HE LIVED FOR THOSE HE LOVED (My Eulogy for Papang)

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!

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The Fighter

Yesterday was one of the longest days of my life.

It began with an unexpected phone call in the middle of the night. With a tremble in her voice, my sister told me that my father suffered a cardiac arrest. He was successfully revived but remained unconscious. I frantically stuffed whatever I can inside my travelling bag and swiftly headed to the airport. Together with my brother, we took the dawn flight and boarded a plane to Davao City to be by our father’s bedside. As soon as we arrived at the hospital in Davao, we entered the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to check on our dad. We were not ready for the sight before us. With various tubes and other apparatuses attached to his body, our father was unconscious but was obviously struggling to breath. Wheezing. Panting. Gasping.

Hours later, when my father’s condition stabilized although still critical, and while resting quietly at the waiting area, my thoughts helplessly turned to the distant past…

I can still recall the stories about the young man who overcame a life of drunkenness and violence to return to the university, graduated with honors, proceeded to law school, became a lawyer and eventually became a judge…

Of the 39 year old heart attack patient who survived his first cardiac arrest in 1989, gave up chain smoking and late nights, and went on to launch a long and fruitful career in public service…

Of the person who bravely surrendered his life to God in 1994…

Of the charismatic leader who began a prayer group which brought so many people closer to God despite all odds…

Of the guy who remained undaunted despite losing in three local elections…

Of the grizzled warrior who overcame a second heart attack in 2009…

Of the chap who in his senior years sought to pay back the game he loved by organizing the first-ever Davao City’s Hall of Fame awards…

Of the great husband and father who navigated our family through life’s strongest storms…

My Dad has always been a fighter.

Courageous. Unyielding. Relentless.

This fight to wake up from his “deep sleep” might be a long arduous trek up the mountain of unconsciousness. But just like in his past battles, my Dad is facing the task squarely. He who doesn’t have the word “surrender” in his vocabulary is fighting his greatest battle thus far. See him…trudging… hiking…climbing, with everything he’s got.

A few minutes ago, I was at his bedside clasping his hand. Then I sang to him the hymn which he used to sing to me when I was just a child the refrain of which goes this way —

“Everytime I hear a new born baby cry, or touch a leaf, or see the sky, 
Then I know why… I believe!” (From the song “I Believe”)

It was then when my voice broke as I was near tears.

I realized that the reason why I keep believing in God today despite the many challenges in life is because of the example of my Papang. The reason why I believe is because my Papang has always been a believer. Despite all odds, He always believed…that He can still win…that He can overcome no matter what…that God will come through for Him at all cost.

Today, the “fighter” still keeps fighting. And when the smoke of war clears, I know, deep in my heart, that the “fighter” will emerge standing in the face of it all, in this life or in the next. And with a triumphant fist, he will surely punch the air in victory.

See the man celebrating atop the hill?

That’s him.

That’s the fighter. That’s the winner.

That’s my Dad!

God Reveals Himself if You Know Where to Look!

We often place God in a box. No wonder we don’t see Him.

He spoke to Moses through a burning bush…

…To Jonah through the belly of a whale.
…To Joseph through his dreams.
…To Abraham through angels.
…To Paul through a prison cell.

What will stop Him from speaking through a movie, a sunset, a book, a road sign, a beggar, a train ride, a box of cereal, a quiet evening with your spouse, a radio program, a cry of a child, a walk in the park, through traffic, through deadlines, through long lines, through receding hairlines, through joy, through pain, in good times and in bad?

Decades ago, I underwent a semi-depression, an emotional roller coaster ride which sent me reeling through the rails. The nights were long and the days were short. Laughter came far in between. Tears were the regular menu. Until I stumbled upon a book, “He Still Moves Stones” by renowned author Max Lucado.

God spoke to me through every page, through every word and through every story. I knew God was speaking to me and for me. He knew where I was and He knew where He wanted me to be. I responded and my life was never the same again.

How about you?

Finding it difficult to hear God? Raise up your spiritual antennas and listen.

God can reveal Himself to you through anything. You just need to learn where to look.

And just in case He spoke to you over the last minute or so while reading this piece, then I suggest you pause and pray.

He might still have more things to tell you right now.

I rest my pen.