‘Go and be happy’

A soul mate pays tribute to Chef Ed Quimson

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In the days following Chef Ed Quimson’s death, so much was said about him and his culinary skills. Those who were lucky to know him were touched by the many tributes given at his wake and funeral, and all the articles that followed.

It was easy to get lost in Ed’s generous personality and enormous talent. We heard stories about the way he helped shape contemporary Philippine cuisine. People spoke about how friendly and approachable he was, and how he touched so many lives. I’ve been struggling since I watched Ed’s family place his ashes into his niche. Struggling with what we didn’t have the chance to say. What I didn’t have a chance to say.

Unbreakable bond

Somewhere between the relationship of a brother and sister and a husband and wife, exists another kind of friendship.  It’s an unbreakable bond—formed in a safe place where there’s never space for judgment or ridicule, ego or hurt. It’s where praise is endless, support unwavering, and love limitless. That’s where our relationship was nurtured, where my friendship with Ed thrived—in that “in-between” place. It was unique. It was special. It was home.

It seems a lifetime ago that I met Ed. We were both young and full of mischief, bonding the instant we met. Perhaps because we were both lost souls then. If I close my eyes, I can see us on the day we met, sitting at a bar, sharing a drink. Ed had just moved to Cebu to open his restaurant, City Bites.

We came to know each other over many a bottle, and a lot of partying. Sometimes, at the end of the night we’d disappear into his kitchen and emerge an hour later with a sugar-and-chocolate-filled creation. The next day, we’d laugh because neither of us could remember how we’d made that dessert. All we could remember was that it was good.

 

Shared home

I count myself lucky that I shared a home with Ed, once upon a time—in the ’90s, in an old house in Malate. Manila then was a different place. The culinary world had yet to explode. There were only a handful of really great restaurants, and Ed was the head chef at one of them, La Tasca.

I saw him more at the restaurant than I did at home, because he worked hard. Really hard. It was then that he decided to join his first culinary competition. To nobody’s surprise (except maybe his), he won! Ed’s career took off and our relationship deepened. We were more than just housemates and best friends—we were the family neither of us had.

When I got engaged, Ed decided to take my fiancé out on an “interview.” It wasn’t that he didn’t know Marco well enough (they were cousins, after all); it was more that Ed wanted to make sure Marco was the right one for me. Ed took him to Makati Shangri-La and ordered every single dessert on the menu. The staff had to put two tables together just so that it all could fit. My two boys then spent hours talking and eating, not stopping until the last crumb. Ed called me that night and gave me his blessing.

Soul mates

I remember the day we realized we were no longer lost souls. How could we be, when we had each other? Ed would always tell me that I was his soul mate. That I understood him in ways no one else could, or would. He used to say he was lucky to have me in his life. But the truth is: I was the lucky one.

Without meaning to, Ed taught me so many lessons—just by the way he lived his life. Lessons Marco and I have built our family on.

Ed stumbled countless times, but picked himself up and tried again. He taught me how to be resilient. He wronged many people and yet he had no enemies. He taught me how to make peace.

He had the ability to make real what his brilliant mind imagined. He taught me about art. He chose to see the brightest side of everything. He taught me about hope.

He never gave less than his best and always made sure his creations were perfect. He taught me to have a good work ethic. He received praise for his talents, but never took things for granted. He taught me about grace.

He always admitted when he was wrong. He taught me about humility. He took every opportunity to celebrate. He taught me to dance in the rain.

He was never afraid to try something new. He taught me how to be adventurous. He gave of himself without ever asking for anything in return. He taught me about love.

Whispered words

When I received the news that Ed had passed, I raced home and watched a scene from my wedding video again and again. There I was, walking down the aisle on my father’s arm. And behind, there walked Ed, carrying my train. He set it down gently, making sure that it fell perfectly behind me. Making sure that I was perfect. It was his way of giving me away.

And when the wedding was over, and most of the guests had left, Ed and I stood together locked in an embrace. He knew Marco and I would be leaving for France a few days later. I told him I was scared. That I didn’t want to leave him. And I remember his words today as if he had whispered them in my ear just yesterday.

“Cindy, I will be fine. Don’t worry about me. Go and be happy. Just never forget how much I love you.”

It has been 40 days since Ed passed. And the sadness on this 40th day is as overwhelming as it was when I first heard the terrible news. Today, I give Ed away to the angels. I share with you my own small story so that we can remember all that we shared with him. And so that we won’t forget just how perfect Ed Quimson was.

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