Good evening, Monsignor Ambo and to all our dear friends. Thank you very much for the beautiful comparison between Jose Rizal and Noy being at the same time scared, marked and sacred. We thank our previous presidents of Mass, Archbishop Soc, Fr. Bert, Fr. Tito, Fr. June, fr. Marc, P. Mano and P. Jett. And neither can I let the evening pass without saluting the tireless help of Rapa Lopa who, together with Fr. Tito Caluag, organized this novena of masses. We thank the zoomcristans, the readers and the workers behind the scenes. And to all those who have faithfully joined on zoom or Facebook, maraming salamat po.
After so many heartbreaking tributes, I thought I would keep that light.
I would like to share with you some of my happy memories of Kuya Noy. My first story goes back to the 60s. I was 3 or 4 years old then and Noy remembers that we were both harassed by Ate and Pinky. He asked me to come over to his side and he claims my answer was “iisipin ko pa”. The next day he asked me for my decision and I supposedly said, “Dun nalang ako kila Ate at Pinky kasi girl ako.” This is probably why he much preferred spending time at our next door neighbor’s house where there were three boys his age who were so much more fun to be with than his sisters.
Somehow in our family only Ballsy had the honor of being called Ate and everyone was just called by our nicknames. I only started calling Noy “Kuya” when he became president – it was the respectful way to address my brother president. For Kuya Noy, the eldest takes seniority rights over the younger ones. Technically, he felt he could order Kris and I, but it would be rare to find him disrespectful to Ate or Pinky.
He also liked to refer to us by names other than our real name. He called Ate Beautiful and Ate called him Poging back. After mom passed away, Ate became known as Matri (short for matriarch), Pinky is Dobey (whatever that is), I’m Kwat, and Kris is Bunso. The other name I got from him started when I was in charge of ordering food after an All Saints Day visit to Manila Memorial Park. It was a late lunch and everyone was really hungry. We were in a Chinese restaurant and the 10 course meal started with three dim sum selections. As lazy Susan turned, he realized the allowance was just one dumpling per person. Hehe, one each lang nga since I thought these are just starters, so we shouldn’t get stuffed until the main courses arrive. But I never heard the end of it. From that day forward he called me “Ilocoslovak” – a term he coined to refer to someone who is thrifty.
Kuya was a food lover and giving people a good meal was his way of showing appreciation. I remember when he was released from the hospital after his first childbirth in December 2019 – it was actually Christmas Eve – he wasn’t ready to go home until he was able to offer to his doctors a sumptuous lunch at Hai Shin Lou.
As his physical condition deteriorated, his taste buds were affected as well. What was tasteless became too salty, the ketchup was too sour. Many of his favorites didn’t taste as pleasant as they did before. The only consistent taste was sweet. With his lack of appetite that made him lose weight more and more, it would be a major achievement if either of us could find something that we really liked. When he sent us a message saying he liked something we were sending, it was a reason to be happy. To feel namin, ang saya naka-chamba!
Once during his dialysis session, Jeff, his assistant, texted me asking if I could buy him some Belgian Cebu lace cookies. I said I would find a distributor here in Manila. It took me 10 days to find, but when they came he had three pieces, and I felt like a winner because they were as satisfying as he remembered. When he liked something, he tended to hoard. In my mind, with such a small appetite, how can he ever finish what he asks us to buy for him. I learned later that he just liked to have a supply of treats for his doctors, nurses, or other visitors.
Aside from food, Noy’s other sources of joy were CDs and DVDs. He had a large collection of music CDs, although streaming is now the norm. Who still uses a CD player anyway? He also has a collection of movies stored in one device, which functions effectively as his own personal Netflix. Dodo was also a great DVD collector. When he gave me permission to throw away his DVDs to declutter them, I showed Kuya some of the titles we were giving away, and he was interested in sorting them out. Some titles needed to be played on an HD DVD player, so I sent him a machine too, which hadn’t been used for at least 10 years. It started to perform well, but as the movie climaxed, the machine stalled and never turned back on. Sobrang bitin! Of course, every now and then it reminded me of my old palpak legacies.
Very recently, Nina and Geoff had successfully convinced him to switch to digital magazine subscriptions, as many publishers were phasing out their print editions. He always preferred physical books and magazines because he felt you absorb things better when read on paper. He was very grateful to Jiggy for even gifting him back issues of some of his favorite magazines.
Since June 24, so many messages have made us feel truly loved. The love that we can no longer give to Noy is poured out on us, his sisters. Through the selflessness of my Kuya, we enjoy the glow of his remarkable legacy.
Thank you, Kuya Noy, for all your sacrifices, for your determination to forge a better life for every Filipino and for being the best servant leader that many of our countrymen have failed to recognize. It is so admirable how you lived the verses of the Prayer for the Generosity of Saint Ignatius, and I quote: “To give and not to count the price, to work and not to ask for a reward. Except knowing that I am doing your most holy will. While you weren’t expecting any rewards, I am so happy to imagine that you must have received a standing ovation when you entered Heaven.
Have fun finding mom and dad. They will likely thank you for protecting your sisters at all times. But more importantly, they will surely praise and praise you for the life you have lived. When you pretend you’re mom and daddy’s favorite son, we’d say: No mom choice since you’re the only child. Today, Matri, Dobey, Kwat and Bunso must concede, favorite son ka talaga !! And with good reason. We love you best brother !!
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Tribute paid last Friday after the final mass of the novena of masses held for former president Benigno Aquino III.