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!

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