real, and we’re all headed there. Everything changes and everything perishes. But – and this is a very big BUT – nothing is truly lost. Not even us when we die.
“Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost.” I firmly believe this. My father is dead and my life will never be the same, but I have not truly lost him. He is still with me. And I have a very strong hunch that you will all agree with me on this regardless of religious belief.
Anyway, let me share with you a few of the things I have not lost: my memories of Dad. I want to share a few from my childhood, plus a few of the most recent ones.
Much of my childhood memories are hazy. Still, some of them remain clear. I clearly remember the way I viewed my Dad. As far as I was concerned, he was the coolest guy in the world. He had a rifle that he kept in a bag next to the TV in the master bedroom in our house in Quezon City. He had a bodyguard who also had a gun. (If you’re wondering why having guns made him the coolest guy in the world, let me point out to you that I grew up on a steady television diet of GI Joe, Transformers, Voltes V, BioMan, Shaider, etc. Guns and swords were cool, period.)
Anyway when he was home, he would often take my sister and I to ride in his car – a black Toyota Corolla. On the glove compartment were his initials in silver: JVA. In the backseat he had a bulletproof vest. I never saw him wear it, but I would always slip it on whenever I rode with him. It had a front pocket with a metal plate inside, and it was very heavy. I would imagine being in a war and someone would shoot me and nothing would happen because I was wearing that bulletproof vest.
My sister and I had this game with Dad. We always knew when he was coming home because we had a radio. We would hide in the storage closet in the second floor and wait for him to come up the stairs. As soon as he opened the door to the family room we would burst out and “surprise” him. He always acted surprised, but we knew that he knew that we were there because that’s where we always hid.
I have many other memories: the way he used to drink Coke along with every meal, the Almond chocolates and Toblerone sitting together with the cartons of Marlboro in his mini ref (this was before he quit smoking), his incredibly loud snoring. It was Dad who first taught me how to dribble, pass, and shoot – although I never really enjoyed basketball that much. It was Dad who taught me how to properly dive into the water so that it didn’t hurt.
When I grew much older, I found that we didn’t have a lot in common in terms of interests and viewpoints. But we did have two very important things that brought us together.
The first was Eden. It wasn’t easy working with Dad because as a boss he really expected you to deliver what he wanted. Whenever he went up to Eden, everyone including me would be tense because the Big Boss was there. But it was fun too. Our weekly executive meetings were particularly enjoyable when he was there. For one thing, the snacks were better. Pag wala siya, ang merienda namin saging at kamote. Pag nandiyan siya, club sandwich o di kaya pizza. Sosyal, diba? But it wasn’t just the food – it was him. He would often joke with us and tease us. Sometimes our meeting wouldn’t even be about the business. He’d just sit there and tell us stories of the old days – sometimes about his days in Hijo, or his experiences in the war, or his time with Cory or the Yellow Friday Movement. He was a gifted storyteller.
The second thing that brought us closer was my son. I will never forget the look on his face when my wife and I told him that we were expecting a baby. To say that he looked so happy would be an understatement. And ever since my son was born I have found it easier to understand Dad because now I am also a dad. I only wish he had more time to spend with his grandson. Still, I’m grateful for that short time that they had. I’m glad that even for a short time, my son brought my father much joy.
I’ve been away for four months taking up my masters in AIM. The last time I saw Dad in person was just a few days after the New Year. As soon as I moved with my wife and son to Makati and classes started, I got very busy. I couldn’t even make it to either of my parents’ birthday. So I was really looking forward to coming back here for the Holy Week and spending time with him and the rest of the family. Of course things didn’t go according to plan.
I know however that he was happy with my decision to go back to school. I know that although he missed having my family and I around for dinner, he was proud and happy. So although it breaks my heart knowing that I wasn’t here during his last months, I can still console myself with the fact that in my own small way I made him happy.
Anyway, this has gone on long enough. I just wanted to share a little of what’s in my heart: a glimpse of things that are gone, but not really gone – and a few of my memories of a man who is not truly lost and never will be.
April 26, 2011