Emmanuel Kenneth “Kenn” F. Velasco lived a beautiful life.
“Actually pwedeng teleserye ang buhay niya sa daming nangyari at natulungan niya,” his youngest brother Benjamin told Lifestyle.
Yessey Solano, one of his closest friends, shared how Velasco spotted a girl crying at Makati Medical Center one night. He approached her and asked what was wrong.
“She was a total stranger,” Solano said. When Velasco found out the woman was struggling to pay her husband’s hospital bills, he took out his wallet and handed her some money.
His generosity was unmatched, many people who knew him agree.
Velasco was managing director of a market research company. He managed multiple restaurants and was editor in chief of The New You magazine. He was also many other things to so many people—a son, a brother, a friend, a boss, a ninong.
When Velasco was stricken with COVID in August, it was almost as if he knew he would succumb to the disease. Three days into his hospital stay, he started messaging friends: “If I don’t make it, I love you.”
After a little over a month of being sick, on Sept. 27, Velasco died. He was just 55.
Outpouring of tributes
Soon, the outpouring of messages and tributes from the people who love him started.
“You will always be my favorite boss.”
“You always brought sunshine and sweetness wherever you went.”
“I love you, there will never be another one like you. ”
Solano, who became friends with Velasco after meeting him at the gym, considers him her soulmate. They traveled the world together.
“Kenn left a legacy of love, compassion and sympathy . . . Whenever anyone needed help, whether it was family or friends, and sometimes even strangers, he was always available.”Anna Marie Avanceña-Ignacio, whose daughter Zoe is Velasco’s goddaughter, agrees. “He was generous with his ideas, his time, his experiences, his energy and his blessings. He was always ready to help, whether you were family, a friend, a coworker or even a stranger. He did them all away from the spotlight, too.”
Avanceña-Ignacio and her family lived two doors down from him in Makati. “Zoe loved visiting him any time of the day. She’d come home from spending time with him, all smiles, claiming she’d had the best time with her Ninong Kenn. He would always drop everything when she came knocking at his door. He was the silliest with her, and he had the knack of getting her to laugh or smile.”
Avanceña-Ignacio and her husband JR put together a website (thankyoukenn.com) where people could post tributes to Velasco.
“We wanted a place to celebrate him, where his family and friends could share memories of him and his beautiful life. Reading the stories shared about him has given us a sense of comfort, despite the grief of losing him.” People from different parts of the world have been writing about Velasco on the site.
Zoe said in her eulogy for him, “Do you remember how you used to call me your little sunshine? But did you know that you were the real sunshine? You were the one who made me laugh and smile. I always had the best time with you.”
Avanceña-Ignacio said, “Even though he was always the life of the party—the loudest, the funniest and the one with the craziest stories to share—he also had the ability to make everyone in the room feel seen. He would make the effort to get everyone to have fun, making sure nobody was feeling left out.”
She would never forget Velasco’s parties. “His parties were always out of this world and had the craziest themes: foam party, Kenntry Fair (complete with carnival games, clowns and a magician), magazine-style birthday photo shoot with all his closest for his 50th, and for his 55th last year he put out a music video where hundreds of people dear to him were featured.”
Malu Francisco, who had been Velasco’s friend since they met through work in 1997, recalls Velasco’s 50th birthday celebration as well. “He gathered almost a hundred of his friends to celebrate in a most unique fashion—a super detailed and organized daylong photo shoot done in batches, done very professionally at a studio with photographer, hair and makeup, styling, the works! The result was a full color magazine filled with all of our photos, immortalized as his beautiful friends.”
It’s only fitting then that Velasco would plan his own memorial—his final party. He had written his list of bilin as early as 2019, and it was a list that he would update, said Lorelei Bartolo Realingo, who became friends with Velasco when she started working for him in 1999. When he died, his assistant Paula gave the letter to Brian Enrique Avanceña, who he had appointed as executor of his memorial service. “I had no idea such a letter existed. While I was heartbroken, I was also quite amused that Kenn was ready as far back as 2019, with very specific and some quite funny instructions,” Avanceña told Lifestyle.
What Kenn wants
One of the things on his list? “Let’s make the eulogy fun!”
And as Francisco wrote on Facebook, “What our dear Kenn wants, Kenn gets! He brought so much love into our lives, it was but natural that we fulfill his wish and now celebrate this love in a fun memorial evening of dance, a yoga session, games and his fave ’80s New Wave music! Exuberance, joie de vivre, overflowing love and joy—that was the mood for the evening.”
His other requests? No instant coffee. No monobloc chairs. No sad songs—just ’80s new wave. Food from his company’s food clients. (“Kindly pick a good caterer. I want roast beef served.”) “Don’t waste your money on a fancy casket,” he wrote, saying he wanted to be cremated. No flowers—donate to a charity or a cause close to his heart instead.
Over 100 of Velasco’s loved ones gathered on Zoom to celebrate him. The virtual affair was the fun event he wanted.
Attendees were asked to share three words to best describe Velasco and the most repeated words were generous, smart and funny. They were asked what they would miss most about him and the top answers were his craziness, laughter and hugs. There was a trivia game. There was even a “So You Think You Kenn Dance?” segment.
Avanceña took charge of the music, later writing, “What an honor to play last night at your grand send-off, Kenn.”
Francisco wrote of how the interactive program “for a few short hours, wiped away our sadness and replaced it with happy, beautiful memories, love and the feeling that Kenn was right there dancing and laughing with us and coaching us during the games. Never will the world ever have another person like Kenn. He was a great big ball of joy and love and charisma, kindness, craziness and fun . . . ”
But it wasn’t just his memorial that he left instructions for—he wanted to make sure that his scholars, the ones he had been supporting for years, would still be taken care of. He also wanted to continue to help the foundations and other people he had been supporting. That was no surprise to the people who love Velasco—that was very much like him, to be generous up until the end.
Avanceña-Ignacio recalled, “Kenn once said, ‘When someone you meet thanks you for spending the day with them—it is a day you lived and lived well.’ Kenn definitely lived, and he lived well.” INQ