A letter to Candida on the day of her funeral  

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
A letter to Candida on the day of her funeral  
Candida Tenorio, 78, lived a beautiful life filled with love.
STAR/ File

You are the light and love of my life. So much of the warmth, brightness, tenderness I spread to the world is actually from the warmth, brightness, tenderness of your own heart. Now that you are gone, you will remain to me the brightest light, the most loved woman of my life.

I am broken into pieces, ‘Mang, but your love will stitch me up. Despite the numbing grief, my four brothers and I are still grateful to God for your 78 years. Now and forever, you will be with Papang in heaven.

At the traditional Christmas photo op of Team Tenorio under the himbaba-o tree in 2022 are Candida and her five children Ronnie, Gaddie, Büm, Roderick and Rod.

You are my world, the reason I persevere. I want to achieve more because I want to provide you more comforts of life. Like how, on your 75th birthday in 2019, you grew nostalgic looking at the glowing Taipei 101 from our hotel room in Taiwan. It was your first trip abroad and it would remain my most unforgettable experience with you. You cried tears of joy knowing fully how grateful you were for the experience. I melted in your arms, with Taipei’s city lights as our witnesses, as we danced in the room. I promised you more travels. You grew excited at the prospect of seeing the world — “as long as you allow me to roam around in my duster.”

I can still see in my mind’s eye the 20 dusters you packed in your maleta for our four-day trip to Taiwan. You threatened me with a lingering stare when I attempted to trim your stash of clothes neatly folded in a compartment. I surrendered. Being obedient to you was a small reward for the big sacrifices you endured for the family. Anything Candida wants, Candida gets. So you sashayed by Taiwan’s temples and night markets in your floral red, violet, green, yellow dusters. You felt like a star going around the city in your “national costume” because “ako ang kakaiba.”

You were always magical, Mang. Your “Abracadabra, inumin mo ang tubig na ito at gagaling ka” spell that you whispered to my glass of water every time I got sick when I was a kid proved to be healing and potent. We did not have money to buy medicines, let alone see a doctor then, so you improvised a way to cure me of my fever: water therapy. Epektib.

Who would have thought that I would use the same magic on you when you got sick? Days before your passing —when Paula, your beloved apo and private nurse, and my youngest brother Rod, your  “Nurse 2,” would pull you up from bed so you could sit by the edge of your bed — I would serve you your fruit-vegetable-chicken-bread shake early in the morning. “Abrakadabra, inumin mo ang shake na ito at gagaling ka,” I would chant. You smiled and forced yourself to drink your “kinanaw.” Every little gulp that registered on your throat was a celebration of life.

You taught me how to make clear decisions, to stand up for what should be fought for, which should always be based on moral soundness. You were so decisive that many times in the past, long before you became weak, you said you would not like intubation and resuscitation in any event they would be needed to save your life. You were never afraid to talk about death but only feared to die during the height of the pandemic because “walang makikipaglamay sa akin.” Or worse: “Ayokong mamatay sa COVID dahil susunugin ako. Ayoko. Gusto ko maganda pa rin akong nakahimlay.” You were so clear about the things you wanted: down to the color of your outfit when you were laid to rest: yellow gown because of your love for the late former President Noynoy Aquino. And your one claim to fame: “Ako lang sa buong nayon ang nakatanggap ng imbitasyon na dumalo sa inauguration ng Pangulo ng Pilipinas.” You finished only Grade 6 but you were opinionated on current events “dahil mahilig akong manood ng balita sa TV.”  You were one-of-a-kind.

You are the life of my life. You taught me to dream. In the midst of our wants, you prepared a vision board of what I would become one day. When I was in Grade 1, I came home one lunchtime with my right sole bleeding. I stepped on a shard of glass on the road on my way home from school. My red Spartan slippers were not able to protect my feet because they were worn out.

I cried while you applied Merthiolate to the wound. You raised my foot close to your mouth and blew magic onto it. After a while, the pain was gone. But the wound gaped at you and me.

“Please buy me a new pair of slippers,” I asked you.

“We don’t have the means,” you said in the vernacular. “Just be mindful of the road next time you walk home.”

You rinsed off the blood off my slippers. And handed them back to me sparkling clean.

“Ayan. Bago na ‘yan. Bagong linis,” you said as I readied myself to go back to school for the afternoon session.

Before I left your side, you told me: “Don’t worry about new slippers. You will have them one day. You can buy as many pairs as you want one day. You just have to dream.”

My six-year-old heart never forgot to dream. It was this dream that fired me up to seek out the perfect slippers — because you handed them to me on the day you taught me to dream.

You are the dream I always pursue, the dream that always makes me smile, the dream that always makes me a winner. I failed a few times in the course of my dreaming to give you a good life and in my every fall, you picked me up. Dreams — you lay them at my feet. I have more dreams for you. But you said, I’ve given you more than what you prayed for in God. I hope I made you proud in your lifetime.

In your wake, I tell those who bereave with us: “Nanay ang tahanan. Ang ligaya at langit. Nanay ang una at dulo. Nanay rin ang gitna.

“Nanay ang hahanaping una kapag darating ng bahay. Nagtatanggal pa lamang ng sapatos bago pumasok ng bahay, isinisigaw na ang pangalan ng Nanay. Pag wala sa kwarto, hahanapin ang Nanay sa bakuran, sa ilalim ng puno ng himbaba-o, o baka naman nasa kapit-bahay.

“Nanay din ang huling susulyapan bago matulog. Walang pagmulat at pagpikit na hindi para sa Nanay.”

Now that you’re with the Lord, every waking moment will be different, every bedtime will be surreal. The void will be filled with memories — sweet and gentle and funny. I wish I could quit in an instant the sorrow that I feel. But embrace the grief and pain I must. The memories are the only link my devastated heart has with you now. Memories are a balm to the soul. I will get healed. You raised a strong person in me.

Mahal na mahal na mahal kita, Candida! *

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