The last surviving World War II veteran in our hometown who also happened to be the post commander of Veterans Federations of the Philippines-Sipocot Chapter has fallen. That God has decided to grant him rest on a National Holiday (Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor) was a tribute to his soldier’s heart. He fought on. He faced his most challenging medical battle two weeks ago when he conceded to his doctors’ advice for an operation.  His iron-clad spirit and will sustained him past the critical hours post op, but, the flesh, all worn out could no longer bear the complications associated with the surgery.

I received the news at 2:30 am today. My firstborn son who works online way past midnight (following European work hours) awakened me. The call came from my nephew.

The moment my son woke me up, I knew. Nobody calls at an unholy hour without bearing bad news. Cardiac arrest, so I was told. Earlier in the day, he was again back to a ventilator for difficulty of breathing.

 It has been more than two weeks now since he went under the knife to remove a part of his intestines that were already starting to decay. It was an emergency procedure. All along, everyone thought ( including Tatay himself) that the pain he was experiencing had something to do with his hernia. It was later found out by a team of doctors that it was way serious because of intestinal blockage. Until and unless he underwent operation, he was bound to suffer from blood poisoning.

And so on the night of March 21, all eight of us siblings with the help of our physician nephew held a meeting regarding  our father’s situation. Given that he was 94, all of us were apprehensive if he could still endure such invasive procedure.  At the same time, we did not have any choice either (like we were caught between a rock and a hard place) because non-submission to the only medical intervention required meant continued pain and blood poisoning. In the end, we decided to wait for the patient’s decision himself.

Kuya Jun, the 6th among us was the one who relayed to Tatay his situation and the advice of doctors about it. Tay acceded to the doctors’ advice.  And he endured.  At least for two weeks after he survived the goings on inside the OR.

Up until he was wheeled in a stretcher for his operation on the 23rd of March, Tay’s mental faculties had never faltered. He was as sharp as ever. When I talked to him over a video call, he was still upbeat –telling us not to worry about him. On the day of the procedure though, he was apprehensive and started looking for loved ones. He cried when our firstborn comforted him. It was heart breaking.

As it happened, his post op condition went downhill. It was our sister Lilit (the 7th) and Harry, Kuya Jun’s son who were with him—on vigil day in and day out while he was confined at the Intensive Care Unit of a leading hospital in Naga City. The ECQ declared in the Metro Bubble (Metro Manila and neighboring provinces) have prevented both my older brother and me from going home and visiting him due to strict quarantine and even hospital protocols.

In a matter of two weeks, on this Day of Valor my father, my hero has bowed out of the battlefield. Three months short, before turning 95 years old. All this time, he was but hospitalized only thrice. The first was when the bus he was riding figured in an accident in the 1970s, the second one was when he became critically ill (see related post back in 2010, and now when his turn to return to His maker came.

It was a life well-lived.  I could never ask for a better father than him.

I am honored and grateful to be his offspring.

But I am ashamed that I was not there for him. No, I never got to touch him, hold his hand, kiss his forehead or whisper in his ear. I only connected via online calls and prayers of supplication to our heavenly Father in whose hands Tatay’s life depends.

It was never enough.

He breathed his last as only a soldier could — on the day of Valor.  Ironically, it was also the day his 7th child – my sister Lilit, who was his main caregiver in the hospital since day one,  was to celebrate her 53rd birthday.

He’s gone. I feel so numb inside.

Tatay in the 1950s as Municipal Secretary of Sipocot, Camarines Sur