To Mrs. Paulita Fernandez Garcia
And Karina --
Family and Masterpiece
This Portrait of a GREAT MAN’s
Heart and Mind and Soul
C O N T E N T S
I. THE INTERVIEW: Part I
II. YOUR PROVINCIAL NEWSPAPERMAN
III. THE INTERVIEW: Part II
IV. TO MY DARLING KARINA
ON HER TWELFTH BIRTHDAY
V. KARINA, MY DARLING
VI. THE INTERVIEW: Part III
VII. Epilogue: “LET NOT HIS BLOODY DEATH
BE ALL IN VAIN”
I. THE INTERVIEW: Part I
(From a tape-recorded INTERVIEW between ERMIN GARCIA and Fr. JUNI JESENA, S.J. at the Sunday Punch office, Dagupan City, December 22, 1965)
Excerpts from the words of ERMIN GARCIA:
I had a girlfriend.
Of course it was known all around town that we were sweethearts. I used to visit her in the marketplace. Morning, afternoon—I’d be there. And my friends used to ask me, “How much did you sell?” And even these Chinese, they say, “During the war, we were always watching you with your girlfriend.”
I was very idealistic and this girlfriend of mine was a member of the Catholic Study Club. So was PAULING, who became Mrs. Ermin Garcia. Pauling came over from Bolinao, with her family. And they stayed with some of their relatives in Pantal. The first time I saw Pauling was when she took part in a Rizal Day Program. She sang. And then there was this orchestra. They got her as a singer for the orchestra here in Dagupan. And whenever there would be a dance in Dagupan she would be asked to sing.
I wrote two plays and I directed them myself...our group put up the plays...benefit. They were both a success. They were liked.
And the second time that we were going to stage a play, Pauling had the female lead role. One of my friends played the male lead role. I was the director.
One time when I went to visit my girl in the market, she was angry. She was jealous of Pauling. And I never had...nothing at all...never. Pauling was just a girl to me. Just another girl. With talent. That’s all. Could sing, and could act. My girl kept on... sometimes she would nag, and sometimes she would... she had this sickness... when she’d get very angry, she would collapse and faint. Shock. And I think she had an illness in the liver, jaundice. One time, she collapsed in a fit of jealousy in the store and what I did was I lifted her, and from inside the market I carried her to a drugstore outside market. Boy, the town was again buzzing with that. My friends were kidding me about it.
My girlfriend kept on being jealous, absolutely with no basis. Even in church. You know, Pauling used to sing in the choir. And this girlfriend of mine would be in the pews there inside the church. And everytime Pauling would sing, this other girl would collapse.
The congregation would be laughing. And I pitied Pauling. Poor girl. She was innocent. So I tried to be...I pitied her... and I started to appreciate her ways because she, Pauling, really is the docile type. Very docile and always smiling, a kind word for everybody. But the other girl was a spitfire. And I was thinking. “My golly, if I marry this girl, we’ll never have a day of peace. But with Pauling, I would be very happy.”
And then that pity developed into you know, appre-ciation, and then I parted with my girl and eventually I got married with Pauling.
My love life is very...is a very interesting one. My friends tell me, “Ermin, boy, you take a vacation from the Sunday Punch and start writing your biography, and it will be a best-seller!”
Do you know that I...even before I met this girl, I had another girlfriend before the war, a senior Pharmacy student from UST. And she as brought home to Balanga, Bataan by her father at the outbreak of the war. After two weeks I followed from Manila, to Balanga. There was no transportation, but I managed to get to Balanga, and they were all surprised to find me there.
When Bataan fell in April I went to Manila right away and I tried to find out where they were, from the relatives. And it so happened that a messenger had just arrived from their evacuation camp, Barrio Consuelo. They made their move after the fall of Bataan to this Barrio Consuelo across the Manila Bay going towards Hagonoy. The place could only bereached by boat.
I brought along my casero. He accompanied me, because I cannot speak Tagalog. When we got there to Hagonoy, I said, “We will go to Barrio Consuelo!” “What? Do you know that to go to Barrio Consuelo you have to take the boat for five hours, and only yesterday the Japanese were machine-gunning all the boats passing there, because that is the only escape route of the USAFFE. From Bataan they sail and they take this route.” “You heard that?” Asked my casero. “Better turn back.” “What ‘turn back?’ I am already here. I am going through with it,” I said. “You expect me to go with you?” He asked. The Japanese machine-gunned every male that they saw. We could not even get a boatman to ferry me.
