I WAS in the office having a casual conversation with a colleague when my mobile phone rang. At the other end was a voice I had not heard for quite some time. It was from a male classmate who is my husband’s close friend back in the training school and godfather to our seven-year-old son.
The last time we met up with him and his family was early last year when they invited us to their home for dinner. My classmate’s voice was very calm when he asked me if I was still working in the same office and I answered in the affirmative. Then he asked me a favour -— to verify the passengers of the Philippine Air Force Nomad plane that crashed a few minutes ago because he knew I had ready access to it.
Earlier, my colleagues and I had talked about the crash after a news flash report on TV by several news outfits. Initial reports revealed only the names of the pilots flying the plane, and the general, who was among the passengers of the plane that went down on a subdivision in Cotabato City. There were five other unidentified fatalities reported that had yet to be named.
I asked why he wanted to know who were onboard the Nomad aircraft although at the back of my mind I knew: My classmate wanted to know if his elder brother, a Major in the PAF, was on that plane because their father had called him, restless and wanting to find out the names of the other passengers.
And so I called the office monitoring the situation, there I learned of the terrible news. My classmate’s kuya was indeed among those who died in the accident. But before getting back to my classmate, I called my husband to tell him the bad news. He could not believe it and thus badgered me with several questions -— the whys and the hows. I told him the questions will remain unanswered for now.
I called my classmate to tell him the news I knew he and his family have been dreading to hear.
"Kasama siya, eh," I said. There was silence from his end. I told him we were sorry about the incident and offered assistance in any way we can. He asked me instead to inform him of the arrangements being made for his brother as I later learned he was to fly to the crash site to do the hardest thing for any family member -— fetch the remains of a family member.
During one of the wake nights, my husband and I condoled and talked to the family patriarch who is also our wedding godparent. He had fond memories of his eldest son whom he last saw on New Year’s Day. He said they were supposed to see each other again the day after the crash happened. In fact, his son (his namesake and junior) had talked to him over the mobile phone for more than an hour the night before the crash. His son had given him their detailed flight itinerary that he does not normally do.
His son had also promised to take care of his medication on his lung ailment once he returns to Manila. The father had told us that for several months his relationship with his late son had been strained and that they managed to bond again only two months ago. If at all, the father said, it was the only consolation he had on the sudden death of his eldest son -— no more ill feelings toward one another. Now, he said, he could not rekindle the happy moments he used to have with his son.
The bulalo that his son wanted him to prepare when he was to come home will remain a request of the son from a father who is now sorely missing him.