It is 1975. My mother and I are visiting her friend who has just given birth at the Makati Medical Center. I am 10 and my inquisitive nature has me heading for the hospital nursery.
Pushing the steel doors, and peeping through the glass that houses the large nursery, I look and smile at all the good-looking babies, wrapped in pink and blue, sound asleep all in a row. The long white hallway is dimly lit and my gaze falls on a solitary figure at the far end.
I recognize her, for she is my mother’s good friend. I want to approach her but I take a step back. Her eyes are filled with great sadness as she longingly looks at her tiny baby inside the incubator, her hand occasionally touching the glass which separates her from her child.
I stand there quietly and gaze at her from a distance.
The mother by the incubator is Helen Gamboa, my godmother. The baby is Vincent Paul Sotto, who died on Aug. 13, 1975.
His death fueled his father’s speech at the Senate this past week.
Grief can do strange things to you, especially when it is unresolved. I believe this is the case of the remarks of Sen. Tito Sotto. Any parent who has lost a child will tell you that the day of their child’s passing, no matter how long it has been, is always a day that carries with it the weight of sadness no words will ever express.
Senator Sotto is convinced that it was the contraceptives his wife used that led to their son’s weak heart condition.
In subsequent interviews, he said that it was his mother, Dr. Herminia Sotto, and his wife’s ob-gyn, the esteemed Dr. Carmen Enverga Santos, who had told him that back in 1975. Both women have passed on, and since dead women can tell no tales, I will have to take the senator’s word for it.
Perhaps his mother and doctor did say these things as a way of consoling a grieving father. But as Albert de Larrazabal, himself grieving the death of a son, told his wife Joanne, “There will be no blaming.” (This is from my book, “Between Loss and Forever.”) Blaming is unproductive, stunts your grieving and holds you hostage for many years.
Guilt is a very difficult thing to live with. And although 37 years have passed, all the “what if’s” and “if only’s” continue to take space in a grieving parent’s heart like an unwanted visitor who pops in every now and then.
Unless one confronts it head on, it will continue to come and go, affecting one’s relationships and sometimes even the way one thinks.
Thirty-seven years is a lifetime, but the parent who has lost a child never forgets.
Perhaps going against the RH bill is the senator’s way of purging his guilt over Vincent’s passing. Maybe this is the reason why he is very much against it.
I want to believe that it was his grief talking when he said that contraceptives were the reason for his son’s congenital heart defect which eventually led to his death. After all, what parent in his right mind would use their child’s death to further a cause or an agenda?
For those of us who lost children due to congenital heart disease (CHD) or to congenital defects, the senator’s sweeping statement opened, as my good friend, lawyer Trixie Cruz, wrote, “all the dark places in a grieving parent’s heart.”
Trixie’s daughter Becca died from multiple congenital defects in 1999 but she said she never blamed anyone. My own son died because of CHD and his death had nothing to do with contraception, of that I am sure.
There have been mounting accusations of plagiarism against the senator; he has been called various names, none of which I would dignify.
Unfortunately, these issues do not help his case or his stand on the RH bill.
Sadly, it now appears that the senator’s grief over Vincent’s passing is the one true thing left in his speech.
“The best that we can do for those who have died is to live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us,” wrote Thich Nacht Hahn.
I wish the senator well. However, being a bereaved parent myself, I hope that he finds compassion for all the women and children who stand to benefit from the bill he is very much against.
Why not refine it instead, rather than doom or crush it? In so doing, he not only honors baby Vincent’s memory, but perhaps, after a long journey, he may finally find a deeper meaning to his loss.
On the other hand, Sen. Greg Honasan’s declaration of “a total war on hazing” is a bright spot amid last week’s bizarre events.
The senator, whose youngest brother passed away in 1976, has now made it his personal mission to see that no other young man perishes in a violent and senseless manner.
Another bright spot is Susan Roces accepting the National Artist for Cinema award on behalf of the late Fernando Poe Jr. Had he lived, FPJ would have become 73 tomorrow, Aug. 20.
And although dead women tell no tales, in Joey Reyes’ warm and wonderful film “Mumunting Lihim,” they do. And oh, the tales they tell! The film is a must-see for every female above 18 years old.
I thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling and outstanding acting by a stellar cast led by Judy Ann Santos, Janice de Belen, Agot Isidro and Iza Calzado.
The dialogue is very witty (though minors must be alerted that the movie has some profanities). Women will find themselves in this film. It is rated A by the Cinema Evaluation Board, and PG-13 by the MTRCB.