Friday, October 29, 2010

Farewell Uncle Choi

This morning is the funeral of my uncle, Zoilo Ba├▒ez, or Uncle Choi to those dear to him.  I would have wanted to be there during the funeral but i am unable to go home.  I was there during the wake though.  I’m also glad that we went home to our hometown in Abra to visit him, three weeks ago before his death.

Violence seems to haunt Abra.  My family is a direct witness, if not a victim, of this. When i was ten, my father was shot by a gunman from outside the window of a store.  He survived the shot but suffered a stroke, and died two years after he was shot.  Two years ago, just days after Christmas, one of my uncle was shot in the middle of the day.  Years before that, my cousin was shot by gunmen in a motorcycle while he was waiting for a ride outside their home.

I think Uncle Choi died the most "honorable" way, if i may say, among his kin just because he did not die under the bullet.  Late November or early December of last year, he found out that he had cancer.  But my memory of him is that of someone not in pain, but in genteel acceptance.  While he was undergoing series of chemotherapies and radiations, i never heard him complain nor curse, nor exhibit anger about what happened to him.  Neither did i see him wreathe in pain nor wallow in his agony.  He would only sit by the sofa, quietly massaging his arm.  Or he would be reading books or answering crossword puzzles.  But he was never in despair.

Whenever we would be visiting him at the hospital, he was the one entertaining us with his stories as if he was not the patient.  He would tell us such theories as when is the best time to gather honey because this kind of flowers from this or that part of Abra is in bloom at that time of the month.  He is also very passionate when he would be telling stories about raising fighting cocks.  I am amazed at the way he would be divulging his  techniques about crossing different breeds, of what dominant feature each breed has, or of how he is able to tell which one would turn out to be a great fighter just by observing them.  He was so passionate about it that he was making a joke that he would ask his doctor if he could raise a rooster outside the window of the room where he is confined.  Listening to him tell stories seems like listening to a teacher making science real to his students.

When we went home to visit him early this October, he was already speaking in whisper and barely audible.  But what I vividly remember is how he firmly grasped my hand and told me with all apologies how he would be unable to attend my wedding this December.  I told him that there would still be enough time for him to recover.  He would have been my Godfather or “Ninong” for my wedding in December.

But he will no longer be present for my wedding.  And i will never hear his stories anymore.  I still remember the stories, but i would no longer hear it the way Uncle Choi told them.