When we arrived at the town proper, I immediately went to a local payphone, called home and excitedly told my siblings on the possibility of Tatay’s younger brother coming home with me and they too were very happy of the news. And I could hardly sleep that night because of excitement.
I was up early the following morning and prepared my things for departure. During breakfast, Tatay’s cousin gave me instructions on a shorter route to Cebu as my route in coming to their place was comparatively longer. A few minutes after finishing breakfast, I heard someone calling at the door and recognized the voice to be that of my cousin, the eldest daughter of Tatay’s brother. I immediately went outside to meet them but was surprised to find her alone, the expression on her face hinted that I will be going home without his father.
My cousin told me that when her husband arrived home the previous night, their family again discussed the trip and after due consideration of things, finally decided against their initial decision. She cited several reasons and valid concerns which I totally understood and could certainly relate with and I had no choice but to accept their decision.
I was very sad and frustrated on how things have developed but I just thought that although I won’t be able to bring home a relative of Tatay, my experiences and my stories could hopefully still bring happiness to him. Having met and talked to his brother and other relatives, I just told myself that somehow I was able to accomplish the more significant parts of my mission.
After bidding my goodbyes to my father’s relatives later that morning, Tatay’s cousin accompanied me to the bus stop to send me off. I rode a bus to Maasin and from there took the fast craft back to Cebu. At around 7pm that same day, my friend fetched me at the port and I eagerly shared to him my experiences over dinner and told him how excited I was of going back home to tell the whole experience to my father and my siblings.
I stayed overnight in Cebu and left for Ozamis the following evening. And after travelling for almost a week, I was finally back home.
When I arrived, Tatay was still asleep so while waiting for him to wake up I first talked to my siblings and related to them my whole experience. They shared my surprise upon learning about Tatay’s son and also shared the same frustration of my failure to bring home with me his brother but also understood the reasons and concerns of the children of Tatay’s brother.
I learned that Tatay has been asking since the previous days if I was back already and so after talking to my siblings I immediately returned to Tatay’s room to check if he was already awake. When I entered the room I saw him lying in bed, his eyes staring at the clouds through the window. I quietly went to his bedside and held and kissed his hand which slightly startled him because he didn’t notice me entering the room. I stared at him and noticed he has lost weight and seemed weaker than the last time I saw him. Still holding his hand, I told him about my trip, my meeting with his cousins and other relatives . He was listening intently to my stories until I placed my mouth closer to his ear to make sure he will hear what I was about to say next:
“ Bugoy kaayo ka ha! naa diay kay anak didto! mao diay!” I told him, delivering the statement in a teasing manner which made him chuckle and almost laughed.
Teasing him and jokingly calling him naughty must have impressed on him that what I have discovered, which for him was his deep secret to, was already all water under the bridge to all concerned, and upon realizing, it painted a bright smile on his face. It was as if he was relieved of something that he has been carrying for the longest time and it may have been very liberating for him.
After telling him everything I have learned about his son I then went on to tell him of what I learned about his parents, his other siblings and my encounter with his younger brother. I told him how they strongly resemble each other but added that he was however more handsome because he’s got more hair, a remark that made him chuckle again. But when I told him of his brother’s reaction upon seeing his pictures, Tatay’s expression changed, and later, just like his brother, I saw tears rolling down his eyes. And so I quickly changed to other lighter stories of my trip to lighten up his mood.
The next few days saw him getting even weaker as he could only manage to consume a few spoonfuls of each meal. And again, however we have tried to convince him to go back to the hospital, he maintained his insistence on staying at home. When his birthday came, we organized a small celebration for him and invited his closest friends and our neighbors. He was still able to sit then and managed to smile when photographed. Somehow, there was a hint of happiness in every smile that was painted on his face.
After his birthday, he got even weaker as he could barely swallow his food. It was apparent that his system was no longer responding to the home medications. And since he refused to be brought to the hospital, we requested a relative who is a physician to check on him who then administered intravenous solutions to compensate for his nutritional requirements. When asked of his assessment on Tatay, the doctor was straightforward in telling us to prepare ourselves ,for our father may not have a longer time left and advised us to just provide Tatay with whatever it is that he wants and to just make him as comfortable as possible.
In the succeeding days that came, my siblings and I took turns taking leave from work to personally attend to Tatay but most of the time he was in the care of my older brother who wasn’t working at that time. We also arranged for him to be visited by a priest and be administered with the appropriate sacraments to prepare him for the inevitable.
One morning, on the early part of July, I was awakened by my brother who told me to watch over Tatay while he fetches our eldest sister. He informed me that Tatay has become even weaker and has not slept throughout the night. I immediately went to Tatay’s room and found him lying and breathing weakly, eyes staring blankly on the ceiling, while our househelp was gently rubbing his arms with medicinal herbs. I held his right hand while my other hand was gently stroking his forehead and alternately running my fingers through his hair if only to ease the discomfort that he may be feeling that moment. It was very hard to be looking at him in such condition so I fixed my eyes on the windows and silently prayed while continuously running my fingers through his hair. A lot of things came flashing through my mind at that moment until I finally decided to do one final thing for him. I leaned over to his head and whispered to him:
“… Ok nami ‘tay. Ayaw nag kabalaka namo. Pahulay nalang kung gusto naka mopahulay”
It was very hard to allow and practically tell a loved one to leave knowing that when he does, he will never ever return but at the same time you know that when you let go of him, it would somehow be easier for him to leave and finally rest.
After whispering to him, Tatay took a few more breaths until finally, while my hand was still holding his, my father took his last.
Tatay’s journey in life has ended. He has gone the full circle and is finally going home to his Creator.
During the wake, it caused a stir among our neighbors and family friends seeing an unfamiliar name placed at the topmost of the column of names of us siblings which was displayed on Tatay’s casket. Some dared to probe and asked questions about it while most, if it ever intrigued them at all, opted to keep it to themselves. For us siblings, to include the name of Tatay’s other son in the list of his kins and display it in his casket was simply to show respect for our father and to acknowledge his son, his firstborn, as a member of the family.
It is an uncanny coincidence that my father was born on the 12th of June and passed away on the 4th of July, both dates commemorating freedom and I want to believe that even though he was not able to personally make amends and ask for forgiveness from all those he may have disappointed and offended specially his son and the mother, Tatay was able to forgive and liberate himself from the guilt that may have haunted him for so long, knowing that his son was not holding anything against him but was in fact very eager to meet him. It was just so unfortunate that they were not given the chance to meet in his lifetime.
Tatay may not have been able to actually realize his planned homecoming but I want to believe that he is now finally reunited with his family in a home beyond this mortal world.
On my part, I can only hope that somehow, in my own way, I was able to serve my father and fulfilled my mission as his Alternate Homecomer.
“Home is where you learn to laugh, to share, to live, to love, to forgive. “