Morning New(s): Daily Blog, Digest, Reflection, and Whatever in between

For Cirilo

I am doing something I should have done, maybe a year ago, something I need to do as I look back, look forward, and consider the now before the future.

I know the world right now is not the same ‘world’ before this pandemic. Everything is upside down. But please, let me indulge a few moments that I have this special but also sad day, the 15th of May.

Two years ago, I lost a man in my life. Many of you may have only heard of him by his name or my term of endearment for him, Pangga (dear/love in his language, Hiligaynon). You may have not seen or met him personally. Now, I am proud to introduce him to all of you.

I met Cyrille John (CJ) Prudente almost 10 years ago in the university town of Los Baños, Laguna. I was a young lecturer then. He was already raising a family, although I believe he was not entirely happy with his married life. At first, it was more of a game for both of us, not really knowing what it is, what it was, what we were pursuing. I was a lonely, manic-depressed, and a grieving dreamer, thinking of making it big in the academe, or in life. For him, it was wanting to get out of that place, meet the bigger world, travel to places and see greener pastures, as with the usual narrative of someone born without a silver spoon in his mouth, in a place called Philippines.

Some of my friends knew this relationship, in fact, this was not entirely hidden from people who know me better and knew my secretive life. It was a hard choice, not a popular one. Yes, there I was, carrying much of the load for most part of it. But he too had his share of bringing our relationship forward, amidst tropical and devastating storms, judgement and scorn of people around us, and of course, great distances, challenges, and differences between us.

For one, he never hid that relationship and was brave enough to introduce me to his family and the people closest to him. Secondly, I had many episodes of irrational fear, anxiety, and anger thrown at him, for times he was late on occasional dates and meetings, or for small things I was worried about. We were in those dark waters and my words can pierce and even humiliate him as we fight about mundane concerns and our already extraordinary lives with extraordinary challenges. But those baring of bones and wounded spirits have cemented our more than two years of short-distance relationship that we had before I left for Australia. I promised that I will return, or maybe, if luck is on our side, we will be together here, in a country that might legitimate our love out in the open.

For almost seven years, we communicated and stayed in touch. While we were physically apart, we monitor each other’s lives, in ways we can and in a very limited view we had. I never saw him much as we both didn’t enjoy screen time or online video chats. We relied on words, on obligatory and brief exchanges, on good mornings, good night, have you had dinner or lunch? I came to see him a few times while doing my fieldwork and brief holiday in between my PhD research.

And so life happened, or in fact, didn’t happen the way written in our book of love poems or letters. It took me a long time to complete the degree. I decided to stay here and find a way to bring him here with me. At the same time, I too suffered my own loses in life, including my mother. At some point my bets to be here are not enough. The transition and reasons for migrating became much harder and the processes longer. I, too, have to battle illnesses, both physical and mental.

In 2017, he complained about chronic fatigue and losing weight. I saw in his eyes both the longing and deterioration. I knew that at an early age, he was on hypertensive medication, though perhaps thinking that he was still young that he can get away from it. Before his final days, he explored some places, met a group of young motorcycle riders who banded together to help other people and explore the nearby region via motorbike. I strongly opposed those travels and adventures and driving long hours on the road telling him that it can cause dehydration. But he would tell me it was his way of dealing his loneliness and longing to be with me. He was a heavy smoker and a social drinker, like me, when I first met him.

On February 2018, after getting a blood transfusion and series of laboratory test, I received a message: “My kidneys are not functioning.” I told him to seek support for a regular haemodialysis. It was expensive of course, in a country that kills its people and with a president wanting to kill the poorest of the poor. He was both afraid of the bills and procedure. When I was still around him, I would usually force him to face his fears, of course with me by his side. Eventually, I got tired of convincing him and I was on the verge of really severing the relationship. At that time, I was also losing hope, losing the thought and the promise of togetherness, losing my grip. He relied on alternative medicine and natural supplements and reported to me that he was getting better. Half of me was hoping all is well while the other half is telling me that he is already dead, or dying while I too was dealing my survival in this place, in this country, as a migrant.

I knew death was inevitable, having witnessed and dealt the death of both my parents due to poverty and lack of access to a decent medical support. Only the wealthy and those with positions in the upper bureaucracy may get to choose to live in my country of umbrellas and Marian apparitions. On this day, two years ago, I received a message from his daughter at around three am, telling me that his dad passed on, and that previously, he was looking for me, repeating my name, wanting to, I believe, see me for the last time.

Before that, he was excited to see me because after five years, I was supposed to see him that year as I was scheduled for a brief visit. He told me he can’t wait for the date. Unfortunately, I was the one who will be forever waiting.

I have not set foot yet to his grave when I went back to see his mother a few months after his death. At that time, I did not know if my mind was really inside my head. I was in grief, battling depression and anxiety, and was struggling to keep my head above water.

I wanted to memorialise him in a way that I would also be brave enough to tell you, tell the world, even in this online world and despite what we are facing right now that he truly loved me. Our relationship was far from perfect and would be judged by many as unacceptable, but we did have love, and love for each other, no matter how hard it was for us and the people around us.

I wanted to give him a name and be proud of this person who pushed me hard to chase my dreams, and our dreams, even though it means that I have to do it myself, alone. I wanted you to know the sweetest and loving person who laughed at my jokes and wiped the tears on my cheeks after each fight or when I was scared of the world and myself. I wanted you to know that he was proud of me, of my achievements, in what I have written or was awarded with, even though I have to explain to him what I was doing and what was those writings and awards for. He was genuinely proud and always telling me that I should be proud of myself too, and that I should be more ambitious and bold and motivated with everything, no matter how hard the challenges we were both facing.

He wanted to escape poverty, escape his life and be with me. He wanted to travel with me and see places we were browsing at my slowly cranking laptop. He wanted to be rich himself and start his own charity to help others, wanted a good life, for his family, for friends, for us.

Thank you Cj, my Pangga, for those years, for those intense, movie-like scenes, trials and tribulations. Thank you for still forgiving me after hurting your with words and showing you my destructive side. For just being who you are, and for being brave, sincere, loyal, and patient to a love and dream that I am still chasing as I write and release you from my hard grip.

May you finally rest and may this memorial serve as a testament of our love for each other, witnessed by this infected world that, just like us, has always hoped and still hoping for a better tomorrow, which you would always say, never ends (“hindi naman laging nauubos ang bukas.”)

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