We finally found one, and at a very high price. And the casero bade me goodbye. And the way he bade me goodbye was as though that was the last time he was going to see me alive. He was...he was crying. He even made me write a note to my parents that he was trying to prevail on me to return to Manila with him, but that I refused...that he should not be blamed. I made him the note. “All right, here, what are you worrying about?”
And I slept by a riverbank, in a small...just a shed, on a dike, on the swamps. To wait for the dawn. And before sunrise, we pulled off. I was there by noontime. And when they saw me there, boy, the father of the girl almost fainted. He said, “How are we going to bring you back?”
I just wanted to visit her. And the whole camp was agog.
* * *
ACJ: How did you begin your newspaper career?
EG: I always was very fond of writing. During liberation I immediately put out a newspaper. The US Army, when they read by paper, boy, they liked it, and they liked my editorials. They were flying my newspaper, air-dropping it over the occupied areas. They were printing, boy, about one hundred thousand copies per issue. And they were giving me material: the paper, the ink, because it was very hard to get paper then. Finally I had my own newspaper, THE PIONEER HERALD.
(End of INTERVIEW: Part I)
* * *
“ERMIN GARCIA” was a symbol of what every newspaperman should aspire to be. Ermin could have come to Manila, as many journalist and writers of promise do, and made his mark in the metropolitan press. But he felt that his vocation lay a home, and it was to make happier and better the community in which he lived. And so he started the Sunday Punch, a weekly newspaper that never failed to live up to its name.”
—MAX SOLIVEN, The Sunday Times, May 22, 1966.
“FOR ERMIN GARCIA, Editor and Publisher of Dagupan City’s Sunday Punch, we can gauge a very great respect among the newspaper community. He was a crusader, one of a vanishing breed. He was one of the few provincial newsmen who truly had the esteem of the Manila press. He belonged to that group of press elders whom cub reporters look up to. He had a fighting heart and he kept proving it.”
—WILLIE NG, The Manila Bulletin, May 22, 1966.
“GARCIA was a Member of the Philippine Delegation to the Afro-Asian Press Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. He was a Director of the Philippine Press Institute. Garcia, a veteran newspaperman, was Founding President of the Federation of Provincial Press Clubs of the Philippines.”
—The Manila Times, May 21, 1966.
II. “YOUR PROVINCIAL NEWSPAPERMAN”
A Speech Given by ERMIN GARCIA, May 19, 1962.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller, PROFILES IN COURAGE, written while he was a member of the United States Senate, John F. Kennedy said, “In no other occupation but politics is it expected that a
man will sacrifice honors, prestige, and his chosen career on a single issue.”
As we dispute the validity of this statement when applied to many Filipino POLITICIANS, we offer a parallel and complementary thought: that in no other profession but JOURNALISM is it expected that a man will renounce friends, personal convenience, and even family in the faithful discharge of professional duties.
Personal heroism in the newsroom and on the newsbeats is a day-to-day routine, but in the anonymity that is the hallmark of journalism, you never get to read about these bits of heroism. The columns of your newspapers are replete with sagas of heroism of government officials, soldiers, professionals, taxi and bus drivers,——but rarely a line on the heroism sometimes demanded by the gathering and writing of certain news.
THE ONLY NEWSPAPERMAN HERO IS A DEAD NEWSPAPERMAN. Recognition comes only with death. The complete story of the savage conflict that rages inside a newsman between truth and camouflaged falsehood, between principle and convenience, between heart and mind, between conscience and popular favor, is never told and so is never appreciated—until the newspaperman is maimed or is killed, and only
the do you get an inkling of implied heroism between the lines of his obituary.
This inner struggle that convulses a newspaper-man’s being almost everyday is fiercest and most taxing in the local or provincial press. And we do not refer to the material and physical handicaps, such as inadequate, sloppy facilities or improportionately low financial remuneration, that would make less stout hearts and less dedicated souls quit in disgust and disillusionment.
