Under the weight of hesitation, I am writing this final homage to undoubtedly the most kindhearted uncle we’ve ever known. Part of me wants to relegate the density and simplicity of Tatay Ben into silence, more fitting it seems to his unobtrusive personality. But at the same time, there is so much to speak about him, yes, even his almost wordless diligence in work and domestic chores. Writing briefly about him is in a sense only capturing the here and there of his wisdom. Ordinary saints around us seem to have this power to compel us to notice them, to write about them, to sing about them, to immortalize them in our memories without any hint of obliging us. I guess this is the paradox of self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness: the universe returns to this forgotten self.
Since his death 2 nights ago from heart attack, I imagine a community of vigil goers at his wake. Tatay Ben was well-loved for his unassuming presence, simplicity and frugality in words, and passion for whatever he does. He was an exemplar of kindness to the needy, ever unconditional in his generosity. I believe people will remember him for these stellar qualities of him.
Tatay Ben, to my knowledge, never went to a university unlike the new generation of fellow townsfolk nowadays. He prospered neither through an ascent in the corporate ladder nor in the government’s echelon. To my knowledge, he spent most of his work life building roads in rural areas, rising from a sun-drenched construction worker until his retirement as a technician monitoring the strength of cemented highways from Agusan del Sur to Davao. I sensed how hard the work was – the dust hazards, the transient habitats from one project site to another, the internal financial irregularities that anytime could impoverish the family. Construction firms are never free from scandals. Temptations and disgrace to deceive a client lurk and happen from overpricing of materials to messing up the cement-gravel ratio. I know how decisive Tatay Ben was against those temptations, stirring the devil’s pot at times, attempting to leave the firm but seemingly undispatchable because he was that honest and good. Every erring company needs at least a good man standing! I know his integrity by the kind of simple lifestyle he had in the midst of bulldozers and backhoes, dumptrucks and stocked drums of rainwater, supplementing their income by raising hogs for sale.
His integrity was fashioned by the test of his fatherhood – that of sending my 4 cousins to college. He passed the test; 3 graduated. If there was one Mt. Tabor he successfully climbed under the strain till his old age, it was the Tabor of fatherhood and family. He modeled the climb through perseverance and prayer, especially for his children; especially for the wounded, resigned men in the family. For this new generation who eschews commitment, who believes that holiness within one’s family is nothing but a lotto win, his should be a stinging example to ponder.
Tatay Ben – we will terribly miss you as one of the most committed and loving man of the family around. We cannot thank you enough, I cannot thank you enough for your compassionate, humble, and forgiving presence in the world. We mourn over our loss even as we miss the light that you did bear for us. Thank you for building and showing us the many roads of Love. Onward to your reward exceeding great…