The safe environs allowed them to study and be healthier. Their talents blossomed. Most of them were musically inclined. There was so much hope for them as they were growing up. Angelito, the youngest, was quiet but cheerful. But it seemed he was quite slow in mental development. It must have been because of the way their drunken father beat their mother up when Angelito was still in the womb. But this state didn't prevent him from being active and helpful and being loved.
I met the 6-yr old Angelito when Miggs organized an outreach to their institution. We were going to be the kuya and ate to the children on a field trip. Angelito and Rose, his sister, were fatefully assigned to me as my wards for the day. The bond developed, especially between Angelito and me. He was so malambing, in need of human warmth. It felt good to be able to provide that. From then on, I resolved to visit the institution regularly, to visit Angelito and Rose. That was 10 years ago.
I got to know the rest of Angelito’s siblings. All of them were eagerly looking for a kuya figure. And it wasn't even anything financial. Though from time to time, I’d treat them to Jollibee.
One by one, the siblings had to leave that home as they hit the ripe old age of 18. That was the arrangement with a halfway home. But since they had no parents to go home to, Asilo even worked out that they be provided a unit in a multi-level ‘housing’ owned by the Archdiocese of Manila. Though they all were going to government schools while they were in Asilo, the kids ditched schooling as soon as they got out. They got work and got married. So much for hoping that their lives would be different from their parents.
Eventually, even Angelito had to leave Asilo and stay with his siblings. I gave employment to two of his brothers, Raul and Kim, to help with their costs of daily living. Sadly, they either lacked initiative or drive. They couldn’t even stayed employed for long. They would be absent for long stretches and just reappear. I got fed up and just terminated them.
For about a year, I didn’t hear from them. Until Raul got in touch with me again, to tell me that Angelito had developed throat lumps that wouldn’t go away. He was also growing pale and lethargic. I asked that he be brought to my dad.
At first look, my dad already knew something was terribly wrong with him. He told me to hospitalize him immediately. I accompanied them to PGH, hoping to refer his case to my doctor-friends there. He was confined and diagnosed with leukemia. PGH didn’t have the facility to treat him so he was referred to the Philippine Children’s Medical Center. That was in 2012.
In PCMC, Raul, Kim and I were briefed about his situation. Though leukemia is treatable nowadays, it would still cost a lot of money. The doctors asked me if I was up to it. The brothers pleaded with me to help. I told them I would but they would have to do their part and look for other funding sources. Thankfully, they were able to get from PDAF of congressmen, from PCSO.
He would be in and out of the hospital for the next months, undergoing cycles of chemotherapy. In 2013, it looked like he was finally in remission. He gained weight, showed color again. And the lumps disappeared. He still had more cycles to undergo. The brothers were able to get a steady stream of funds for his occasional confinement. My assistance was limited to giving them allowance. I soon took them back to work for the household.
A few weeks back, they told me that Angelito lost a lot of weight rapidly. His stomach was swollen. He was sick with fever and vomiting. They brought him to the hospital immediately. It turned out to be liver failure now. All those cycles of chemotherapy severly strained his organs.
He expired last March 26, 2014 at around 3am. They were calling me but since they were using an unregistered number, I ignored it. But it did cross my mind that it could be them. I woke up at 7am and finally got to answer the phone. It was one of his sisters, crying as she told me that Angelito was no more.
I didn’t even say goodbye. The last time I saw him was in January, during one of his trips to the hospital. I didn’t realize he would be gone so soon. I didn’t even answer the effing phone call.
He died at the age of 17. Raul, who was beside him during the last moments, told me he was already having dreams of paradise, and of a beautiful lady saying hello to him. He also said he didn’t want to die yet. Raul just hugged him and told him we all love him.
He was such a sweet boy. He never complained of his pain, his illness. He was just quiet. He would just smile. People in PCMC, the guards, the nurses, the doctors were so fond of him. They, too, were so sad to know he finally gave in.
Tonight is his ika-siyam na araw. I can only pray for the eternal repose of his sweet soul, and forgiveness for not having done enough, for not having said goodbye.
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