Memories of Undases past
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-11-02
If we are to follow the intention for creating All Saints Day, which is celebrated on November 1, and All Souls Day which is commemorated today then we ought to be visiting our dead on this day. Ever since your Chair Wrecker can remember, we Filipinos liked to visit our dear departed on November 1, the ultimate presumption that our family has produced Saints.

It was only in the past three decades when Filipinos, especially in the Metro Manila area, had decided to vary the day when they remember and honor their dear departed. It has now become fashionable — dictated by changing attitudes, work schedules and lifestyles — to visit our dead on October 31, November 1 and November 2. Many of those who have opted for an October 31 and November 2 visit to the cemetery, memorial park or columbary want to avoid the traffic, aggravation and other inconveniences of a November 1 visit.

In the days of my youth, All Saints Day is one day that I dreaded. That is because we had to visit three different cemeteries in order to be with our dear departed. We had to visit the niche below the San Marcelino Church in Manila where they interred the bones of my Scottish grandfather, Ian C. Trotter Macgregor. We also had to visit the South Cemetery because that was where they buried the remains of my paternal grandmother, Inez Valbuena Esposo. Then we had to visit the La Loma Cemetery where the rest of our family members were buried. 

The visit to the San Marcelino Church was the easiest task of the day. Going there, there was no heavy traffic to contend with. There was no parking problem and no big crowds to make you feel choked and short of air. The visits to the South and La Loma Cemeteries were the equivalent of wicked and merciless self flagellation.

On many such occasions, I would have an asthma attack by the time we returned home. Too much exposure to the sun, dust inhalation and physical over exertion were surefire asthma stimulants insofar as your Chair Wrecker was concerned. It did not take long when I decided to fake asthma attacks on the eve of All Saints Day in order to be spared the agony of visiting the cemeteries.

It was only in 1966 after Mommy passed away when our Dad decided to assemble everybody who had passed on to a family plot he prepared in La Loma Cemetery. That would have been a welcome move in the 1950s when the La Loma Cemetery was not yet congested and vehicles could still enter even on All Saints Day. By the mid-1960s, La Loma Cemetery was already over inhabited and the only public transports that you could take to get to your gravesite are the tricycles. Now comes the Gordian Knot — there is no way that my nearly 300-pound majestic immensity will fit in a tricycle!

In the mid-1990s, I decided to relocate our dear departed from the La Loma Cemetery to a mausoleum at the Manila Memorial Park. Indeed, it was the most convenient time we’ve had since those days of visiting three cemeteries on All Saints Day.

In the last few years, I had opted not to join the rest of the family anymore when they visited the family mausoleum — usually on October 30 or 31. With all my health issues, with more reasons to be dead than to still be alive — I figured that what’s the point of visiting the place when I will, sooner or later (hopefully, later), be taking residence there!

When you’re reached senior citizen stage in life, death does not faze you as much anymore as when it did in the days of your youth. To begin with, your Chair Wrecker saw the face of death at an early age. I must have been no more than 3 years old when my elder half brother Vicente passed away. Vicente used to entertain me a lot and it took some doing to explain to me what Vicente was doing inside a casket at the Manila La Funeraria Paz and why he would not wake up.

Life felt like an airport for me after the passing of Vicente with one departure following another. Not even counting close friends, I’ve lost my parents, maternal grandmother, younger brother, two elder half brothers and just recently, in October 2010, my two elder half sisters. Most felt of these departures were the passing of Mom and Dad on the same date, four years apart. Mom passed away on February 8, 1966 while Dad bade us goodbye on February 8, 1970.

Indeed, there are more folks on the other side whom I care for than those who are still residing here. The ones we miss most are those who shared, gave and loved immensely. The ones we hardly miss in life are those who take more than they give. In my case, a reunion on the other side appears more attractive than a get together here.

We shouldn’t have any regrets for having lived. Life’s great fulfillment is when we’ve generously shared, given and loved. Life’s big regret is when we’ve not shared enough, given enough and loved enough.

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