By Arvin Serra
CFC SFL Fulltime Worker
Papa passed away last January 13, 2012 at 11:05 a.m., in Quezon City. He was 61 years old.
As a tribute to a great man, from the moment he was being revived for the first time, until we placed him at his final resting place at St. Therese Columbarium, I never left his side. After he was pronounced dead, I accompanied him as he was being brought down from the ICU to the morgue. I rode with him in the van that transported him, through EDSA, from the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City to Holy Trinity Memorial Chapels in Parañaque. I was right there present, the whole time he was being embalmed. I never went home to get a change of clothes or to even take a shower. It was the very least I could do. It was my final salute to him.
I will always remember. I will never forget.
When Papa suffered his second stroke, his blood pressure was 240/160. He had walked from his office then, on his own, the stretch of Ayala Avenue, from Paseo de Roxas to Makati Med, when he felt the stroke hit him. It was a huge miracle he was still alive! The doctors were all shocked and dumbfounded. No man could possibly survive a massive stroke like that, yet there was Papa, conscious and alert; alive and kicking. They literally never left his side until he had fully recovered. He should have died that day, so many years ago. But he didn’t. He went on to survive 2 more major strokes after that; 4 in total.
This was the reason why I began calling him Superman. After surviving 4 strokes and one that should have killed him outright where he stood, he seemed invincible; very much like the Man of Steel. After that second stroke, he told us that maybe the reason why he was still with us was that God still had a purpose for him to live. He had not yet fulfilled his purpose here on earth.
Papa once said that our primary purpose in life here on earth is to go back to God; and to those with children, that the primary purpose of all parents, according to him, is to bring all their children back to God.
I’m certain that the reason why God had already called Papa home was because his purpose here on Earth had been fulfilled. At age 61, some would say too soon; but because he had already accomplished his mission of bringing all of his children closer to God, it was time. Looking at us now, none of us grew up problematic or lacking. He had raised us well.
It was Papa who instilled in me simplicity and gratitude; that I must always appreciate what I had. When I was 12, we were in Disneyland and I was complaining that the rides there were too ‘kiddie’ for my taste; he scolded me and reminded me that there were so many children back home that could only dream of going to Disneyland but had no means to and there I was whining like a brat. From then on, I grew up simple and always appreciating what I had because I knew others had far less.
It was him who instilled in me perseverance and sacrifice; that I must always endure great sacrifices especially amidst difficult times. There was a time when we were young that things were really hard financially for my family. Because he was a very trusting man, Papa got swindled and ripped-off a huge amount of money (I mean really, really huge!). Because of this, we had to pawn our house; we had no electricity for 40 days (the dark ages he called it); we had to eat and sleep in the dark because we had no more money to pay our electricity bills. I could remember my brother trying to study under the Meralco lamp post in front of our neighbor’s house. Also, when I graduated grade school, I received a piece of rolled up paper instead of a diploma because I wasn’t fully paid yet. All these things, we experienced before. Papa simply told us that everyone had to sacrifice. I knew, at that tender age, that I simply had to suck it up. We persevered and we have survived those times, somewhat. Papa never left us nor abandoned us. He did not walk out on us. He could have but didn’t. From then on, nothing could ever shake or rattle me, no matter how difficult it became. I knew I would always endure.
It was him who instilled in me determination and the importance of being a man of my word; that I must always see things through, no matter how hard it was. Before, Papa was the worst chain smoker there ever was! He used to tell us that he easily smoked 10 packs of cigarettes a day, at the height of his addiction. However, for his children’s sake, he willingly gave it up. Papa never again touched a single cigarette, after he declared that wanted to quit smoking during one of his birthdays. He had been smoke-free, these past 30 years. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the following year and again during his birthday, he decided to quit drinking forever, being a binge drinker almost, all his life. He got rid of that as well. There was nothing he could not do. He did everything he promised. After hearing these stories, from then on, I knew I could and I would do anything once I’ve set my mind to it and if I have given my word; most especially if it’s for the people I love.
It was him who instilled in me selflessness; that I must always place the needs and welfare of others first before my own. When my eldest brother got married, not only did he selflessly give him and my sister in law all of his life’s savings, he even loaned a huge amount of money from the bank and he gave that to them as well, just so they could already start rearing their own family. Papa always prioritized the needs of Mama and all his children first, before his own. From then on, I grew up knowing that the needs and welfare of others, especially the ones of my family, outweigh my own. My needs and wants are not important. My family comes first; others come first; never myself.
It was him who instilled in me diligence and hard work; that I must always earn things, only through shear hard work. There were no shortcuts in life. We were not really well-off yet he was still able to give us the best education possible. He did everything and anything humanly possible, just so to earn enough for his family, even to the point of getting sick in the process. The fact that Papa was able to send me to both CSA and Ateneo, which is no small feat, is a testament of how hard-working he was. From then on, I knew the value of hard work; that If I wanted something, I must earn and work hard for it first. Nothing comes free. Things will not be handed to you on a silver platter.
He was a great man; superhero-like almost. I could go on and on, because he instilled in me so many other virtues, such as humility, simplicity and patience. This was how he raised all of his children.
It would be my greatest dream, if in the future I could become even just half the man that he was. To me, he really was Superman. There was and will never be none other.
I will always remember Superman. However, I also recognize that more than being about him, it’s all about the Almighty God, who gave Superman to us in the first place. It is solely because of God’s immense love for me and my whole family that He gave us Papa as a husband and father. I will never forget the goodness of our God and I will forever be grateful unto Him. It was He who gave Papa to us. It was He who took him away. Blessed be His name forever. Ultimately, Superman belonged to Him; he was not ours.
Finally, we knew that Papa’s greatest insecurity was that he was not able to provide for us a comfortable life. He would have given us the whole world if he could. He thought that he was a failure, because of this. On the contrary, however, I think he gave us the best life possible. Even though we don’t have much, we had everything we ever needed. I am certain that I had the greatest father in the whole world. I’m so very proud to be called his son. After all, not everyone could call their father Superman right?
Superman lives on. We are his legacy.
I will always remember. I will never forget.
(As in the comic book, Superman still had to die. Papa finally met his Kryptonite, the Big C. It wasn’t his hypertension after all that got to him, like what everyone expected. He will be missed but he will never be forgotten. Until we meet again Papa. Goodbye, our Man of Steel.