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    Posted March 31, 2014 by
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    Farewell to a Dear Friend




    Dear Mervin, my dear friend from childhood, this would have been my homily had I been there with you today in your funeral. It will be a perennial frustration for me not to have sung this eulogy. But I console myself with the thought that in your state you would hear these words even beyond the grave.


    You and Marlon were stars of our batch since we began pre-school. I was not your classmate then but your names were celebrated because you were the twins of our group. Ben-ben and Lon-lon were written in bold letters in your respective name tags. It was a headache identifying who was Marlon and who was Mervin. The only sure way was to look at the nape--where Marlon's hair ended with a little pointed tail and Mervin's twirled into two little whirlpools. In later years, one striking difference was your voice. Yes, you sounded very much the same, but Marlon's voice leaned to being tenor while yours, Mervin, tended to be baritone.


    Both of you have become my classmates in the course of the years. You have both struck me as reserved but talented, soft-spoken but substantial. Your diligence clearly shone from the results of your work.


    And it was a joy for me be your friend, a privilege for me to know you, our batch's twins and your family, to be there in important moments like your Dad's funeral and Marlon's wedding. I was away at your Mom's demise and Mervin, you told me that you were whispering to her not to look for me anymore because I was far away and could not be present.


    Mervin, this is one of the most precious gems that I bear in me--this friendship that we have together with Jonel. The three of us found time to bond, to meet at least once a year when we found ourselves drawn apart by our respective vocations and professions. It was a sacred time to reminisce the past and to confront the present. Every year was different from the previous ones for our concerns gradually changed and our outlook in life continually matured.


    Those times will be missed. Our annual pilgrimages (we have missed so many!) to that so-called trinity will be no more.


    What blows they were to me when I learned from your your brother and sister that you have become sick! Yes, the big C... when I heard of the gradual waning of your health... when you sent me your picture, smiling as you suffered... when Ating Ningning, your sister told me that you are about to go... when Jonel sent me a message that you could not anymore stand nor talk... when among your last days I called and heard your voice that ironically was that which soothed me in my distress. I was supposed to be the one to console you but you ended up consoling me. Soft-spoken as ever--not because of your weak health, but because you were Mervin, the same one who spoke gently, who is one of the meekest persons I have ever known. "Wa, pangadi mu ku ne..." ("Yes, please pray for me.") And those brought me to tears that I did not anymore know what to say. I did manage to express my love for you, dear friend, and that gives me joy.


    On Christmas eve of 1991, you gave me one of your paintings, an 18"x24" oil on canvas, an icon of Jesus Christ who has just been taken from the cross--his eyes closed, the cross with the INRI inscription behind him and the three nails. I was already in the seminary and you wrote "Good luck on your priesthood", which were prophetic because I would still be ordained eleven years later. But I love the rest of what you wrote: "joel, take this to remember me by. your friend, vin" for this is truly prophetic. Your painting is among my most treasured possessions and this day of your parting has come--that your memory will live.


    Yes, I grieve the death of a dearest friend. Dear Mervin, my stay here in Rome is almost over, I have looked forward to seeing you soon, but now I would have to look further, at another time so that we could once again share experiences and dreams, and relive the friendship that was born in childhood, when the whole world beckoned to us. That horizon separated us along with its oceans. And now it is the end of earthly life that further severs our state. Yes, but the bond of friendship remains. We will see each other again.


    As Shakespeare put into the lips of Horatio words for Hamlet his friend, I also sing these words to you:


         "Now cracks a noble heart.—Good night, sweet prince,
         And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

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