Out here in the ramparts of community life, where the newspaperman is in frequent contact with most of his news subjects, his efforts at objective and impersonal reporting are constantly buffeted.
Public officials under fire could be his relatives or intimate friends. He moves around in the same orbit as the very people he must write about sometimes sympathetically, often times vitriolically.
Each unsavory news published about any person of consequence in the community is certain to have been disgorged through a riptide from within the newsman, a riptide of conflicting emotions, of heart-breaking pressure from friends and even members of his own family, of sleepless nights and tasteless meals, of hair-bleaching, soul- searching, and sometimes unshed tears. Because of the harsh demands of objectivity, a newspaperman has to be callous, stone-hearted, and cynical.
Yes, thus he must strive to be, if he must keep faith with his public and the lone commodity in which he deals, which is TRUTH. But between the fact, or the event and its actual publication, there invariably is a heart-rending inner conflict that subjects the moral strength and the sanity of the reporter and especially the editor to a grueling test.
Members of the local press have to cope with extraneous pressure of every conceivable shape or color. Sometimes they have to make decisions on impossible situations, in which they are damned if they do and dammed if they don’t.
They are often caught in the middle during bitter political battles, in which the newsmen receive more criticism and condemnation than the protagonists themselves.
Rival factions among the community’s professional groups fight their battles in the newspapers, and the press is often caught in the crossfire with unhappy results. There is hardly any facet of community activity wherein factional strife does not make local news-writing a risky, complicated and involved affair.
And then there are the community crusades against evil, against sin supposedly. It would simplify matters for a local newspaper to jump into the bandwagon and poke the fires of mob frenzy. As a general rule a newspaper couldn’t miss with such a policy. But there are crusades wherein the leaders stampede in fanatical zeal and in the process crush the rights of a few, defenseless people.
Even in such irrational moral pogroms it would be to the advantage of a newspaper or a newsman to join the mob and be a hero, but at the expense of truth and justice, at the expense of the weak and numerically inferior, at the sacrifice of his self-respect.
Truth and right are not necessarily on the side of the majority.
As Mr. Kennedy said, “There are few issues, if any, where all the truth and all the right and all the angels are on one side.” That is a rule every self-respecting newsman must always remember.
The local press wages unrelenting, but seemingly-futile, war against syndicate gamblers and vice lords who have the powerful and the mighty bought and sewed up to their ranks. But it must also reject witch hunts and crusades inspired by self-righteous in tolerance.
A few years ago practically all the elements of a certain community rose as one tidal wave against a handful of night club hostesses and sought to ram through a proposal to summarily ban all night clubs. One newspaper defied the mob and the self-canonized saints turned their wrath on the newspaper as the community’s vanguard of sin and iniquity.
The newspaper won its point eventually, but to this day it continues to suffer from the battle scars of the conflict. At every turn, the embittered and frustrated reformists, who make it a living to cast the first stone at every suspected sinner, continue to hound the newspaper with lawsuits in collaboration with dubious characters.
Local racketeers in the ranks of labor, who exist only to debauch their fellow workers, were exposed by the provincial press, long before the current government crackdown on the labor force and long before the community’s commercial establishments had been liberated from labor blackmail.
Crooks in provincial and municipal government offices and regional agencies have been blocked by the press in their attempts at extortion in the past. However, the workers, the businessmen and the people who have benefited never knew that in the process, certain newsmen were the recipients of death threats.
Your local press keeps watch over the affairs of the people of your community. It expresses your hopes and your aspirations, echoes your frustrations and disappointments, and chronicles your glories and your successes, as well as your tragedies and your agencies.
A newsman cannot adequately write of these matters without deeply feeling a gamut of deep emotions. Thus he dies a thousand deaths as he writes about people’s tragedies. And in the process, his own mental attitudes waver in cynicism with his ringside view of man’s inhumanity to man.
But all the time, he must have an instinctive urge to keep faith with himself—to be honest with himself and all the people he deals with or must write about.
He is so wrought up sharing the tragedies of his people that he is deprived of the luxury of grieving over his own personal tragedies.
He is thus forced to seek refuge behind an armor of callousness to maintain a hardboiled fidelity to truth; yet at the same time, even as he vituperates, deep down inside him, his heart bleeds with compassion and understanding, bitter at the society and the factors that make a man that way, or the things that force helpless women to walk the streets.
