(Antonio Olalia Manguerra 11 May 1924-27 June 2007) Yesterday we buried my grandfather. I think the reason they have open caskets is to encourage one more wave of tears when it's finally time to close it. The strange thing is, all we're saying goodbye to is a mortal body, the lifeless shell. His spirit left us already almost a week ago. But I still cried. It's hard to rationalize things like that. You know: love, loss, the vacuum that remains in your heart. Even when you know that the afterlife is a better place for him, you also think about how much sadder this corner of the world would be without him. (I mostly think about my grandmother, who has never spent a night without him since marriage.)
The funny thing is, we didn't speak the same language. I think in English and have passable Tagalog, he thinks in Kapampangan and has passable Tagalog. When he had a stroke a few years back (before the mudslides devastated our area), though I thank God he did not become debilitated, for a while he must have forgotten either Tagalog or that I only understood Tagalog. Fortunately we got through that and we were able to communicate again with our bare minimums. But I'm glad I got to know him even with the barriers.
My grandfather was a pious man. Even when his arthritis got so bad, he still made time to watch the mass on TV even when my grandmother wasn't. I like to think I take after him in a way.
He loved the simple life. He worked as a serviceman in Clark Air Base (I have to ask my dad about that someday) when he was younger, but when he retired, he was a farmer of his own land. The story was that he even wanted my father not to go to college and instead inherit the land, but my grandmother insisted that he go to college (he became an Architecture major). When I was much younger, he didn't shave; instead, he plucked out his beard hair by hair. When we'd go to the provinces every few weeks, I'd pluck out the beard for him while he rested in the Pampanga breeze, both of us in meditation. I soon discovered it was a nice feeling, till I realized that if I ever decided to grow a beard, doing so would mess up its shape in the long term. Anyway, when I'd come over as a kid, he really enjoyed it. He loved posing for these newfangled camera phones. Funny guy.
My grandfather was a sensitive man. When my aunt, his daughter, left for Canada, aside from my cousin (who was only 10 or 11 at the time), he was the only one to cry in his old age. My stone-faced grandmother hilariously enough didn't even shed a tear. In a way I guess that's why he wanted my dad to be a farmer, so his family would always be together. I guess I somehow take after him in that respect too. Maybe during the funeral, his spirit somehow made us all cry.
The picture above is one of the rubber shoes I wore for all 5 years of medical school. Those are the shoes that stepped through blood, spit, feces, pus, and vomit. Without even tying the laces, I slip my feet in and out of them and they're perfectly molded to them. These shoes were originally for my grandfather but he gave them to me. You could say he kept my feet from falling apart during all those seatless, sleepless nights. He supported me then, and now more than ever I feel that he is still supporting me.
And probably this time he can understand what I'm writing.
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