Last August, a loving son, brother, uncle and a loyal and steadfast friend to so many succumbed to liver failure at the age of 48. JR Isaac is survived by his loving mother Elisa, his brothers Raymund and Jojo, and his sister Anna Karina Isaac-Mitra.
At 9:35 in the evening of Aug. 16, my cousin Jed messaged our Viber group, “JR Isaac passed away.” I read it over and over as my fingers typed, “What??? Are you sure? How? When?!!” I desperately hoped to rule it out as a brutal prank or just an unconfirmed rumor.
After checking his Facebook page (which now sadly says “Remembering” JR Isaac) and seeing that there was nothing about the dreadful news, I began a frantic phone SMS brigade, hoping to disprove what seemed like a ridiculous idea. But I avoided texting his Kuya Raymund, dreading that it may indeed be true. Eventually, text messages began flooding my phone, all confirming that he was gone.
A deluge of Facebook condolences began lighting up his page on my screen. It was a sleepless night, to say the least, as many of us could not believe he was dead. He was fit and healthy (never mind a leg injury a few years back, as he totally rocked that walking cane), and had just had a successful event two weeks prior, when he seemed in good form and in high spirits.
I feel I would be remiss without a disclaimer: I am but one among his many BFFs, and I know he has other much closer friends. “If you walked into any event or party and felt just a bit awkward or out of place, there he’d be, with a big, welcoming smile, always ready to chat you up and make you feel at ease,” said his close friend Myrza Sison in her eulogy. “I am the luckiest woman in the world to have known him and loved him and been his friend. JR has changed me for the better in so many ways, and my life will never be the same without him.”
“JarJar love” (as I liked to call him) and I met back in the “Naughty ’90s,” in the thick of the decadent party decade. We frequented the infamous Blue Café on Nakpil Street and other Malate dives, our fave “GayRaffe” (the infamous Giraffe Bar at 6750 Ayala Ave.), and later, Absinth and other bars, where we would commandeer the dance floor.
JR’s vibrant personality brightened up every situation, and he never failed to go out of his way to say “hello” to the most random people. He did have his reserved side, though, not wanting to call attention to himself.
Through the years, we supported each other’s endeavors and events, and each other’s publications. We shared mutual friends and tight circles that often overlapped in Manila. When I moved to Boracay in 2003, he came to visit every New Year’s and at least three times a year, always bringing the sunshine and kikay presents.
When I visited Manila, we made it a point to meet up. He loved having coffee in Greenbelt in the afternoons, to catch up on each other’s lives—and the lives of “people of interest,” and boy, did he have a lot of stories!
Often I’d ask him how he knew this or that, and he would simply say, “She/he told me!” He had that gift, although when the subject was “dirt,” he knew how to charm his way out of the conversation.
We all knew him in different ways, and our memories of JR will vary. That’s what made him irreplaceable.
People from all walks of life paid their respects during the three-day wake at the Heritage Park in Taguig, and on the day of his interment at the National Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Makati.
Nothing prepares you for losing a loved one, no matter what age, but somehow, when your contemporary or someone younger passes, one can’t help but ponder the Big Questions: “Why him?” “Why now?” “Did I love him enough?” “Am I living life to the fullest?” “When will my time come?” And it goes on, until one musters enough courage to ask the right question: “How would he want me to remember him?”
On a lighter note, when I needed cheering up, JR always liked to say, “Hey love, it could be worse—imagine if ganyan na nangyari sa ’yo tapos pangit ka pa? Thank God you’re beautiful, di ba? Haha!” He chose to see the best in you, and without skipping a beat, he didn’t waste a moment in telling you how great you were. He would often send me a text message like “You are beautiful!” or “My darling Freida, stay lovely and fierce, I love you!” out of the blue. And in hindsight, he seemed to have a sixth sense about when I needed some loving!
This was my love letter to him, which I wrote with a heavy heart the moment I came to accept his demise:
“I can’t help but wish we spent so much more time together. I will never forget you, and I shall keep your memory alive… You were sunshine even on rainy days.
“Until our next dance, enjoy your disco nap, my love! I’m sure you’re already the life of the party up there in Heaven!” —CONTRIBUTED