My mother recalled that when Papang suffered the fatal heart attack two weeks ago, his last words were, “Ang mga bata…ang mga bata…”. Even at his most difficult moment, he still thought of us — his family.
Somebody once said that “The greatest tragedy in life is not death but life lived without a purpose.” Papang lived for a purpose: To live for those whom he loves — his wife, children, grandchildren, siblings and friends. This pretty much sums up his life.
But who is Papang to me personally?
He was a Fan, a Friend and a Force.
Today, I lost my number one fan.
People who knew me when I was younger can still remember how Papang would be in all of my basketball games, cheering me on. He would shout louder than my coach on the sidelines as he instructed my every move on the court. He would also be there in Boging’s gigs and in all of Gaigai’s milestones. I will surely miss him in my big preaching engagements because I lost my number one fan. In fact, do you know what they found inside my father’s bag in the hospital? My third book. He was actually reading his son’s book. He is my number one fan, and I will surely miss him.
He was my best friend.
I can still remember watching Toyota versus Crispa with him at the Araneta Coliseum when I was little. He would tell me all about the great players. He was a fan of Robert Jaworski and in fact, he named me after the legendary player. And he taught me the game we love. He showed me how to shoot, pass, dribble and rebound. I can still recall when I was only seven years old, we would jog together at 5am at the old PTA grounds…how we would lie down on the grass and wait for the sun to rise and then head home to eat the breakfast which my mother prepared for us. There were many times while jogging, when I became so tired that I didn’t want to continue anymore. My father would then run beside me, encouraging me to go on saying, “Keep running, Bobby. Don’t give me up!” I can still imagine him running beside me now saying the same words. Whenever I go through tough times, my father’s words echo endlessly in my heart.
Finally, he was a force in our lives.
If you see his epitaph, it says: The “Rock” of our lives. Jimmy Bato is not just monicker. It is a reality. He is the stabilizing force in the life of his family. Whenever we go through changing and challenging times, he would be the constant and unchanging force that keeps us grounded. I remember when I was in college in Manila. I fell ill of dengue fever. After three days of high grade fever, Papang flew to Manila to be with me. The moment he entered the hospital room, something strange happened: my fever went down drastically and was completely gone. The doctors said it was because of the medicine. I want to believe it was because of my father. His presence made everything alright.
In ending, let me share with you what happened on the morning after Papang passed away. Papang died on Saturday evening. We waited for the next day before we told our children about it. On Sunday morning, we told our children when they woke up. All of them cried. Our eldest daughter, Robelle said: “You woke me up from a nice dream. I saw Lolo in heaven. He was young, healthy and strong. He was wearing white. And he was so happy jumping all over the place…”
We began to cry as well.
We are not bodies with spirits but spirits with bodies. Before us is just his body. I believe that our Papang is already in heaven, and enjoying every minute of it.
Indeed, what was written on his coffin resonates so loudly today: He is truly having fun in heaven!