Ten Years After Losing One Son, A Father Looks Forward to His Other Son's Future
In our family, there is one day in our lives that will forever live in infamy.
May 23, 2009.
We lost a major part of our small family on that day. Lola Daisy, your cousin Anton and his Yaya Tess, and your only sibling, Franco—we lost all four of them.
Memories from that day must be a blur for you now. After all, 10 years is quite a long time. And if time wasn’t enough, the pain was sure to make you forget, if only for sanity’s sake.
Who would have known that bright sunny Saturday would turn out to be the darkest day of our lives? Our banca was headed for Puerto Galera. After it left Batangas port, it soon encountered one-and-a-half meter crashing waves caused by 15 knot winds. An hour later, we rode a giant crest at Balahibong Manok, and the boat landed hard. Its right outrigger snapped, and within a second, our whole world turned clockwise. From that point on, our family was never whole again, and our lives changed forever.
Twelve people perished that day, Paolo. In the water, I remember thinking to myself, “People are going to be responsible for this. There’s hell to pay.”
You asked me shortly afterward, “Did the bad people face the consequences?” I’m sorry. No one did. It wasn’t for lack of trying. We attended five Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearings, two Congressional Transportation Committee hearings, two Insurance Commission meetings, and countless other meetings looking for answers. We didn’t get any.
Last month, on the 10-year marker of that terrible event, I found myself clicking away on this keyboard, posting my pain on social media. I thought we had already moved forward, but there was still a lot of anguish in between the lines, enough for a few friends to ask, “Are you okay?”
It dawned on me that the question should have been, “Paolo, are you okay?”
I can’t guess what’s on your mind, but know this. You were born to us two and a half months too early, Makati Med’s youngest survivor at the time. You weighed 993 grams, less than a kilo, yet for 78 days in isolation, you fought for your life. Ten years ago, you found yourself trapped under that boat, yet you managed to take one deep breath, and brought yourself to the surface. You did this on your own. You are a fighter. That’s just who you are. You continue to amaze us year after year.
The road ahead may be rocky, but on that same road, you’ll find that there are people who are kind. Like that nameless man who pulled you from the sea as you rose to the surface, and kept you busy by talking about your favorite subjects at school. He kept you distracted from the chaos happening all about us. Or your wonderful teachers through the years who stayed with you and kept you company as pressure became unbearable. There are many more good people out there. We only have to seek them out.
Consider these good Samaritans examples of whom we ourselves need to emulate as we try to make this world a better place for all. It’s time to look outward, and pay attention to people who may be fighting tougher battles. It’s this compassion that will make you accept yourself, and believe that you are a good person. You’ll be okay. And knowing that you’re okay will make me okay too.
Remember most of all to be kind and fair. As Kipling said, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,” consider this your compass. Ignore the critics, the bullies, the naysayers. You will know better. Your world will continue to grow, and with it, a deeper appreciation for it.
In the end, I trust that you’ll be a better father than I ever will be. But please take your time. I’m willing to wait.