My Christmas Story
December 24, 1990
Mommy was busy all day preparing food for our Noche Buena. As always, main course included chicken. I can no longer remember the other “handa” as I was tasked to clean the house. Tatay, on the other hand, took the time off from house chores and opted to spend time with our male neighbors over bottles of hard alcoholic beverages. I was really pissed off with Tatay that day that I told Mom to ask him to go home and help us both inside the house. But since Mom knew that Tatay was having some personal dilemma, she told me to let Tatay spend the day in that manner. Being an immature daughter that time
(Or up to now? Hehehe!), the “sungit” in me surfaced and I decided to go to where Tatay was and kind of nagged in front of his friends. I remember telling him, “Tay, bakit ka umiinom dyan? Bakit di mo na lang kami tulungan ni Mommy sa bahay?” Surprisingly, Tatay did not get mad at me but instead told me that he will go home as soon as he and his friends were done with what they were drinking. Of course, I got more pissed off and went home overly mad and disappointed in Tatay.
After doing my task at home, I opted to sleep early. I intentionally did that so I would skip eating Noche Buena with Tatay. That’s how pissed I was.
Oh well, I was successful with my evil plan as I overheard Mom telling Tatay not to wake me up anymore since I got too tired cleaning the house. I heard disappointment in Tatay’s voice when he said “Taon-taon naman tayong nagno-Noche Buena. Bakit naman kasi natulog ng maaga?”
December 25, 1990
Remembering what happened the day before, I woke up still mad at Tatay. So I gave him a cold treatment and did not utter a single word to him the entire day. I just spent the day inside the house while Mom was busy entertaining relatives and guests who passed by our house for a short chit-chat and quick snacks. Again, Tatay opted to spend time with the male neighbors. Still, I did not understand why he would prefer to spend Christmas with them.
Later in the afternoon, Mom and I were scheduled to hear mass at the nearby church. So Mom dragged me to where Tatay was to let him know that we will just leave for church for a short while. Still, I did not talk to Tatay. On our way to church, Mom tried to explain to me why Tatay was being odd like that. She told me of Tatay’s dilemma on his frustration with how life has been treating us. Tatay has been out of job for long. Work has been difficult for him. He provided for us by getting project-based jobs. Something that’s too unstable. (Mom and I never complained about it though.)
After my short talk with Mom, I kinda understood where Tatay was coming from. But still, I did not talk to him when we arrived home. I just slept it off.
December 26, 1990
At around 8 a.m., Mom woke me up and asked me to get dressed immediately. She said I need to go to my aunt’s house (Tatay’s younger sister) in Marikina to tell her that Tatay was shot and rushed to PGH. Upon hearing that, I jump out of my bed. I asked my childhood friend to accompany me to my aunt’s house as I was a bit too young then to travel that far.
Since I wasn’t able to get much detail from Mom, I couldn’t explain much to my aunt why and how Tatay was shot. Together with my oldest cousin, we all rushed back to PGH. My childhood friend likewise accompanied us to the hospital.
My aunt, cousin and I went straight to the Emergency Room. We then learned that Tatay was shot in the head and has nil chance of having a normal life or worst, staying alive. The doctor told us that the bullet got stuck in Tatay’s pituitary gland. So even if he will survive, he will forever be in a coma state.
Upon hearing that bad news, the 3 of us immediately approached Mom and asked what really happened. Mom said she was inside our house when it happened so she was just told by neighbors that a random guy who waited for Tatay to come out did it. Tatay was on his way to work when the guy followed him, walked passed him, took out a gun and pulled the trigger when Tatay bent down to fix his shoe lace. Tatay was able to duck and avoid the bullet. But since Tatay was no coward, he tried to ran after the guy and when he ran further down an alley, he slipped and bumped his head on the floor. Since Tatay could not get up immediately, the guy took that chance to move close to him and aimed his gun onto Tatay’s cheek. Pulled the trigger. And then ran off. Mom said that was what our 3 neighbors told her. (Well, the story got a bit more complicated than that… and believe me, it truly is a very long story.)
Now back to the hospital scene…
Tatay’s mom and siblings, Mommy’s relatives and friends from the neighborhood started to arrive. Since the hospital did not have sophisticated equipment that time, our friends and relatives tried to help Tatay breathe with the use of a silicon resuscitator. Each person took a 5-minute turn in pumping that silicon thing. Each of them tried their very best and hoped to revive Tatay for hours. But still, there was no response from Tatay. The doctor was right. His brain got damaged by the bullet and Tatay only had above-zero chance to live.
December 27, 1990
Relatives and neighbors who were with us at the hospital took shifts in trying to revive Tatay. But the most they could do was to sustain his breath.
At around 8 pm, it was my uncle’s turn. He took the rubber pump and tried to resuscitate Tatay. After some minutes, he noticed that Tatay is no longer responding. So he called on Mom and my aunt. The doctor approached. Checked on Tatay. Then turned back to Mom and my aunt. Told them that Tatay is already gone. I was asleep when Tatay’s passing happened. Mom woke me up and broke the sad news. I saw in Mom’s eyes how exhausted she was but still kept a strong outlook. She said we all needed to go back home to rest while Tatay is sent to the morgue.
At first, relief was our only consolation after knowing that Tatay’s ordeal has ended. For 2 days, he looked so miserable in that metal bed together with other ill-fated patients inside the Emergency Room. After hours of waiting, everyone got so excruciatingly tired. Tatay can already rest. He need not suffer anymore… and so as our friends and relatives.
That night was the darkest moment of my life. December 26 and 27 were the longest 2 days that I have ever experienced in my entire life.
December 28, 1990
That ill-fated incident started to sink in to us all when we saw Tatay in a casket. We never imagined that we would celebrate the Holiday Season like that. Everything happened so fast. Tatay was already gone. Everyone was mad but anger and hatred could not bring Tatay back to life. We felt sadness more than we felt anger.
For 2 days, friends and relatives came over to pay their last respects to Tatay.
December 30, 1990
At 11 am, we were already at the Church for Tatay’s funeral mass. I was touched to see the number of people joined us in church. And they were with us all the way to the cemetery. I remembered what people say about death: a person’s worth will be justified by the number of people who will attend his funeral. I felt that Tatay’s death was not just my loss. I saw from other people’s eyes that they likewise felt the loss.
At 12 noon, we laid him to rest at the South Cemetery in Makati. The South Cemetery was not a new place of me as I used to go there with Tatay to visit his grand parents every November 1st. I felt so sad to be there for Tatay’s send off. Tears were pouring hard. My grandmother, Tatay’s mom, felt so devastated. All the people around us, relatives and friends alike were grieving with us. It was both sad and overwhelming.
It was my last day to be with Tatay.
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So that was my Christmas story 20 years back. Since then, my Christmases have never been the same. There will always be something missing every time the Holiday Season comes. I would never be able to celebrate it with Tatay anymore. And the saddest part that still haunts me up to now is that I opted to be bad girl during Tatay’s last days. It was my first time to act that bratty against him. And not eating Noche Buena with him and Mommy that year was the worst thing I’ve done. Had I known it was my last Christmas with him, I should have done the opposite. I should have been good to him as I always was. I should have treated him how a good father deserved to be treated.
Now that he is gone, I can only apologize to him in prayers. And only in prayers that I can tell him how much I love and miss him.