Remembering My Late Dad

As a kid I grew up seeing coffins being spray-painted in our backyard and my younger siblings playing hide and seek inside these. When typhoon comes these coffins are placed inside our living room and we have lots of barrels of formalin stored too. I somehow got used to getting a chuckle or a quick laugh whenever I would mention what my dad does for a living. 

Papa never liked school when he was young. He would cut classes and eventually became friends with some guys in the funeral parlor back home. This is how he got into this business. I am used to waking up from loud door knocks in the middle of the night or early mornings from people whom their loved ones just died. Papa never mind though be woke up anytime because this means money to him and food for us.

He is by the way a fully licensed embalmer who passed all the accreditation & sanitation examinations from Department of Health and have all the requirements of the local government to conduct this business legally. His income he gets from this was enough to feed us and send us to school.

We are one big happy family until he becomes unstoppable in drinking liquors, smoking cigarettes and womanizing. Mama and Papa would always have fight when he is drunk. I have seen her hurt so much and cry countless times that at one point I said "I am never gonna marry a man like this!" When Mama positively confirmed he was having an affair with another woman she left us for several months. This was one of our darkest hours as a family. Papa searched for her. Mama can't stand living without her children so she went back.Well Papa stopped seeing the woman but his addiction to liquor is not.

Since I started working in Manila my visits to home becomes very rare. During my visits I would see Papa getting thinner and thinner. I said to him what I noticed about his physique and that he needs to workout if he still wants to see his future grandchildren. His answer is always a smile.

Then he was diagnosed having a prostate cancer stage 2. When he first heard about it he don't want to believe thinking it was a wrong diagnosis. Even the rest of the family we "underestimated" what is the meaning of cancer. He need to undergo a major operation SOON which he DECLINED. Imagine a man who has been embalming for 25 years: bisecting a dead body from the neck to the navel, taking out all the organs and blood then replacing all the fluid in the body with formalin is so afraid for this clinical operation when his occupation may have given him so much chances to realize how volatile a life is.

He sorted to herbal doctors and organic way of healing instead. He also learned to attend mass and visit our adoration chapel to pray. He was also able to go to confession in front of a priest few months before he died and Mama said the last one he did this was when they got married.  But still we would see him sneak out and  light a cigarette or see him a bit drunk. He said he just have to mingle with friends.

Three days before he died, I called him through my mobile phone for 40 minutes. He was so unusually happy for talking to me and was sharing his plans. He said "Gusto ko nang magsimulang muli" or "I want to start all over again". That he wanted to do this and that with my mom. He was like a newly wed groom dreaming what will be life with his bride. Then he cried. For the first time I heard him cry in my whole life! I got dumbed. I don't know what to say. I just let him cry and hear him talk.

On that very day I was at work. Mama texted they brought him to the hospital because he was feeling so bad. Worst if not. I texted back and told her I will take the earliest flight  tomorrow. After a few hours Mama did not replied but my brothers did. "Minatay na si Papa". Papa died. It has been more than two years since he passed away and somehow we already "moved on" because we need to.  So this is the story of a man who at one point in my life I said "I  will never gonna marry someone like him".

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