Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Setting The Funeral Wheels In Motion

Minutes following Mama’s passing, Kuya Vic, Ate Chit, Caloy, Madie, and I gathered around and contemplated our next move. Vic called La Merced Funeral Parlor to consult with them what to do next. We then went to La Merced and told the person in charge that we needed to transfer Mama to their facility. He summoned another worker and they brought a guerney to their truck and followed us home. There, they transferred Mama on the guerney and took her back to the funeral parlor with me riding shotgun. Mama was placed in a room next to the embalming area. I guess they had some regulation that required them to wait a certain number of hours before they can start the embalming process. Someone mentioned that it was to make sure there was no spontaneous resurrection. Caregiver Neneng and helper Andrea arrived at about 3 a.m. to keep watch over Mama while I went home to contact my supervisor and rebook my flights. Kuya Vic mentioned earlier that it was important to keep watch because there have been instances in the past where organs were harvested illegally. The ubiquitous stray dog(s) was also seen hanging around the funeral parlor so that was another cause for concern in case their hunger got the better of them. Sorry about being so morbid here. In the meantime the Pabellons and Tupazes gathered information on the proper paperwork to fill out and submit to authorities regarding Mama’s death. Nothing else could be done until after 8 a.m. that morning.
Sending an email to my supervisor wasn’t a problem. My Cebu Pacific Airlines ticket wasn’t refundable or rebookable so that was as good as lost. Scouring the Korean Airlines website, I didn’t find a page which allowed me to rebook. Instead, a message popped up saying that the Philippine government does not allow online booking for international flights. I had to find the Manila phone number of Korean Airlines and promptly gave them a call. Telling them my situation, they were able to rebook me for Thursday with the same schedule as my Monday flight. Just after the rebooking was confirmed, the load on my cell phone ran out! Thankfully I already received the confirmation number, although I was still doubtful. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I felt reassured, when an email confirmation with a new eticket arrived.
I returned to La Merced at about 7 a.m. to relieve Neneng while awaiting the arrival of Larry. The other caregiver – Joanna arrived shortly to join Andrea and I. I was relieved to see Larry walking down the hallway towards us. Together we went to look at Mama. Quiet prayers were said, then Mama was taken to the embalming room. Larry and I went to the office to find out options for visitation rooms and caskets and that was taken cared of at that time. Caloy and Madie arrived with a government social worker who came to verify the demise of Mama so that a medical officer could issue a death certificate. The Pabellons came shortly and together with Larry, we picked a casket for Mama based on her prior instructions. Then they had to leave to follow up with more paperwork. Larry said he even had to obtain a cedula. I added some load to my cell phone at a store across the funeral parlor, then a chain of text messages was sent around to relatives and friends regarding Mama’s passing and Uncle Dante and Auntie Lita came by the funeral parlor to join us.
After the embalming process, Mama was dressed in the clothes that were chosen two days before, then placed in the casket. Initially, the workers brought the wrong casket, so we had to show them the one we picked. Mama was then brought upstairs to an air conditioned visitation room (only one of two, I think). By afternoon, flowers and visitors began to trickle in. The chain of text messages had done its job.

We had decided beforehand that the visitation would only be two days so the burial was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Prayers and masses were arranged, the details of which were pretty much a blur to me by that time because I hadn’t slept in more than 24 hours. I just assented to what people were telling me. About 9 p.m., as Ate Chit was saying something, I felt dizzy and had to excuse myself to go home. As usual, I didn’t sleep well despite my exhaustion.
I managed to do my walking workout on Tuesday morning after which I humped it all the way back to La Merced (running and walking) because I was running late, and I had told Larry beforehand that I would be back by 8 a.m. to relieve him. I was running low on pesos but found a money changer nearby which was also a booking agent for Airphil Express Airlines. That took care of two things at once and saved me time. Visitors came and went thru late Tuesday evening. I met relatives and family friends whom I haven’t seen in years or met for the first time, and got phone calls and text messages from the rest who were not in Zamboanga. Thank you all for your condolences and offerings of prayers.
I left briefly and went home to get a small pillow and my earplugs because I planned on staying at La Merced that night. It was Larry’s turn to get some shuteye  at the apartment, but he stayed with us that night too. So it was Larry, Neneng, Mary Cate, Andrea, Erning’s family (sorry I forgot your names), and I who stayed overnight with Mama.  We secured the visitation room door, barring the two handles with an umbrella just like Larry did the night before, then took turns sleeping on the pews.
When I awoke at 5 a.m. Wednesday, Larry was already up. It was raining outside and I had no raingear. I also only had one pair of running shoes which I also wore for the rest of the day. I couldn’t get those wet because I had to wear them for the funeral later that day, so I mentally prepared myself to missing my first workout in 30 odd years. Then I started walking in my slide sandals, doing laps around the second floor of the funeral parlor and pretty soon added the stairs (only one flight though) until I reached my requisite 30 minutes, then added 2 more for good measure. My exercise streak lives on! If it was still a running streak, I'm not sure if I would have been able to continue it since running inside a funeral parlor seemed inappropriate.
I went home for a quick shower then returned to La Merced bringing the clothes I brought from the U.S.  for this particular purpose. Even though anticipating the death of a loved one is difficult to think about, and of course you don’t want it to happen, I still had to be realistic based on reports I received before travelling back to Zamboanga.
Prayers led by the Mother Butler group
Hours passed, relatives and friends came, a rosary was recited and pretty soon, it was time to transport Mama to St. Joseph’s Cathedral for the funeral mass. Remember I said I thought I may not be seeing my Notre Dame classmates again real soon? Well, some of them showed up that day too. I can’t say much about the funeral mass because it was another moment of blur for me.
Funeral Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral
 The video that our cousin in law took pretty much portrayed what happened accurately. Thanks again Boni Salinas. I shall post that video again below. We were transported to Forest Lake Cemetery after the mass where I saw Papa’s burial site for the first time since I attended his funeral. I thought that happened 11 years ago and I was grossly mistaken when I saw his headstone dated 13 years prior. Brief services and blessings were conducted and Mama’s casket was soon lain on top of Papa’s.

While the workers covered up the grave, snacks were passed around to the attendees (thanks to Ate Chit for taking care of this). They were purchased from and delivered by KFC (yes, folks – Kentucky Fried Chicken). Mama would have been smiling about that blend of Filipino tradition and American commerce.

Goodbye Mama. We Love You Very Much. Thanks For Everything You Have Given Us.

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