Sunday, September 5, 2010

Because of you, I have been changed.

This was read during Francis' Internment Mass (September 4, 2010, 1PM), St. Joseph Parish, Mandaue City.

“September settles softly, leaves starting to fall, I recall the last time you were here, your laughter are melody that lingers still. There is a hole in my heart, and I carry it wherever I go, like a treasure that travels with me down every road. There is a hole in my heart, in a shape of you.” - Jewel, an American singer songwriter, wrote this song for a friend who died of cancer.

(The last time the family was complete, April, 25, 2010. Francis is sitting in the middle wearing a white cap. Francis already had his first operation. I just got home from Manila. Less than a week after, he had another seizure and we were never the same again.)

Teban -- ang akong maguwang na si Francis Kintanar gyud ang nakabunyag nako aning pangalan. Makahinumdum ko na iya kong sugsugon og “Teban Escudero ang nawong morag kaldero.” Og mo tubag ra pud ko, “Pancit palabok bola bola opaw!”

When we were growing up, Francis and I had the most dramatic and sometimes violent fights among the siblings. The name calling, the insults, and the punches (or slaps from me) were exchanged between me and Francis! Seven years among gap, pero kaming duha mag-ilog og telebabad sa telepono. Junjun and Mark, my other two brothers, are more quiet, introverted, and peaceful in temperament. Growing up, I thought I don’t want to be like my brother.

Surprisingly now, people are telling me that I am a physical photocopy of Francis – ang pagkabus-ok, pagbarog, ang buhok, ang smile. I’ve been told that I look like John Lapus or Vaness Wu, but to be told that I look like my brother Francis is the best compliment so far I have received this year. Gipa-tambok gyud siguro ko karon – para kung mingawon mo ni Francis, mo tan-aw lang mo nako, nya ako, mo smile lang.

But I have always known that inside, we are very similar -- that is why we easily get on each others nerves. We are both an extrovert -- talkative and sociable. We have the wit and the humor. We are known to our friends for our patience, but we also have an explosive temper. I would like to think we are both courageous, out of the box, open to experiences, and defy-er of gravity. I think the biggest parenting challenges were only shared between Francis and me. He was once referred as the black sheep (the prodigal son) in the family, whereas I will always be the proud pink sheep. (Francis accepted and was proud of my pinkness too, he liked and forwarded my ImMoral video to his friends!)

But Francis had changed a lot. My mother, my father, and even I were overwhelmingly surprised with the stories we have heard from you, from co-workers, friends, and students. I remember my Mom’s words when we were talking over breakfast, “Francis is really full of surprises, from conception till death.” Na-shock man gud me kung unsa ka pinangga diay si Francis. He has changed from black sheep to a brilliant white sheep (his coffin’s color is very appropriate… and the flowers. I was even joking that the flowers matches with the motif of the whole wake.)

So how did that happened? I am a psychologist by profession and I ask questions like, how does one change from black to white? I think the answer is not surprising to you… you’ve known this. I know it. In fact, Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a song about it:

“Love, love changes everything, hands and faces, earth and sky. Love, love changes everything, how you live and how you die.”


Over the past months, I reflected on Francis colorful life story. I learned that love expressed by the family, love expressed by a partner, a lover, and a wife, love expressed by friends, coworkers, and the community – changed him from black to white.

When Francis was in rehab, I remember my Dad and Mom diligently (without a miss) visited him every Sunday. I was 19 then, I was studying in Manila. I only visit home for the holidays. Siyempre, ang akong mindset kay vacation mode. So, for an adolescent boy like me, every Saturday night is gimik night going home just before dawn. But on Sunday morning my Dad will always wake us all up so that we can visit Francis for Sunday lunch. (Dad’s unspoken rule: Bahala og kadlawon ni uli basta present for Sunday’s visit.) And my Mom prepared the food and the baon every Sunday of that entire year.

I think that’s love. (Oh by the way, today is my Mom and Dad’s 39th wedding anniversary. Bittersweet but happy anniversary Mom and Dad!) Happily and with pride, because of love we survived and conquered the illness of drug addiction.

But fate has another big challenge for Francis and for us after 10 years – the big C. February of this year, a week before his 38th birthday, and when I was visiting Cebu for the weekend, Francis had a seizure. A few days later we discovered that it was due to a malignant tumor in his right brain. Francis was a determined warrior and so we geared up for the battle. My Mom was the source of strength whereas my Dad was the source of hope.

