Losing Emmett

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By Ramon Dacawi

Benchwarmer

Friday, August 29, 2014


(In remembrance, we are reprinting this piece done after the greatest teacher the University of Baguio Science high ever had kicked the bucket in his hospital bed evening of Sept. 2, 2009. –RD.)

IN A homecoming of sorts for those who passed through his disciplinary mold and mood of teaching, former University of Baguio Science High director Emmett Brown Asuncion will be laid to rest tomorrow (Monday) morning in a plot at the Baguio Memorial Park he had prepared for eight years ago.

As of press time Friday, representatives of the graduates, from 1967 onwards, were still finalizing the time and place of the funeral mass, but people who knew the teacher were advised to check the final arrangements with any of the alumni.

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Asuncion passed on quietly early last Wednesday evening, six months after he was wheeled into the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center for heart ailment, a day after he hallucinated and began seeing angels through the window of Room 337 of the facility.

He was 70, according to a detail in an identification card retrieved by Beaulah (Zeny) Badua of Class '70. He is survived by two sisters – Anicia and Julia -, both nuns who, because of their calling, asked Beaulah to sign papers on their behalf. Another sister, Sr. Cecilia Agnes, also a nun, died earlier.

Badua, who works in an international Christian ministry, spent most of the last six months by Emmett’s bedside as caregiver. As she did five years back, when Asuncion suffered his first stroke and she decided to bring him for check-up and confinement in Metro Manila.

When she realized it was time, she gripped Emmett’s hand and whispered: "It's all right, it’s all right for you to let go." An electrocardiogram confirmed the pulse she had just checked was gone. "Somehow I knew it would be today but I couldn't tell you when you visited this afternoon, manong," she told an older graduate who returned to the hospital when told it was over.

John Fianza (Class ’80) rang up the funeral parlor and then texted the news to school administrators and faculty, blood and fund donors and fellow alumni, including those now serving as doctors or nurses at the medical facility.

They gathered at Chapel C of La Paz Memorial Thursday evening, for laughter and tears recalling the martinet-like atmosphere with which Emmett taught them Latin and English grammar, literature, play production, cheering, hymns for the annual cantata and community immersion.

“How we loved to hate him then,” one admitted. Another recalled how her batch spent the whole night of their reunion talking about their former teacher. They shared how he would penalize them for infractions, as if the punishments were now their medals of valor.

“I never get angry with people I don’t care about,” Emmett once told a bunch of rebellious seniors, He had just berated them for drinking gin inside their classroom at the basement of the university gym, a day before their graduation march.

Reading those words while on a bus, Neil Ambasing(Batch ’87), who helped handle Emmett’s medical case, wept and then wrote: “As a physician, you get trained to detach yourself from the situation in order to think objectively. I have been doing that for months now and I haven't realized I needed a catharsis.”

Expatriate Joel Aliping (batch ’82) had second thoughts flying in from California for Baguio’s centennial anniversary, then told his wife Emily to handle their kids’ transfer to another school. “My wife reminded me about family being first priority, and here I am as a member of Emmett’s family,” he muttered while Emmett’s room was being cleared .by fellow alumni Jun and Leandro Fernandez and volunteer Eliza Gatchalon.

“Emmett stayed with us for years and he’s our second father,” Marlou Fernandez, Jun and Leandro’s elder brother, explained, before someone would ask about his batch. “I didn’t study at the Science High but my child did.”

Beaulah was told the loss would hit her hard after the funeral, after tomb had been sealed and the crowd of mourners had dispersed. Just when she tries to resume work, tries to move on.

“It’s been worth it,” she replied. (e-mail:mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments).

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 30, 2014.

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