For one last time

Published May 20, 2022, 5:18 AM

by Fil C. Sionil

My apologies for the personal view of this piece. For one last time, I seek your indulgence as I share with you some of the minute details on the “Pagpupugay ng Bayan” (State Eulogy) for National Artist for Literature F. Sionil-Jose held late Wednesday afternoon sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission.

The Pagpupugay, in recognition and celebration of his contributions to the artistic communities for Culture and the Arts, was indeed simple yet elegant. The center stage of the Nicanor Abelardo Hall was adorned with his bust and a replica of his writing desk with his books, among them the Rosales Saga, displayed prominently.

Except for Nikko, his children – Tonet, Eddieboy, Gigi, Eugene and Alex were all present. Eddieboy assured that Solidaridad, the quaint little bookshop his faher put up with his wife, Auntie Tita, will prevail as the bastion and source of knowledge.

One of the poignant moments of the event, for me, was when the Philippine Harmonic Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Herminigildo Ranera, strummed the first note of the classic Ilocano song “Ti Ayat ti Maysa nga Ubing,” (The Love of a Child), one of Tito Frankie’s favorite. My eyes swelled.

Yes, as former colleague Clanor Ganac described me as a rottweiler journalist, but, a marshmallow, softee at heart. I must admit, I am a cry baby. Oblivious of the people around, I sob, recalling his unsent letter to daughter Jette. It was short but meaningful, heart piercing even! It’s his yearning for Jette to “come home so he can hug her before he goes.”

He knew his time was running out. He pictured how his eulogy should be as the songs and the view clip of his previous interviews, he, himself inscribed in black colored journal.

The songs “Ti Ayat” and “Dungdungwen kanto,” an Ilocano wedding song, which was sang by Tenor Tomas Umberto Virtucio Jr. with musical accompaniment by guitarist Ricardo Juanito Balledos, among his favorite, were in the list.

Allow me to go deeper, though, of what I perceived to be its subliminal meaning. “Dungdungwen” is also a lullaby. It speaks of the love of the father to his child. It calls to mind, again, of his longing for Jette, to come home, but it never came through as she went a month ahead of him.

The first stanza of its English translation says it all: “I will love and cherish you always, I will cradle you to sleep in a soft-cloth swing, I will swing you ever so gently, And soon enough you will be asleep.”

Also in the list is The Falling Leaves, which was rendered by renowned pianist Raul M. Sunico. Reading between the lines on the message of the song, it was as if he was subtly telling us of the end of an era – F. Sionil’s era — his style of literary writing that talks about national sovereignty and the unceasing fight of the oppress and the poor for social justice.

He never minced his words. He’s, at times, misunderstood. He speaks of issues and states his beliefs that did not sit well or are unpleasant to some. Up until the end, he has never, ever lost his intellectual prowess, writing his apprehension that his dear brave heart would given in and may be unable to endure the angioplasty.

Almighty beckoned.

As Mr. Sunico’s rendition filled the Abelardo Hall, my tears flowed. My life as a journalist will never be the same again. He was my source of wisdom. I miss our cerebral intercourse, the Q&A, which seems like a “rebaleda,” as if I was defending my thesis and his emphatic laughter on juicy developments, political and otherwise.

I long to hear his comments about the turn out of the recent electoral process, I can very well picture him, saying a mouthful. But that’s how the wheels of life churn and we have to move on.

For the third and last time, salud Tito Frankie!

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