A Belated Eulogy

From the irreverent Gilda Cordero Fernando (GCF), we learned that giving a eulogy to a living person is nice. Well, she had one on her 82nd birthday.

We looked up the meaning of eulogy, and the online Free Dictionary lists two meanings, namely:

  1. A laudatory speech or written tribute, especially one praising someone who has died.
  2. High praise or commendation.

An icon of Pinoy culture but a master of the English language, GCF is very correct to ask for a eulogy. It’s not only for the dead. Come to think of it, a eulogy for a living person is compatible with Pinoy sensibilities. We like to celebrate, laugh, and socialize even in times of sadness. We like to highlight the positive and the good things about our friend or relative. We want our relatives, friends, and acquaintances, and those unknown to us to be happy. Why then should the person being praised not be a witness to the eulogy?

Influenced by GCF, we thought of writing a eulogy for our friend Tony, whose cancer of the kidney had metastasized. But we held back. What if he or his loved ones rejected it? At the very least, we had to get permission from Tony or his loved ones. Unfortunately, Men hesitated.

When Men visited him at the Manila Doctors Hospital, Tony was in high spirits, and he was chatty. A eulogy was untimely, he thought. Mike, on the other hand, refused to visit Tony during his most critical days at the hospital. For Tony wanted to live, and Mike wanted to remember him as a strong leader, and doing what he loved to do most—to make friends appreciate life and to continue helping people.

It was on the day that Men had a vertigo episode that Tony passed away, the fourth of July.

Tony would no longer be able to hear or read the short eulogy that we had thought for him. But here it is.

Tony, though bearing the cachet of being a Romualdez, was not a public figure. We have associated the name Romualdez with Imelda, the true, the good, and the beautiful. Imelda is Tony’s aunt, being the first cousin of his dad Pocholo, then editor of the Philippine Daily Express and current executive editor of Malaya.

Neither was Tony as renowned as a good Romualdez, like his uncle Quasi, the former Health Secretary who, despite retirement, continues to work hard and fulfill his civic duties, especially in championing health for the poor. Like Quasi, Tony was a good Romualdez.

Tony was a good person because he cared for others, because he wanted people to be happy. When we say Tony wanted people to appreciate life, he wanted us to see the true, the good, and the beautiful, but not in the Imeldific sense. Tony usually hosted dinners for his friends, including the annual Christmas parties of his class. In one instance, he told Mike: Punta ka sa condo earlier pare. Don’t miss the sunset; napakaganda ng view dito.

For Tony, what is true is the Philippine reality, including the poverty of the many and the tyranny of a few. Tony sponsored medical missions in the depressed communities of Singalong. And he fought for justice and good government. He was one of the faceless heroes (though he carried the name Romuladez) in the struggle against the illegitimate Gloria Arroyo regime. He was intense in his participation in the protest meetings and demonstrations. At that time, his physical and health condition was already fragile.

He showed leadership; he was a motivator in his batch, urging and mobilizing classmates to fight Gloria. He was a born leader. Mike’s first exposure to this was when he and Tony were second grade elementary students. Tony was the leader of a small band of classmates, engaging another group in some kiddie war play. From kiddie war to political warfare, Tony was skillful.

And he was brave. In his teens, Tony really got whacked when he joined the APO fraternity. His cancer was of a terrible kind. Despite the pain, when Men saw him at the hospital, Tony was cheerful and chatty. But his heroic bravery was also expressed in fighting for good but dangerous causes.

Tony, the good, courageous and unpretentious Romualdez is gone. He was stricken by cancer of the kidney, which metastasized virulently. Vikkie, Tony’s beloved partner, said that his smoking was a contributing factor.

Let not Tony’s death be in vain. Let us emulate him in pursuing what is true, good, and beautiful. For Quasi and us, this will take expression in fighting for the passage of the law on sin tax reform—taxing tobacco will help prevent cancer that struck down Tony. Its passage would make Tony happy.

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