At four in the morning came a sudden intuition to call Dad. He passed up watching a Mike De Leon film the day before because his youngest brother, Tito Mel, had passed away that morning.
I had a feeling he was already in Pampanga to tend to the wake. So now I'm checking up on him, to see how he was dealing with the sudden loss of his youngest brother, six years his junior, to a sudden heart attack, the same way he lost my grandfather Apong Seong to a weak heart, while Dad himself has been dealing with his own heart problems as of late.
My father tells me they're burying Tito Mel's body in a few hours, not opting for a prolonged wake, and nobody bothering to tell me because they thought I had work. The realizations choked me; Tito Mel won't be singing karaoke this Christmas, and even though Dad was telling me, "Baka ikaw pa yung mag-breakdown ah," his voice sounded different, it was just him quietly grieving on the other line, and I had to leave now.
I take the first bus going to Arayat. It's a trip I take every year with my family. Now it's all so strange, taking a bus full of strangers, a trip three weeks early, heading to Arayat for an entirely different ocassion. But with funerals, especially the sudden death of my 52-year-old Tito, who is relatively young, one can never really know what to expect.
I arrive to my brother outside, distant relatives greeting me, close relatives all puffy-eyed from the night before, Tita Nina still high-strung from it all, my Dad listening to the tail-end of the sermon. I see Tito Mel's photo, and the open casket.
The procession starts, I haven't had any decent sleep, I don't feel an ounce of tiredness, passing out from the heat was the last thing on my mind. It's the last thing I am ever going to do for my Tito Mel. I walked and remembered he smoked a lot, liked drinking with us Christmas Eve then
Christmas afternoon, liked singing karaoke and always wanted us to sing. I thought it was still too early for him to go. I shook my head a lot of times. I told my tito's and tita's it was still too soon for him to go. He didn't even say goodbye, he just got up and left.
We will miss you, Tito Mel. See you soon.