A TRIBUTE TO A DEAR FRIEND
Ate Alice was a very dear family friend. I considered her a big sister. She was my kumare but I still called her Ate.
I met Ate Alice the first time I arrived here in Winnipeg. I easily made a strong connection with her during my first few days here in this foreign land. We were both pregnant then with our first babies and we were both far apart from our beloved partners, who were still in the Philippines.
I was 6 ½ months pregnant when I came to Canada. It was the first time that I have been apart from Ronald and I was just overwhelmed with mixed emotions. I knew that I made the right decision to come here because life was just so hard back home. Yet I doubted if my relationship with Ronald would stay strong with us being apart from each other. Besides, we wouldn't be able to raise our baby together for a while. I was able to confide these feelings to Ate Alice. She was very supportive.
When my son,Reggie was born, I asked Ate Alice to be his ninang. Although she was unable to attend the Christening, (because she was ordered to be on bed rest during her last few weeks of pregnancy) Nanay Ayo and her sister Connie joined us in the celebration. When her baby was born, Ate Alice asked Mama to be her baby's godmother. When Connie and long time boyfriend Tanny were married, they asked Mama to be a principal sponsor at their wedding. Our families have maintained our friendships and kept close contact. We celebrated birthdays, christenings, weddings and anniversaries together. Ate Alice was also by Reggie's side when he confirmed his beliefs in the church. Reggie and his Ninang Alice share a birthday month and they have celebrated it together quite a few times.
Late last year, Ate Alice discovered that she had a brain tumor. It was very scary but she kept strong.
On Tuesday, February 22, 2005, she was scheduled to have surgery to remove the tumor. The procedure that was supposed to last for 6 hours was extended to 10 hours. She had an internal bleeding. She remained unconscious that first night.
The following night, my sister called and told me that Ate Alice's condition has worsened. She was now brain-dead. She was breathing only with the help of a respirator. The doctor was talking about pulling out the plug and donating organs. My tears fell when I hung up the phone. That night I told my kids to pray for her.
The following Thursday, Ronald, Reggie and I went with sis to the hospital to see Ate Alice. I was teary-eyed when we got on the 7th floor of the Health Sciences Centre. I saw Connie, puffy-eyed, in the "quiet room." Ate's husband, Nestor, and their two sons, Neal and Lester, were also there. These boys could lose their mother and it just broke my heart. My children are just of the same ages and I couldn't imagine leaving them. Later, the priest came by and we all prayed. I heard Connie crying while we were praying. Tears also ran down my cheeks.
I asked Kuya Nestor how Ate Alice was before the surgery. He said that she was happy. They were making jokes. She was even laughing, covering her mouth because the doctor made her take her dentures off. With a cracking voice, Kuya Nestor said, "Hindi man lang siya nagbilin." He didn't even know the passwords to their bank accounts. She wasn't expecting that anything bad would happen. But I guess that she must have been worried, too. The couple talked about not crying but Kuya Nestor learned that Ate Alice had always been crying at work.
We went to the ICU to see her. She lay there on the bed, hooked up on the respirator. I saw where they cut her on the head, just behind the left ear. The attendant, who was looking after her, said that we could talk to her and hold her. I held her hand and touched her leg. She felt quite cold to the touch. The attendant said that there were only signs of lower brain activity. All signs of higher brain activity were no longer there. I couldn't help crying.
On Saturday, February 26, sis had some good news. Ate Alice was out of the ICU. She was transferred to a ward and was breathing on her own. Mama also said that Ate Alice was perspiring and color has returned to her skin. It must be a good sign, I thought.
Kuya Nestor wanted somebody to be there by her side all the time. Just in case she opened her eyes, he didn't want her to be alone. But he has a store to attend to, and the kids had to go to school, too. They already missed a week of school. Friends have volunteered to take turns in staying at the hospital. She was loved by many. And though it would take a miracle to keep Ate Alice alive, that's what we hoped for.
Sadly, on Monday, February 28, 2005, Ate Alice took her last breath. Kuya Nestor and Connie were there by her side.
It's very hard to accept that she's gone. But I think that she is in a better place now -- free of all the pain. While we, her family and friends here, are still dealing with the pain of her loss. I will miss Ate Alice. I will miss the talks we have about raising our boys. You see, both of us only have sons. We will miss her at Reggie's birthdays. But you know what, she may be physically gone but she will remain in our memories forever.
(I read this eulogy at Ate Alice's funeral service.)