But typical of a Filipino family, we couldn’t have done it alone. My Lolo and Lola, titos and titas, cousins, and relatives here and abroad played major and important characters too. Imagine the expenses and the emotional highs and lows of four operations, radiation and chemotherapy, and 6 months in and out of the ICU/hospital. The enormous amount of financial and emotional support was generously given. I don’t think Francis would have lasted this long if not for their help. I don’t think we, the family, would have survived the battle too.

So in behalf of the immediate family, we would like to say our sincerest THANK YOU… because we feel the love – I’m sure Francis did too. And because of it, we have been changed for good.

“Love makes fools of everyone, all the rules we make are broken… Yes love, love changes everyone… Live or perish, in its flame. Love will never, never let you be the same…”

During rehab, I know Francis was very broken and jaded. But when he got out, I am very happy that he had another chance on romantic love. As a person who studies personality and romantic relationship and as a brother who witnessed his love life, trust me, Francis is passionate but he is NOT an easy partner too.

But Lica, – you changed him and it made lot of difference to who he is now. I could just imagine how YOU picked up the pieces and I admire YOU for patching up the pieces. You were his safe haven and secure base. And you made me believe in wedding vows “to care for you in sickness and in health, to nurture you, and to grow with you throughout the seasons of life.” ACTIONS are indeed more important than words.

Lica, please remember, that no matter what happens, OHANA. I borrowed that from Lilo and Stich, it means, you are family.

So in behalf of my Mom and Dad, Francis’ brothers – Junjun, Mark and me. And I am sure Arav also feels the same way, we would like to say our heartfelt THANK YOU… because we feel the love too. And because of it, we have been changed for good.

”Yes, love, love changes everything, Brings you glory, brings you shame. Nothing in the world will ever be the same.”

I never thought that one morning will make a lot of difference for Francis, for our family, and for a community. I just graduated from college and I came home from Manila. After rehab, my mom requested me to accompany my (during that time) thin, unconfident, and unusually quiet brother to talk to the dean of the College of Nursing in Southwestern University. And I think after this event, wala na gyud mi mag-away.

Nagsabot mi, sige ha, akoy istorya sa dean. Niya ikaw hilom lang ka. Atong ingnon na gikan ka nagbakasyon sa States for one year. Kung pangutan-on ka akoy tubag og kung kailangan patubagon gani ka, tubag ka pero pag-ininglis ha. Sus, perte nakong hadluka lagi. Strictahon og nawong baya to na babae na among ka istorya.

But we were successful with our plan because Francis got into the program. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was chance, I don’t know. But to that person I was talking that day, thank you for the chance because that changed a life, you changed a family, you changed a barkada, and you changed a community.

In school, that was where he met Chad, Vanz, James, and the barkada. You shared your stories with us the other night. You mentioned how Francis had changed you. But with your friendship and love, he was changed too. Francis gained his confidence and groove back. He was the student governor during his senior year, became a well-loved clinical instructor, and graduated Masters in Nursing last March of 2010. Because of the love by his friends, coworkers, and SWU community, because of you guys, Francis changed and, in effect, changed us too.

When he was battling cancer, you and the whole community were our source determinism and hope -- from the benefit concert to the messages you left in Facebook, from your visits in the hospitals to the funny kulit stories you have shared. You made us realized that Francis was loved and I think that made it a lot easier for us to accept this ending.

So to the barkada, to co-faculty members, to students, friends in school, the entire SWU community, we would like to say our THANK YOU… because we feel the love – I’m sure Francis did too. And because of it, we have been changed for good.

According to Mitch Albom, "Death doesn’t just take someone, it misses someone else. And in the small distance between being taken and being missed, lives are changed. One withers, another grows. Birth and death are part of a whole."

I know now why people come to wakes and funerals. It is to be with the grieving family – to distract them somehow, to give them encouraging words and comfort, to share wonderful memories of the dead.

To everyone who have shown all different kinds of support – from the flowers, to donations, baked goods, chocolates and food, prayers and masses, hugs and tears shared, texts, calls, YM and Facebook messages, Youtube videos tribute, your genuine sympathies, and if I forget about you I am so sorry but you all know who you are, your positive unconditional regard, your mere presence – for just being there. We say THANK YOU, because we feel the love – I’m sure Francis did too. And because of it, we have been changed for good.

Thirty eight years is short but let us all learn and be inspired from Francis’ life story. Because of you, Francis changed, and in effect, I have been changed too.