He must, whether he relishes it or not, condemn ill-doing without trying to do it in self-righteous judgment over the inherent worth of any individual—keeping in mind always that even an alleged prostitute or a thief has a God-given right no man or society can take away—the right to be heard.
This is the merciless challenge and these are the grim responsibilities that a conscientious newspaper-man is up against every hour of his waking day. His conscience is weighted down by the agonizing problems of his community and people.
THOSE HEADLINES ON YOUR WEEKLY NEWSPAPER ARE PRINTED NOT ONLY ON PRINTER’S INK. THEY ARE EMBLAZONED WITH THE SWEAT, THE TEARS—AND POSSIBLY YET—THE BLOOD OF YOUR NEWSPAPERMEN.
This, ladies and gentlemen of Pangasinan, is your own press. Take it to your bosom, if not with pride, at least with faith and understanding.
Speech given by ERMIN GARCIA
Induction, Pangasinan Press and Radio Club
May 19, 1962
III. THE INTERVIEW: Part II
(Continuation of the Interview between ERMIN GARCIA and A.C.J. at the SUNDAY PUNCH OFFICE, Dagupan City, Dec. 22, 1964).
Excerpts from the words of ERMIN GARCIA:
I spent my childhood mostly with my GRANDPARENTS in San Fabian.
They loved me very...they used to treat me the way I treat my children now. Very rarely my grandmother would whip me. My grandfather was called “The German” in San Fabian...he was called “Aleman” because boy, he was very irascible...I took after him...and domineering. Very domineering. He was the cacique of San Fabian and he was, boy...but he would never punish me, I remember. And he was very fond of me. I was always...I was his favorite. I was aware of that and I never abused.
One time I had pets in San Fabian, with my…with the other cousins, because Tony was too young. We would play together. We had poults. You see, my grandfather kept a small poultry. We took care of a poult each. To each we gave a name.
And I had a dog and the name was Comfy—Comfy was a comic strip before...my dog looked liked Comfy.
My children—I don’t care about their grades, as long as they can honestly tell themselves that they did their best—even if they flunk. For me, the grades do not matter, but their development as men, or as young ladies. The grade is a matter of opinion of one man. It is their health that counts. I would rather see them flunk, than see them sick. When I see them I say, “After all, these children were brought into this world through no fault of theirs.”
The way I see life...life for me is…I did not see much happiness in life, even before Karina’s death...so when the children were born I’d say, “My gosh, they had to be born because of me. I OWE IT TO THEM TO MAKE THEIR LIFE AS HAPPY AS POSSIBLE. I try to give them whatever they need.
So even now I deprive myself of things. I buy my shoes only once in three years. I don’t know...my shoes keep... like these shoes I am wearing now... this is my newest pair, and they have already been re-soled. My pants—many of them are worn out in the seats. I don’t go for—you know... Everything that the children need, I give it to them. Especially with their medicines. I am very strict with their medicines. But my own health—what the hell—sometimes I...when Pauling puts out the medicine just as I am going out the door, “Next time!” I tell her. But with the kids—boy! I watch them take their medicines, whenever I’m around.
The topnotchers in class are not always the ones who succeed. I want my children to be practical—to solve their own problems.
ACJ: What is it that motivates you to work, say, for the Red Cross?
EG: A sense of duty.
ACJ: For humanity?
EG: As long as I can do something...they ask me to do something, and I can do it, I think that to be honest with myself, I should not say no. That’s how I feel about it...if I can do it, I could not say no.
But I never do anything for myself. And in my prayers I never...I don’t ask for help for myself. No, because I feel—God knows what I need and I don’t have to tell Him. If He wants…if He thinks He should give it to me, He will give it to me. Why waste my prayers? Why don’t I instead offer my prayers for something that I am more interested in?
ACJ: Speaking of breakdowns, don’t you think you need a rest sometime... take a break.
