It was September 11, 2003 when Kuya (older brother) decided to join the Traslacion, when we thought that Ina would grant us a miracle. The Peñafrancia Fiesta in Naga City is being celebrated to honor Jesus’ mother, Mary. In Bicol, we call Her as Ina. The feast would start when the image of Ina would be transferred from the Basilica Minore to the Metropolitan Cathedral through a procession. Many people would appear in many corners of the road cramming to go near and touch the image. Some would even emerge from the mass of people with wounds and blood on their faces or any parts of the body. It has been long believed that the image of Ina could heal different illnesses and grant wishes of those who had shown great faith in Her. My father was very sick since August then, and Kuya and I, since we are members of the Youth ministry in our parish of Immaculate Conception, we decided to come along with the rest of the ministry to offer a walk as our means of showing Ina our faith in Her. Deep in our hearts, Kuya and I prayed for our father’s recovery. Upon returning home after the Traslacion, Kuya had bruises on his feet due to crowding of thousands and thousands of devotees. I, on the other hand, came home soaking wet for it rained that day. But what made us very happy and overwhelmed is that mother said Papa had perspired a lot which flowed like water in the faucet. This was a sign that Papa would soon recover because his body had excreted some of the harmful agents that might have contributed to his illness. True to the Bicolanos’ belief, Ina had granted our prayers. During the first few days after Traslacion, we saw that papa was near recovery. But as days succeeded, we began to notice that Papa’s health is again slowly deteriorating. Mother felt the need to send him immediately to the hospital. But since we only had little money, Papa was confined in a city government hospital. For quite some time, papa was okay. On late September, a relative of ours died. After arriving from the burial, I do not know why but I suddenly felt lazy from visiting Papa in the hospital. (Was I really?) I never visited him until October 7.
‘Your father’s looking for you.’, my aunt told me. ‘He asked if you were angry at him… I do not know what to answer so I came back here to fetch you…’.
My hard heart was slowly softening at those words. My father was seeking for me, I thought. Emotions of guilt and sorrow surged over me. I wanted to cry.
‘You go right now. He said he wanted to see you even for just fifteen minutes…’.
At the last statement, I stood up, still in school uniform, I headed to the jeepney stop and rode up to the hospital. When I entered his room, there was no other person inside but father. He was sleeping, very thin and pale but yellowish. The sight was too much to take. I had then noticed that there were already tubes aside from the dextrose, that were inserted in Papa’s nostrils. A moment later Mama appeared and told me that Papa was indeed looking for me. I really wanted to cry at that time as I slowly stroke Papa’s hair and gently rubbed his forehead.
Then I whispered, ‘I’m already here Pa…’.
I guess he heard me, and Papa suddenly opened his eyes.
‘Ashing, I’ve been looking for you. Where were you?’
But instead of answering his question, I broke into a cry. I felt so sad and sorry. Papa just smiled weakly and raised his fingers to wipe my tears. His gesture made me sob even more.
‘You should not cry…you should be happy…don’t cry…you’re making papa sad…’, he said.
‘I am so sorry Pa…’
‘It’s okay…’, he replied. Papa and I just talked a little bit and after that he slept again. He was a pitiful sight. He really was.
Late night on October 9, my father had been calling out all his children and siblings… we all rushed to the hospital and immediately for we had been dreading that he might be near his end. And he was. I could still remember his very blank stare at me, but he was smiling and calling out my name and my younger sister’s name. His grip on my aunts and mom was very tight and strong. Papa was struggling— and fighting death. I and my siblings were sobbing tremendously. Then at almost dawn, he was okay. And we told him he needed to rest, but he refused. At around 5:45 in the morning, I decided to make-up to my father. Having only three hours of sleep, I woke up early and decided not to go to school that day. I was determined to watch over him. I was about ready to go when Ate (sister) called through the telephone. My aunt could not understand what she was saying for she was sobbing badly. So, aunt Mona just told me to go to the hospital rightaway. When I arrived at the hospital,it felt like a very long walk to the second floor. Father’s room was open and he was lying there–with mom crying and packing things.
I asked, ‘What’s this?? Why are you crying Mama??’
Mother was still crying. ‘Your Papa’s dead.’ she said.
‘No you’re lying…’ I said as I felt my lips started to tremble. I looked at Papa’s lifeless body—with his mouth wide open. I felt my knees weaken and knelt beside him, crying hard. I repeatedly told him, ‘I’m sorry…I’m so sorry Papa…’.
Father was buried on October 16, 2003 at Baao Cemetery. It was hard to let him go. Because of what happened between me and my father, I realized how important forgiveness is. Maybe that was the miracle the Blessed Mother gave me. I was angry at him because I told myself that it was his fault why he got sick. He drinks too much. I was angry at him because he neglected his responsibilities to us, his family. But now I believe in the goodness within us all.
Now, I realize that we are all mortals, bound to commit mistakes. I myself commit mistakes. We just have to give others a chance to change and we should learn to forgive. Time will always heal the wounds, we are the ones who just have to bandage it.