(Article published in the
issue of Manila Standard Today)
It was not the ritual I grew up with. For us, the hoi polloi Tondo, it was outwardly marked by no more than a mere return, particularly by the women, to the wearing of clothes of everyday colours, and by the men, to the resumption of louder laughter and more frequent expletives at which nobody takes offense. The church goers exhale a prayer or two, commending in whispers to the Almighty the departed loved one. And those who stay outside during Mass, wear a public a smile that nevertheless fails to hide the anxiety over an unknown future, henceforth to be lived without the one who had unexpectedly gone.
Others, such as those who bear right of birth or savour the reward of personal achievement, I was to notice later, do it differently. They gather family and friends to a feast, as in the debut of an eldest daughter. Together, they dutifully recall, complete with video clips, the happy times they had with the one who had gone, and, in somber tones, recite their belief in the departed’s relief from this life’s pains and expenses, as was committed by the good book and promised by the prayer beads.
April 29, I experienced a babang luksa like no other. It was a definitive
rite of passage, a grand closure to a full year of grieving and a clear
inaugural of a new season of moving on. It was the launching at the Turf
Room of the Manila Polo Club of a book entitled Adrian Calling, a liberating
lift-off to orbit of the memory of Adrian Hernandez powered by the thrust of
the love of his father Eduardo and the Montinola-Hernandez family.
Adrian Calling is unique, if not sui generis, in the term’s literary sense before that latin phrase was recently debased by the clowns at the Corona impeachment trial. As written at the back of the title, it “...is a privately published book and not intended for commercial sale” and, as unabashedly admitted by Eddie H., “a repository of all the thoughts and feelings of our family in absorbing the loss of our beloved Adrian. It is intended solely for free distribution to our friends and families.”
Just as unique was Eddie H’s final eulogy which was marked by his adaptation of Adrian’s favourite poem written Henry Scott Holland. He entitled it, “What is death? Where is life?” and I reproduce it hereunder, in toto, his annotations in italics:
“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. Adrian simply slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I. You are you and Adrian is still Adrian. And the old life that we lived so fondly together with Adrian is untouched, unchanged. In another dimension, he continues to live at the Romulo law office, live in the sugarcane fields of Dingle and live in the Mahogany and Coffee trees which he planted in Paga, Iloilo.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name, duke, dukie, or dude. Speak of me in the easy way you always used. Put no difference into the tone of your voice.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we always enjoyed together. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should Adrian be out of mind because he is out of sight? I do not think of Adrian everyday. But every moment of everyday.
He is but waiting for us, somewhere every near. Somewhere just around the corner. All is well, nothing is hurt. Nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh with Adrian at the trouble of parting when we meet again. This will all be at another me, at another dimension, at another place so beautiful and heavenly.
For then, we will meet with Adrian as beautiful angels—as we will all be Angels of the Lord.”
Actually, Adrian did not wait for his transformation to do angelic work. Continued Eddie H:
“A few weeks before Adrian died, I told him that the prices of sugar suddenly shot up and for him not to worry about his medical expenses. We could go anywhere. But Adrian did not say anything except to mention that we double the free nutritious food to our 300 children. Then he told me that most of these kinds will not get to high school but if they knew computers and English, they have a chance to improve their lives.
Then a few days before he died, Paco Sandejas, his classmate at Southridge High School at Alabang talked to him about putting up a Computer room for his students. Within the year since Adrian left us, I am happy to announce: Firstly, we put up the Adriano M. Hernandez Computer Center, a room with 34 brand new computers at Southridge High School. Made possible by his funds and his close friends at Southridge....[Secondly] Westbridge in Iloilo –Chapel – renovated in the name of Adrian.
“Finally, and this is most exciting for me. Ade had a little money with which we finished the construction of a 50 sq. meter building to house the Adriano and Raymundo (ADRAY) Community Center in the farm to service about 300 children (babies up to age 11). About 2/3 are children of our labourers. We give them nutritious foods, teach them English and computers, watch educational TV materials, sewing lessons for the girls. Westbridge boys will teach English...”
The work of Adrian, as his father’s book of him, remains to be in process and in progress. “Incidentally,” explains Eddie H “the book is entitled “Adrian Calling” because during World War II when we were evacuees in the guerrilla occupied territory, we sent coded messages to Australia. It always started with “Bohol (or Leyte) calling...” I was fascinated when finally Australia will reply in coded message through the darkness of the night. I hope that Adrian continues to call through the darkness of our feelings.”
I too expect Adrain to be calling from time to time. And so do the rest of Adrian’s friends, we with whom he had once walked, both in the warm beaches and the air conditioned hallways, in casual pavement and stiff boardroom, in bright sun light and in the shadows of neon and starlight.