Atio, Darwin

Published October 6, 2019, 12:04 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Dr. Jun Ynares
Dr. Jun Ynares

Two years ago, the public was shocked by news of the death of a student of the University of Santo Tomas, an apparent victim of hazing. A few weeks ago, we were shocked once more after news came out that a cadet of the Philippine Military Academy had died following massive internal injuries – another apparent victim of this age-old malady.

The law student was Horacio “Atio” Castillo, III. The PMA cadet was Darwin Dormitorio.

They were sons of distinguished fathers who did not deserve to have their sons die in this fashion. We shared in the grief of these fathers. Their sons’ fate can only lead us to ask what our society has come to.

We remember watching the television interview of Horacio Castillo, III’s father.

“He had dreams. He said, ‘Papa, one day you will be very proud of me’.”

Those were the words of the grieving father, Mr. Castillo Jr. whose weeping, distraught image made a deep imprint on me.

Recently, I saw another image of a grieving father. This time, it was the turn of retired Army Colonel William Dormitorio’s father to weep for his son – the late PMA cadet Darwin Dormitorio. His son reportedly collapsed in the classroom after complaining of severe stomach pains. He died soon after. Subsequent autopsy results revealed massive injuries to his internal organs – injuries which were apparently deliberately and systematically inflicted on a sustained basis.

Just like Atio, we learned from the interview of Darwin’s brother that the late PMA cadet had dreams. Dreams, after all, are the powerful fuel that drive young men. Darwin and Atio died at the age when a young men dream big dreams and start their journey towards fulfilling them.

When Atio and Darwin died, so did their dreams.

We are used to the sight of mothers crying at the wake of their sons. But fathers?

When a father publicly cries, the pain must be very, very deep. It is a cry that, I presume, the Heavens hear right away.

When we wrote about Atio’s death in 2017, we said that Mr. Castillo, Sr.’s pain and sorrow reminded me of my own. We recalled that, five years before Atio’s death, the baby who was supposed to be our third daughter died in her mother’s womb. She died on the eighth month of her conception, succumbing to suffocation by her umbilical cord.

We wrote that I did not recall having cried aloud. But I did weep. Bitterly. Inconsolably.

The severe emotional pain is borne out of the distortion of what a parent believes to be the natural order of things: that the parent is supposed to die ahead of the child. The death of the latter is one thing a parent would never want to see in his or her lifetime.

We recalled that, my aunt, former Supreme Court Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, painted a vivid picture of that pain when she spoke at the wake of her daughter, my cousin, Atty. Chingky Ynares Santiago.

Ate Chingky passed away in October of 2015 after a long battle with cancer. Justice Ynares Santiago spoke these words on the last night of her daughter’s wake. She said:

“I had hoped that I would not have to do this tonight. I stand here before you to perform what is perhaps a mother’s most difficult and most painful task: paying tribute to a dear daughter who has gone on to Heaven… ahead of her.

You see, we, mothers, have never imagined the possibility of doing this task. We always believe that it would be our children who would preside over their parent’s transition to the next life. It should be the daughter, we believe, who should be standing here and not the mother.

“The reality which faces me now is a stark contrast to what a mother hopes for. Deep though the pain may be, I will have… at some point… to accept that timeless truth that, quote-unquote, ‘God’s ways are not our ways’.”

When child stares at the lifeless body of a parent, the child weeps for the things they have shared and gone through together in the past.

When a parent stares at the lifeless body of the child, the parent weeps for the things that will never be; for the hopes and dreams that will never be fulfilled; for the laughter that would never be heard; for the many moments of joy that will never be felt.

I guess there is a basic difference between a mother and a father. The mother looks at her child and sees the child as he or she is at the present moment. Theirs is a bond that have been built even before the child was born.

The father looks at his child and sees the future. He is obsessed with what the child can be, can become, and can be able to have and to do.

Mr. Castillo Jr. and Colonel Dormitorio were weeping not just for the demise of their sons; they were inconsolable because dreams and hopes died with his son.

Whoever may be responsible for the death of Atio and Darwin should know this. They killed sons. With the death of sons, dreams and hopes died, too.

Sometimes, dreams and hopes are more powerful than life itself.

From a father who lost a daughter seven years ago to another father who had just lost a son, I say this to Colonel Dormitorio the very same words I conveyed to Mr. Castillo in 2017:

I share in your sorrow for the loss of your child.

I share in your pride, too, for your son, Darwin. Yours was a son who would do everything to fulfill the Dream. He paid the price for it. He was brave. Courage is in the blood that flowed through his veins.

After all, Darwin was a soldier’s son. You are that soldier.

*For feedback, please email it to [email protected] or send it to #4 Horse Shoe Drive, Beverly Hills Subdivision, Bgy. Beverly Hills, Antipolo City, Rizal.