Someone suggested that I share and frame this eulogy I wrote for my father a while back. I never got around to it. I swept it under the rug and forgot about it. But as I was cleaning out my files (literally and figuratively), I found it again. I thought I would and should memorialize it here. Joey may have passed but his lessons can live online forever.
I have been going through some...things, these past few months (you can read about some of it here: https://www.miapalanca.com/single-post/impostor-syndrome) and constantly remembering WWJD (What would Joey do?) was something that would regularly pop up in my head. So posting this will serve as a reminder for me, in an attempt to remind myself of what valuable lessons I had gained from my dad; to keep his memory alive, to keep him alive in the lessons he taught me when I am dealing with things that trouble me.
Granted, its not the best piece I have ever written in my life. A lot of it is taglish and there are a lot of times I actually trailed off while saying these words live so that I wouldn't cry but I feel like I wrote this with about as much honesty and love that I could possibly muster, as grief-stricken and as tired as I was during that 5-day wake period upon his death. I don't think I can say it enough. I love you, Dad. I miss you and think about you everyday.
I’m Mia. Joey’s eldest daughter. And my mom asked me to say a few words about my dad. So here goes.
What was the world like with Joey?
It was bright. It was calm. The world with Joey was filled with three things. Jokes, simple food and lectures.
I mean, look at his face. Is that not a man who likes to make jokes? When I was in college, he used to have this pilyo look on his face as he told my classmates to eat. He was kapampangan AND pilyo. He used to tell me classmates, “Oh you should finish your food! You don’t look like you’re on a diet naman eh!”
I also remember one of his classic Joey moments when he saw one of my grandmother’s sisters, sa mother’s side. She had just gotten lip injections, like fillers or something. And in a panic, he whipped out his medicine pill box and like a knight in shining armour, hero, he asked if she needed Allerta. OMG…like… super mortifying. Her lips were namamaga and he thought she was having an allergy attack! This was a classic Joey moment. It was him in earnest. He was 100% serious but when he realized that she had lip injections he started giggling like a little boy.
He was also good and simple man. He had simple wants in life. He just wanted to be with his wife, my mom and us, his kids and simple food. One of his favorite midnight snacks was skyflakes with strawberry jam and cheezwhiz or siopao from Masuki or Ma mon Luk. He took his coffee black. He liked mocha frappuccinos. Not because they were particularly good but because it was all he knew that was good in Starbucks. And all he needed in the morning was a tall glass of coke zero with lots and lots of ice and he was already satisfied with his day. He would carry around a big bottle of coke zero around our place, in his white kamiseta and plaid boxer shorts and go to his room and just watch the news.
He only liked traveling when we were all complete and he only liked going to Hong Kong because it was a familiar place. He was always a creature of comfort. He liked buffet breakfasts in the hotel. Whenever I or Vincent would suggest to try something new, he would wince and tell me, let’s just order Mcdo, even in Hong Kong ha. Kasi mas okay daw chinese food sa Manila. Mas malinis daw. I would laugh and shrug and eventually, Mcdo would always win. And I would always think, hay nako Dad. Try something new naman. Sometimes he would relent but he would always, always, ALWAYS conclude that nooooo, mas masarap yung food na kinalakihan niya.
As for the lecture part, my siblings and I know this part very well. He loved giving these mini lectures at dinner. Sometimes, we would try to make a joke and he would just take it as an opportunity to tell us to be more responsible or conscientious or considerate to the people around us. I remember one time, Vincent joked about something at the dinner table and it turned into a two hour lecture about responsibility and consideration. Nadamay pa kami ni Dani!
If there’s anything na napagmanahan ko from him, it was being ma-lecture. Each of us actually, Dani, Vincent and I, inherited some of his traits. If mine was being mapangaral, Vincent got his joking and maloko side, Dani got her stone-wall stoic nature from him. And until his dying moments, we were all able to have our moments with him. I wrote him a letter. Nagbigayan kami ng mga pangaral sa isa’t isa. Vincent and Dani also each had their moments with Dad. Dad pulled Dani aside and made sure he got the chance to talk to her. He told her to soften her heart. He knew that Dani took after her stoic nature. He told her to let her guard down. As for Vincent, he was the luckiest one. On Friday morning, from 1am to 3am, Vincent decided to visit dad straight from work, his work ends at midnight. He ordered coffee and hot chocolate and they just enjoyed each other’s company for the last time. Things just…simply fell into place. We all had our simple last moments with Joey. Because life with Joey was simple.
