Farewell Manong Agustin

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By Susan Palmes-Dennis

The “S” Factor

Saturday, August 23, 2014


MANONG (A term of endearment to relatives and elderly friends equivalent to sir) Agustin Pungtod, whom I considered a “trailblazer” in Melecia Homes, Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental, northern Mindanao Philippines, was laid to rest last Thursday and I regret not saying goodbye personally to my friend.

I remembered his potbelly, grey hair, and receding hairline, old looking teeth and wrinkled smile with lively eyes. Always on top of the situation, Manong Agustin was a successful father if we based it on how his children are today.

My friendship with him was my sheltering tree in that life at Melecia. He should have been 77 years old on August 28. His family originally came from Basilan province and I guess they transferred in Cagayan de Oro City 20 years ago.

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That's why when I talked about the armed conflict in Mindanao back in my broadcaster days he had a lot to share with me, since Basilan is one of the flashpoints of that conflict.

At first, I was pleased to see the picture of “Manong” on Facebook on the news page. I told myself “wow he is on Facebook.” Then the second time I looked at the image posted there were two angels, one atop and the other one below, with the flowers and backdrop white.

What struck me were the words “In loving memory of late Nong Agustin Pungtod.” It was a moment of realization for me seeing that my friend passed away. It could not be, I told myself, he was strong physically and spiritually.

I was saddened to know that I won't be able to see him alive again when I come home this year. He was dear to me, as you know, and I’ll always remember how much fun we had talking when I would consult him on issues I discussed on radio and TV.

As I mentioned, he's a neighbor and friend back in the days when I was still living in Melecia Homes Subdivision in barangay (village) Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro.

I called Agustin Pungtod “Manong” while to others he was Tatay or Papang (Father). Whatever names you call him, according to friend Senny Trippe, he was vibrant and full of life.

We came to Melecia Homes about the same time. We were the original residents in the subdivision when it had no trees at all and there were no neighboring subdivisions at all.

The roads were so bad that no jeepneys would ply the route. Melecia Homes is located on top of Macasandig before Taguanao.

It is the subdivision where, as Manong would say, you can pass by heaven and one can see barangay Balulang on the other side of the river.

Aside from Manong Agustin, my other neighbors include my good friend Beth Baclig, the Bual family, the Macas and the Mabaos. I also had as my neighbor the parents of singer Mark Bautista. Not to forget of course Oscar Caina and Jay Valleser.

Manong Agustin had seven children with one if his son who passed away ahead of him. All of his children are successful and one of them Bebotte married to Nening is very active in the Couples for Christ.

It is his daughter, one of the twins Marivic (Avic) who is based in London that I maintained my correspondence all these years.

In a message, Marivic told me about Manong's death. “Sudden death ma'am, he just complained of tummy and backache... then he died at the (hospital)… after a few hours.”

The house of his son is the biggest in Melecia Homes subdivision, yet Manong remained humble and became the father to all other kids in the subdivision. The successes of his kids didn't make him arrogant which is rare these days.

He didn't live in a big house since they’ve got a property over at Barangay Taguanao and he lived alone there, maintaining a piggery located two kilometers from Melecia Homes which kept him healthy. Every day, he would collect leftovers from houses where he left “a pail or can,” so he can bring them as food for his pigs. When he's at Melecia Homes, he and I would talk about the topics I talked about in my radio and TV programs.

He was my reporter of sorts on events either mundane or otherwise in the community and would tell me about issues and topics discussed on rival radio stations.

There were times, I asked him about personal matters and there were times he would just get a hammer and fix some broken fence especially near his “sudlanan sa bahog (piggery).”

I heard that he was asked by his family to stop what he was doing, but looking back, I think that only made his life worth living especially after he became a widower.

Sometimes our conversations ran too long and I would tell him it's time for me to work and he would oblige by leaving. Little did I know that he was at the waiting shed and we would talk some more. He won't leave me until I rode the passenger jeepneys or hitched a ride with my friends.

That was the time also when passenger jeepneys plying the route of Taguanao Melecia were scarce because the roads were so bad.

Senny Macas-Treppi, who's also based in the US, had this to say about Manong. “I would always remember Papang as the most cheerful person in Melecia… almost every morning when I was off to work I would always pass by him as greets me with a big smile on his face,” Senny said.

Senny told me that Manong was fond of telling stories of his life and his children. “Every Mass, I could still remember his singing voice, full of praise as he joined others in the choir,” Senny added.

To Manong Agustin, may you keep the angels and the Lord happy with your singing and your stories of your life's adventures here on Earth.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 24, 2014.

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