Last Friday was my dad’s death anniversary, and I marvel at the circumstances surrounding that day. Let me tell you about it through a couple of poems.
Two weeks ago, I was invited by my friend, co-Ateneo alumnus and Movie and Television Review and Classification Board colleague, lawyer Noel del Prado, to read a poem in an event honoring one of our dear friends, Ateneo professor and poet Rofel Brion, or Boyet as we call him. Boyet also happens to be my late son’s godfather.
When Noel told me it would be on April 20 (last Friday), I said yes immediately. I found it significant that it would fall on my dad’s death anniversary and that it was a poem about loving and missing.
The poem I wrote last year, “A Hundred Sunsets,” was in English but I requested Noel to do a Tagalog translation. And he did so, beautifully.
The back story here is that in 1998, shortly after Migi passed on, Boyet wrote a poem. He told me he had woken from a dream early one morning, and said it was like a message given him by Migi. The result was a beautiful poem titled, “Now Listen,” so true to the spirit of my 4-year-old son.
Now Listen (from Migi)
I am not gone
I am still here,
Do not be surprised
That you have not shed a tear.
I still say numbers out loud
Watch dinosaurs glow in the dark,
And listen to old people sing songs for kids,
As you toss and turn in your sleep.
Each morning I tickle you awake
And keep the streets you walk to work safe;
I giggle at your lame jokes later in the day,
And I sit with you as you have supper with the TV.
I kiss your forehead when you lie in bed
And pray that God give you happy dreams;
Believe me, I am not gone.
I am still here.
—Rofel Brion, June 11, 1998
Reading that in 1998 gave me much comfort and strength and through the years, whenever I feel blue, I return to it every now and then. It is now framed and hangs very close to my workspace at home.
I’ve always considered it to be a beautiful gift from Rofel that I have always treasured. Poetry, after all, is timeless and its meaning for the reader changes as time goes by, depending on where one is coming from.
Early last year, on one of my pensive days, after watching a beautiful sunset, while on vacation. I found myself writing “A Hundred Sunsets” as I thought of everyone I loved who was no longer with me.
A Hundred Sunsets
I miss you,
but then again,
do i really miss you?
When you are always
in my heart,
and in my mind.
When I carry you
Should I miss you
In the ebb and flow
of our hearts,
there is comfort
there are no
is but a threshold
we meet again.
in the meantime,
in the hundred
yet to come
In the stillness,
and the busyness
of my days,
I find you
Last Friday, while preparing for the poetry reading, I thought of my dad, and how I hope this poem will in turn give some comfort to Rofel who lost his own Itay less than two months ago. Just as his poem about Migi gave me comfort almost 14 years ago, it was my prayer that this poem would do the same for him.
The events of the day did not end there. That morning, a dear friend who had lost her dad in a plane crash decades ago messaged to invite me to a book launch and dinner after. My hair stood.
The book, “Subversive Lives,” the story of the Quimpo family’s losses during Martial Law, had been on my mind just the day before as I was mulling the idea of creating two modules for my grief course at the Ateneo about horrors and losses caused by Martial Law. This would be my way of teaching the younger generation about that dark period in our history, this September being the 40th anniversary of ML.
And the Quimpo book was one of my main readings for the semester, certainly no coincidences there.
I marvel at how April 20 has unfolded, and the miracles it had brought. I told my friend that our dads must have been chatting in heaven that day about their girls down here. And to that, she said, “Now they must be smiling at how this ‘unplanned’ day has evolved.” What a lovely image to hold on to!
Pay it forward
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Marvel superheroes, so you can imagine my excitement because “The Avengers” will finally hit the cinemas next week. If you are a fan and want to make your movie-watching even more meaningful by helping send UP students to school, catch the special blocked screening sponsored by Ex Libris Philippines on April 25, 7 p.m., Rockwell Power Plant Cinema 2. Tickets are at P500 each. For reservations, please call or text Judith at 0908-1335170. Proceeds will go to the Ex Libris Scholarship fund for UP students. Watch a movie, be entertained and touch lives.