Sunday, October 30, 2016

"UNFRIENDING" THE DEAD


IT’S this part of the year again we remember our beloved dead, and one thing just struck me at this moment: my Facebook friends who have crossed the Great Beyond still remain in my Friends List.

It’s just so easy to bid them the ultimate goodbye. Just a click on a button across their name and they're gone. But that I haven’t done. Nor have I tried skimming through my list and start deleting people. You know, those who have been inactive, those pesky ones who love to share troll-inspired information or fake news, and those whom I haven’t seen in so long time that I have forgotten why I accepted their Friend requests in the first place.

Maybe I’m too busy to do that, and I don’t really stay long Facebooking to afford overhauling my account to root out unnecessary or obsolete friends.

Or maybe, I feel ill at ease with the word “unfriend,” especially in the case of my wife who died in 2011. I like to think I honor her by remembering the good times she had with me and her family, and treasuring what she's left with me. 

Rosalie has been my FB friend since 2009. She seldom updated her timeline and she never had the time to post a cover photo. She would only use the desktop or my laptop to open her FB. There were no internet services from mobile devices, such as smartphones or feature phones, and Internet speed was not as fast as it is now.  And we had three growing up kids then. She kept herself busy and enjoyed being a stage mother to our daughter in her ballet and aerobics performances. And her last post, four months before her death, “to all my friendship thank you friends, miss you all,” was a proof she only visited her account in long time intervals.

Other than my wife, my FB friends who are departed still remain in my friend’s list. Topping them is my brother-in-law Arturo Gundran Jr, who died of stroke in the same year my wife, her sister, died. That made our family so sad that year. My wife had been close to his brother.

Also dwelling in my Friends List are the FB accounts of my second cousin Ronald Carrido, a young police officer and sole breadwinner of his family, who died of heart illness last July; my writer friend Veronica Hernandez whom I met in some PR job in our agency who died of illness last April; and my former student Louie Maningding who had just left a promising teaching career and this world this October. There are just acquaintances like Frederick Aromin, my wife’s nephew from La Union, who stayed with us in our Bulacan home for sometime; Sha-sha Brillantes, a fellow member of Gumil Filipinas, whom I met for the first and last time at a writers’ convention in Gonzaga, Cagayan in 2014; Froi Santos, an architect and friend of my brother; and young mother Tina Alconis, a staff member of Tandem during our college days, who died of childbirth last month; and other FB friends whom I have not met but we had brief interactions online, like California-based writer Joe Padre who invited me to write for his blog; and soldier Emerson Somera, who had dreams to be a writer before an ambush by bandits in Sulu took that dreams away.

They have gone from our real world, but not, for most of them, from my heart and the hearts of their closest families and friends.

Maybe it's true, when somebody we love so dearly left us and this world, it's really hard to let go of things that remind us of them. That to include, perhaps, their presence in FB. They still have their profile pictures (if you haven’t unfriended them) that haunt us in our entire FB lives. There are those tags from the pictures you had together. And FB just keeps on popping up reminders for their birthdays every year. Probably, there may be some posts or status updates that we long to see from them.

Why don’t we wish to “unfriend” them?  Do we owe an obligation to others to do so? The good our departed have done us may have been interred with their bones in some silent grave, to paraphrase Shakespeare, but their Facebook posts live after them. In this Internet age, where people don’t write personal notes and letters any more, removing every trace of them online—especially those expressions of their love, their happiness, or those showing marks of vibrant lives (captured digitally)—seems to be an unforgivable act.

There’s a policy of Facebook that recognizes the importance of a profile in remembering our departed friends and family. A family member can just send FB a request to place the account of the departed in a memorialized state, meaning the account’s privacy will be restricted to friends only. The profile and wall remain active for friends to post memories and condolences.

Although I momentarily toy with the possibilities of obliterating my wife's presence online with such request, I seem don’t have the courage to proceed “killing” her Facebook self. My connection with my wife—nobody can delete that ever.

So what does it mean to unfriend the deadwhat message are we sending if we do it? Maybe this is just one of those simple questions without simple answers. You're not a bad person though, if you need to do it to move on.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

HUMILITY IN THE WORK PLACE

I WAS tasked in January to deliver a pep talk for our agency, as part of our Monday’s flag-raising ceremony. It was a few days before the pastoral visit of Pope Francis in the country. So I chose to discuss the virtue of which the People’s Pope is known. Humility.

Pope Francis is known to have plenty of humility. Humility to him means spending time with those people we find hard to live with, those we probably like the least. He denounced self-importance when he preferred a modest two-room residence to a grand papal apartment on Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, when he waited in line with the rest of employees at the Vatican’s canteen, and when he gave up his chauffeur and started taking the bus to work.

When we speak of humility according to Pope’s examples, we can’t help but sound religious, preaching about the teaching of the church. Why not, humility is the mother of all virtues, the most important lessons Jesus Christ imparted to his disciples and believers down to all of us present-day Christians. We’ve learned in the bible that God cannot work on us if we are proud.

Humility came from the Latin humus meaning “earth,” or literary “on the ground.” And to St. Thomas Aquinas, humility “consists in keeping oneself within one’s own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one’s superior.” This is consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church that humility “in a higher and ethical sense is that by which a man has a modest estimate of his own worth, and submits himself to others.” 

Friday, August 15, 2014

CLASS '89 HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

WE were one in singing “Farewell” a ballad (a favorite graduation song during our time) by Bagets star Raymond Lauchengco, and befittingly, we said goodbye to our beloved high school, our teachers, BFFs, and the rest of our schoolmates.

For the Class of '89 of Narvacan National Central High School, it was the end of our young lives filled with emotions and excitements, our seatmates, groupmates, crushes, the JS proms, extra-curricular activities, and the music we played during school programs. The friendships that officially began four years earlier marked its end, and times ahead of us would test our commitment to stay in touch after graduation.

Right after high school we went separate ways. While most of our classmates in Acacia section trooped to Manila or Baguio for college, I stayed in Ilocos with Romano Peralta, Gilda Damayo, Mayrene Pintado, Joan Cauton, Jerry Cabanit and Carolina Filarca; we enrolled and finished college at the University of Northern Philippines in Vigan.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A LETTER TO MOTHER

Dear Inang,

I’m sorry this comes late for Mother’s Day. During that day, I couldn’t write a single note for you. I tried, but all I could remember was that morning in the kitchen a month before.

It was the most poignant scene, the one I could easily remember; though at that time, I didn’t realize its effect on me. And I think of it now, like a reader flipping through pages of an old photo album, turning back to that event in just one glance.

It was the morning I arrived with my brother and two sisters from the hospital in San Fernando. Tatang, whom we fetched with a hired ambulance, was lying lifeless, now half covered with blanket on the wooden bed at the sala. While everyone around me was crying and groaning, I was frozen from where I stood. And my heart was in ecstatic pain.

Friday, April 11, 2014

5 YEARS OF FACEBOOKING

IT was December 22, 2008 when I opened my Facebook account, upon the invitation of Arlyn, a classmate in law school, or more than four years after Mark Zuckerberg and some classmates first introduced this online social networking service to their fellow Harvard students.  

A day after my name and ID photo cropped up in blue and white corner of the cyberspace, my cousin Danny Cadorna, whom I haven't seen since he left for Japan in 1994, sent me my first ever friend request. Then another relative, a friend, a former classmate, a coworker, and even a stranger wanted me to be in their list of friends.