It was probably just another morning on the eighth of August 2004 when you were surfing through TV channels and happened to catch the breaking news that Presidential Assistant to House and Resettlement Nestor C. Ponce, Jr. was killed in a vehicular accident. To me, it was no ordinary day. That was the day I lost my dad.
Around that time, my sister finally moved out to prepare for the bar exams after four years in law school. My parents had been praying novenas every Sunday for her success. It seemed like one of those Sunday mornings when my dad knocked on my door to wake me up. I did not even get up to open it, but called out to say that I was not feeling well and went back to sleep. In an hour or so, I was woken up by my sister’s banging on the door, urging me to get dressed. “Mom and Dad got into an accident!” What? Where? Why? I had so many questions, yet there was no time for anything but to get dressed as quickly as possible. I kept hoping that my parents were probably wounded, but safe nevertheless.
Death was out of my mind. As our car pulled into the hospital’s emergency driveway, I saw our relatives already waiting outside. By this time, I was really confused. I kept on asking what happened, but nobody dared answer. We were simply greeted by sobs and hugs, when finally my tita whispered to me, “Maits, Daddy is gone.”
Was there a time in your life when you felt like it had popped out from a movie? To me, this was the most surreal event in my life. Up until now, the images from that moment still vividly flash through my mind. I remember feeling a lump in my throat when I heard the news, and breaking into loud shrieks of despair. I remember seeing my brother coming out of the emergency room with blood stains on his shirt, hugging us, while telling my sister, “Mag-babar ka pa rin, ha?” I remember seeing Mom, in her bloodstained blouse, crying on my shoulder as she cried out for my dad. My senses were acutely aware of every noise and sight—the apologetic look on the doctors’ and nurses’ faces that seemed to ask for forgiveness, and the indifference of the people who might have been so used to such a scene.
The Superhero That He Was
Mom remembered Dad waking up earlier than usual to get dressed that morning. It was like he had a date with the Lord, she said. Usually, Dad would insist that I go with them to hear mass at 6 am. But he was the one who told my mom to let me rest that morning. Mom recounted the events that happened in a snap. Another car from the opposite lane flew right smack into theirs. There was no time for screaming. Dad hugged my mom as if protecting her up to the last minute, when another vehicle came crashing into his side. Dad was a hero. We could have gone with them and died too, but he saved my life, my sister’s, and my mom’s.
Perhaps the funeral was our greatest comfort when we saw the sea of people who loved my dad dearly. Dad had been a councilor and a congressman in Tondo, Manila, before he was assigned to be Undersecretary for House and Resettlement under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was always out of the house and would come home when we were already asleep. Sometimes, when he would ask me to sing for his projects, I’d always feel so overwhelmed by how much the people supported him and how much he loved them in return. He was uncomfortable being idle and always felt the need to take action in uplifting poverty in the Philippines. Yet despite his busy schedule, he possessed impressive strength. He always had time to take the family out for dinner or some music.
During his wake, people, young and old and from different walks of life, cried with us and told stories of how Dad touched their lives. Instead of feeling even more depressed, we felt comforted that so many were also going through our grief.
Click on the next page to read more about what Maita realized after experiencing losing her father. It might help you, too, if you're going through the same thing.