Remembering Gloria

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Saturday, January 18, 2014


ON THIS same festive Sunday two years ago, I learned that I was going to lose my sister. She had been in and out of the hospital because of a heart condition but on her last visit she was told that she was fighting a deadlier ailment. She had Stage 4 liver cancer.

Gloria was three years younger than I and I found it hard to accept that she would go so soon. I avoided visiting her at the hospital because I couldn’t bear to watch her suffer but that Sunday morning, the wife called from Manila to ask me to see my sister because she could go anytime.

She was in drug-induced sleep when I got inside her room. But when I held her hand and gently rubbed her forehead, she opened her eyes and seeing me, murmured, “Tana.” I did not have the heart to ask her where she wanted us to go.

I lingered a while and watched her drift in and out of sleep. She was breathing laboriously. How much longer, I asked my brother-in-law, Larry.

Anytime, according to the doctors, he replied sadly. I kissed her forehead and left.

I had walked the entire stretch from Tormis St. in Sambag 1 to Cebu Doctors’ Hospital because the roads were impassable because of the Sinulog crowd. It had rained earlier and it was still drizzling when I stepped out of the hospital to retrace my way back home.

Along the way, I saw families eating together on the sidewalks and remembered the time our mother brought us to Cebu for the Pista Senyor. I tasted salt in my mouth, the rains had mixed freely with my tears. Pit Senyor! A friend greeted me near the KFC as I trudged along Osmeña Blvd. Pit Senyor! I replied, trying mightily to mask my grief.

Early the following morning, I received the call I had dreaded. Gloria was gone. I hurriedly dressed up to go to the hospital. I didn’t walk anymore, the roads were clear. And clean. Garbage collectors and street cleaners had done a good job of wiping out all traces of the revelry the day before.

Empty of people and the buntings, Osmeña Blvd. looked desolate. But it was nothing compared to the desolation in my heart.

***

Rains have become a fixture in recent Sinulog grand parades. This year, it looks like the winds are going to join in the fun.

I woke up yesterday morning to the sound of the winds. It calmed down a bit a few hours later but shortly after midday, the winds were back.

There isn’t any typhoon yet, only a low-pressure area, Pagasa assured us early in the week. That assurance has lost currency, if you listen to the winds and watch the plants sway violently.

But there’s no stopping the celebration from taking place, I hope.

Sinulog Foundation executive director Ricky Ballesteros has earlier announced that unless the weather becomes a threat to the well-being and safety of the participants, the grand parade will continue.

Ricky didn’t say it but he knows that neither wind nor rain can keep away the people from watching and/or joining the street dancing.

No, not even the ban on drinking can do that. The police said they will arrest those who violate the liquor ban and detain them in Kaoshiung buses, which they have converted into temporary holding centers. I’m afraid they will run out of buses if they make good their threat.

Let them be, sirs. For as long as they don’t cause trouble, people should be allowed to booze. That has become part of the Sinulog tradition.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 19, 2014.

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