EG: Well..... you know, the only rest I had was when I really got sick...the lungs. The January after Karina’s death. And one of my friends, Dr. Samson of the Chest Clinic brought a portable x-ray to my house. He did not tell me what he saw but the way he said, “Ermin, please. This is serious. Please. For the first time—you lie down. You stay in bed. Make an effort to stay in bed.” And also my father Dr. Luis Garcia... he was worried. I could see it because they were together. I had to be in bed for almost ten days. That was the rest I got. And since that time, after I got sick, my appetite was very good, and I put on weight. But then, after that, it petered out again, back to the same old thing. I cannot...I don’t think I’ll be able to take a rest, because if I’m in bed, I’m restless. I get worse.
ACJ: If you don’t do anything you...
EG: I get worse. I get worse... You know, sometimes, there are times when I feel I am really sick. I do not tell anybody. There was one time the children happened to brush against me, and they sensed that I had a high temperature. “Boy—Papa is...”and they rushed for a thermometer. But what I did was put it in the middle of my mouth and it didn’t touch my tongue. I just stay home. I treat myself, I don’t want them to worry.
ACJ: You don’t care too much about your health.
EG: THE FACT IS I AM NOT AFRAID TO DIE... I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN GOD, GOD’S MERCY. I KNOW THAT GOD UNDERSTANDS ME... HE KNOWS THAT I’M TRYING MY BEST.
ACJ: But if you should die now...
EG: Of course...
ACJ: Your children still need you.
EG: Yes, that’s it.
ACJ: You have to live. For their sake.
EG: Yeah… that’s also...yes...with the grace of God...
ACJ: Please tell me about Karina.
EG: Karina.....Karina showed a great capacity to understand me, my nature...my personality...and she tried her best not to impose on my nature or my weaknesses. What I admired in her was the effort she took never to give a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude.....
I remember I would ask her what she would like for Christmas....she would say nothing although I know that she appreciates nice things. But, “What is it that you want for Christmas?” “Oh, never mind...anything. In the first place I understand we have no money.” I said, “We have enough money.” And then she tells me, just to give an answer, several items which of course are fabulous, and very expensive and she would laugh.
She is very grateful for every little thing that she receives. And that’s why I always got a kick out of bringing things for her and her sisters when I come home from other places, so much so that whenever I buy things for the family, it is always Karina that I pictured receiving- the gift—her reaction, picturing her reaction wherein she would—her joy would be full and spontaneous.
While she seemed naturally carefree, she took a serious attitude on many things. And of course whenever I would talk to her I would always tease her. And then if there is something that I would say that seemed objectionable, she would say “Papa” and then she would hug me.
As I see it all now, she must have been the instrument to keep me within the fold of salvation. Those times when I went to Communion, she was very happy. She’d be very proud, and always took pains to see to it that I do not forget the old requirements for Communion: about the fasting, for instance. And when I would go downstairs for water she would follow me, watch me, and see that I don’t take anything else. And she did it not in the way of a fussy, intrusive,
impudent person: she did it caressingly, jokingly.
IN THE SUNDAY PUNCH OFFICE....
Usually, she would enter...open the door like that, or else she would knock, and pretend that she is some outside visitor, peep, then close the door. Then I have to stand up and open the door. Or she’d just barge in here and once she’s inside the room, she’d jump...she would be opening everything here, then getting the books, reading, choosing the books which she would like to take home. I had an album here which I bought. She wanted to have a scrapbook. And she didn’t tell me that she liked it. But she showed it to Miss Liwanag. And when Karina died, Miss Liwanag told me about it. “Karina was very much in love with this album. I hope you’ll use it for a scrapbook for her.” “Definitely,” I said, “For nothing else will I use it.” Karina never told me because she knew I would give it to her, but she thought it would be painful for me to part with it, probably.
You know, the last time she came into this room was the Feast of Christ the King, October 27. I was working alone here, and she entered. She entered solemnly, but she was smiling. I could see that her hair was mussed up, and she looked tired, and she sat down right there. She told me she came from the procession. She said she got off the bus, and came here. “We’ll go home after I finish something.” “Yes.” And then when we went out, I opened the door and I saw her three classmates inside…no...as she was going out the door, she told me, “Papa, I would like to ask you a favor.” “What is it?” “I have my friends here, and because the bus would not take them to their home, I invited them to come down with me and I told them we would take all of them home.” “Sure,” I said, I was very pleased to do them a favor for her sake, and I was very happy. And I asked her, “Why did you not tell me as soon as you arrived that you were with them? I would have asked them to wait inside my office.” “But you were very busy,” she told me. “No, they could have stayed in the room even while I was working.” And I was very nice to those girls, and Karina was very happy about it.
