Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Farewell Edwin Luntok

March 31, 2009

Dear Edwin:

Peace be with you, my friend. Many years had passed since I last saw you. Our lives have taken us to far away places and placed us in situations so foreign to us that it changed our lives in more ways than one. Though our lives are a little bit more complex now, I still look back to the years when we were still young boys and were not perplexed by the intricacy of adult life.

The memory of how we first met seemed to be beyond recall because several decades had already passed. Memory sediments had built up in my mind over the years which sometimes hinder me from extracting the details of the past.

Do you remember when we were still in grade school at Naga Parochial school? My brothers and I would frequent your house because both of us reside in Liboton Street in Naga City. Remember the bicycle craze back in the mid 1970’s? There was a popular cycling store at Igualdad Street near Dr. Guballa’s medical clinic and we would drop by there often to check the latest models of bicycles. Our choice of color then was red because it signified speed and energy. Both of us pestered our parents to buy us our own bikes because we had gotten tired of renting cheap bikes from one of the bad boys in our neighborhood who constantly charged us exorbitant per hour rates. We even devised strategies on how to convince our parents to purchase bikes for us.

After two weeks of pestering our folks, they finally agreed to buy us bikes. Our new bikes gave us the opportunity to explore places within pedaling distance. During weekends, we went to places like the city hall, Jacob street extension, Nordia sports complex, Magsaysay avenue, Diversion road, , Lomeda subdivision and San Felipe. I believe we even attempted to ride our bikes all the way to Pena Francia Resort one time but I can no longer recall if we ever made it there. The only thing I could remember on that trip was the time when a couple of dogs chased us. You and your brother Rodrigo jumped off your bikes and used them to shield yourselves from the attacking dogs and waited for the owner of the dogs to call off his ugly mongrels.

Your family had a sari-sari store in front of your house and I remember going there whenever your mother would bring out freshly baked “Maligaya bread”. Did you know that your father was the very first person who extended credit to me? I receive my weekly allowance from my mother every Monday mornings and majority of the time I would spend it all by Thursday. One Saturday afternoon while I was hanging out at your store, your father brought a bag of warm maligaya bread. He asked me if I want to buy some and I told your father that I already spent the last centavo of my allowance. He then told me that I looked hungry and offered to place my name in his “Utang list” and made me promise to pay him back when I get my allowance. The first credit purchase I did in my life was two slices of warm maligaya bread and a bottle of ice cold Royal-Tru orange soda. My credit rating at your store was always good because I consistently paid my balance in full before it reached 4 pesos.

Your father worked for the Philippine Red Cross office in Naga and I remember having this fear of going with you to his office because I was afraid that they might siphon a bottle of blood from my veins. On the few occasions that I did go with you to the Red Cross in Panganiban Avenue, I adamantly refused to go inside the office and stood outside near the road. One time you pointed to one of the close doors at the Red Cross office and told me that the room is designated for vampires who frequent the office to get their weekly blood rations. Seryosohon ka pati kaidtong sinabi mo idto sakuya.

After Naga Parochial school, we found ourselves wearing the Ateneo De Naga’s blue and white uniform. During our freshmen year, my brother Alvin and I were assigned to section LG-6 while you were placed at LG-4. During recess, both of us liked placing bets on a game of marbles and you have this fancy trick of back-spinning a marble.

You were also good in the game of “Sipa”. I remember you would sometimes show off your power kicks by kicking the “Sipa tingga ball” to the roof of the printing press room located at the end of Burns hall. Whenever your tingga sipa hits the roof of the printing room, it would make a loud thud and the school personnel inside the room would ran out fuming mad searching for any culprit. You were fast in your feet in running away that is why you never got caught.

After high school, I was told that you studied college at U.N.C and later on transferred to CSI (now USI) and obtained a degree in Social work. It was during your college years in USI that you met your lovely wife, Charmaine, and both of you eventually danced to the same tune all the way to the altar.

We had very little contact during our college years. I was not able to hear a lot about how you were doing because both of us took different career paths and developed new circle of friends. Last February 13, 2008, during my brief visit to the Philippines, I decided to find out how you were doing. My brother, Alvin, told me that your brother Rodrigo has a student shuttle business in Naga and he parks his mini-bus daily in front of the Cathedral church. Just before lunch that day, I went to the cathedral church and found Rodrigo waiting for his student clients. Rodrigo told me that you reside in Manila and he gave me your cell phone number. Since I did not have any paper and pen with me during that time, I just saved your cell phone number in the memory chip of my cell phone. That morning I sent you a text message informing you of my desire to re-establish communication.

The following day I decided to hang out at the Avenue Square and drink a couple of beers. The rain that evening kind of ruined the festive atmosphere and everybody just tried their best to celebrate the day of the hearts. I think it was around 9PM when my cell phone rang and when I picked it up, I heard you say, “Ivan, si Edwin ini! Kumusta ka na padi?” I remember apologizing to you because alcohol was impeding my ability to maintain a normal conversation. The nearby music was also blaring too loud that it was drowning some of the things that you were saying to me. You told me that you reside in Singalong, Manila and you operate a laundry business called “Labandera”. Before we ended our conversation, I made a promise to visit you in Manila the following week on my way back to California. It is only now that I regret ending that conversation due to the rain, noise and my intoxication. I should have stayed with you on that phone.

There were a few times during the period from March 2008 until last month that I would wonder how you were doing. I was not sure if you have a personal email and so I was not able to communicate with you. Last March 28th at 7:33am, I received an e-mail from Teody Laquindanum saying that you passed away recently at San Juan De Dios Hospital. I was in disbelief by what the email message said. I called San Juan De Dios hospital in Pasay City and the admission clerk told me that a patient by the name of Edwin Luntok passed away last March 26th at 12:45 PM.

From my metal filing cabinet, I pulled out the old cell phone which I used when I went to the Philippines last February 2008. The adaptor was still attached and so I decided to plug it in to find out if the battery in it would still take a charge. After a few minutes of being plugged, it came alive and from its speed dial memory I was able to retrieve your old cell phone number. I immediately called the cell phone and, to my surprise, your wife Charmaine answered.

I felt then that no amount of words of mine can relieve even an ounce of pain from your grieving spouse. I tried my best to console Charmaine and I told her about our carefree times during our elementary and high school years. Charmaine had so much wonderful memories about you that dates back to the time when both of you were still college students at USI. She told me that the day you graduated from Universidad De Santa Isabel, all the nuns there rejoiced and were quite relieved.

Charmaine remembers you very well as a very loving husband and a dedicated father to your three children. You showed fortitude in the midst of unfavorable conditions in life. You were hopeful on anything and everything for your family’s sake. You encouraged your better half to reach high career goals and believed in her abilities as an educator.

During your last days, you were supposed to attend a school ceremony where your son was scheduled to receive a first honor award for academic excellence. You were not feeling very well during that time. While Charmaine was busy attending to your son’s upcoming ceremony, the mighty hand of God came silently into your house and took your soul to heaven. You suffered very little and left this world quietly.

An empty chair now stands beside your family’s dining table. A new empty spot just appeared in our mighty batch. I am reminded of a poem for the departed. May it remind us that life is but a passing moment. A moment when our lives should be lived following the motto “Primum Regnum Dei”.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.

Edwin, you will never be alone again.

From your brothers in Ateneo high school batch 1980


Blogger Unknown said...

Very nice and touching words Ivan! I'm sure Edwin is now happy and at peace with our Creator. He may have left ahead of us like our other beloved batchmates who have already passed away, but he will always be a part of the Aden Hs 1980 family for the years to come and beyond...
Regnum Dei

Chris C.

1:21 AM  

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