But in his simplicity. I knew there was a deep complexity about him. One that I didn’t realize existed until his last days. He figured it out. The secret to a good life lived. And that was to surround yourself with the people you loved. And if there’s one thing he loved, above all, it was us: his family. There was no denying this. He loved my mom and he loved us. But more about that later.
But that’s why it’s so hard to think of world WITHOUT Joey. Without THAT love, without the jokes, without the lectures. We can enjoy the good food, sure, but can we really enjoy all of it without the person attached to it?
There are so many things I will miss about him. He was such a good and simple man. He had no pretensions, whatsoever.
How can I even begin to imagine a world without the man who adopted this lowly baby from Baguio? Who told me, at age 3 and onwards for almost 30 years, Mia, you’re adopted, legally, but as far as we’re concerned, you’re our real daughter. This simple man, with simple desires and simple tastes, opened his arms, his home, wholeheartedly to me, without even knowing who I was to become; who entrusted his entire life’s work to? To his dying days, he kept telling the three of us of how proud of us he was. He was proud of Vincent for following his dreams. He was proud of Dani for being so committed. And he told me, okay ka na. Alam mo na yan. Matanda ka na. Okay ka na. Kampante na ako sayo.
It’s impossible to imagine a world without Joey. He was just Joey to everyone and to me he was dad. He was my dad. To everyone, he was all jokes and cheerfulness. But to me he was the man. The ONLY man in my life who showed me that true love could exist between people. Between him and my mom. For me and my siblings. He was the ONLY person, who showed me that kindness, above all, was the most important thing. And that gratefulness was the only way to approach life.
Til his dying day, til the very very end, he would say thank you to the nurses. The nurses who stuck by him. To our maids, Yaya Nits, Yaya Cita, Gigi. He would say thank you to all of them. Everyday, every chance he could. Whenever he was lucid and able to, he would say THANK YOU to everyone who tried to make his life easier and comfortable til the very end.
The helps were even making kwento that when he asked for company to make pa-gas (he was always praning while driving alone), he would stop by Select or 711 and take a few minutes staring at the products. And he would buy them some bread or snacks or toiletries for…. wala lang. He was just that kind of person. Kung maisip niya, Ay si ganito needs lotion, bilhan ko nalang para hindi na gumastos. He would buy my mom her sugarfree candy in the middle of the night, again… for wala lang. Ganon lang siya kabaet.
But above all, what really stuck with me from this whole experience was the immense and intense love he had for my mom, who really, has been the rock of my family. Even Joey knew this. Til his last week, he kept telling my mom, stay beside me please. As she would excuse herself to go to the bathroom, he would tell ask her to please stop leaving. Banyo nalang yun ah. She would be like…um, hello? Bathroom lang ako please. Joey himself knew that til the end, he was dependent on her. She was there. She was just there. From being highschool sweethearts (a term he super hated) to being there for his last breath, she was just there. And I knew, I knew in that in his heart of hearts, that he was able to fulfill his life’s purpose when he was able to take care of my mom and us. And I think when he realized that he had done all he could, he had prepared in all the ways that he could, he prepared us to the best of his abilities, in the best way that his body permitted him, he finally let go.
And when he let go, I realized and until now, til this very moment, I am realizing his final lecture to me. And it is this. It is that Yes, kampante na siya sa akin and matanda na ako. I had the pleasure and the privilege to spend almost 30 years of my life with him. He passed when I was already a fully formed person. He passed at a time when I was strong enough and brave enough to step into his shoes. He had so much faith and trust in me, that he just…let go. But this isn’t even about me. He gave me all the lectures so that I could make sure that my family is protected and taken care of. He wasn’t strong enough anymore to do the same for Vincent and Dani. But he equipped Vincent with a sunny disposition to fend off negativity. He equipped Dani with a stone-cold stoic demeanor to defend from anyone unloyal and untrustworthy. So this is my promise to him. To make sure my family is protected and taken care of in the way that he would want it to be protected and taken care of. And when he was kampante. He just…let go.
A world without Joey is all we have now. A world without dad. And at the risk of being dramatic and cry-ie and touchy feely, again, he truly hated it when anyone cried in front of him (like he would even make gatong if you cried in front of him), we have to do what everyone has done before us, when they've lost their loved ones, we have to take a deep breath and pick up where we left off and proceed with life.
I will miss him. But I will also always remember and take with me the things he has taught me. Kindness, gratefulness. Good food, because of course. Jokes. Because that's him. And of course, his lectures.