She would be waiting. I would find her there, we would tease each other...it was Karina, always, who made my homecoming something to look forward to... She would remove my shoes and give me my slippers. And I would lie in the sofa there in the living room. There wasn’t much room on the couch but she would squeeze herself beside me, even if I would be busy reading something.
I joked so much with her because she jokes back with me. No fear, no pretence. She is so open with me. As if she treats me like a friend. She jokes. And of course she answers my jokes. And of course I enjoy it. When I joke with somebody and she doesn’t do anything or she just respectfully smiles at me, why.....nothing! But if she hits back, that’s what I like. I was very fond of Karina. Because she can take it. She’d joke right back with me.
I would kid her, for instance, about the way she pronounces... when she was smaller, for instance, she had a classmate, Remedios. But she could never pronounce that name correctly. Always ‘Meredios’. So, “Meredios, how is Meredios today?” Along that vein. All inconsequential.
It was about September or October. I came to the house early. And I found her alone. “Why are you in the house?” I said. “I came from Catechism class.” She said, “You”—when I was lying down on the sofa, “you stay there. Don’t move.” “Why?” “You stay there. Don’t move.” She got hold of this picture, this poster with a stick which you turn over, she was explaining the picture.
I got fascinated and she was doing it very well. That was one time I did not joke with her. I was merely smiling. And she saw that I was very happy about it. A very beautiful coincidence is that when she did that, she was at the age of twelve. That was, you know, like when Jesus was found in the Temple. He was twelve years old. He was teaching the older men there, and that is how I look back at it. The significance that I can derive from there is the fact that Karina was just a child, but she was actually the one teaching me.
(End of INTERVIEW:Part II)
From THE PANGASINAN COURIER, Dagupan City, November 3, 1963:
According to police findings, little KARINA GARCIA and the Maryknoll teacher, MISS NORMA PETILLA went out swimming with seven others in the Blue Beach near the vicinity of SWA-OVR Training Center. That was about 11 o’clock. It was reported that they were about to go eat their lunch when Miss Petilla suggested they “take a last dip.” It appeared that the two, Misses Garcia and Petilla, were caught by a big wave which took them further out to the deeper waters. However no one in the group suspected that the two were drowning....
Witnesses said ERMIN GARCIA, JR. who was with the group, tried to save the two girls but he, too, was caught by the big wave. Some people wading on the shore helped recover the bodies. The unconscious victims were taken to the Provincial Hospital. However efforts to revive them were futile.
But for the alert presence of mind of a Bonuan resident, Ermin Garcia, Jr. would also have drowned. Seeing him helpless, GREGORIO MENESES swam to rescue the younger Garcia and took him to safety.
Karina was buried yesterday morning in the Catholic cemetery in San Fabian, Pangasinan. Her body was taken to the San Fabian Catholic Church for the last blessing followed by a long motorcade of relatives, friends, and sympathizers. Rev. TITO FERNANDEZ, assisted by REV. GUIDO TIONG, officiated in the funeral rites. She was interred in the tomb of her
grandmother, the late JOSEFA ERFE-MEJIA GARCIA.
IV. TO MY DAUGHTER, KARINA GARCIA
ON HER TWELFTH BIRTHDAY
by Ermin Garcia
The SUNDAY PUNCH
November 6, 1963
Karina, my darling daughter:
We are all here for the big day tomorrow. In a little more than a couple of hours, it will be Thursday, November 7—your twelfth birthday anniversary. It is now ten minutes past nine, and as I write this in my office I am alone—with you, I fervently hope, like the few moments that evening you breezed into this room tired but happy from the Christ The King
procession on October 27.
Your brother is back from Baguio where he had gone for his classes. He has brought gorgeous roses and other flowers as beautiful for you and for
the altars before which you used to pray with that twinkle in your eyes. And there are still more flowers from friends and people who love and admire you even from the infinite distance which separates you from us all.
I have in my office that portion of the calendar on which a few weeks back you drew a circle around the “7” of November, with the gay and loud reminder scrawled overhead, “DO NOT FORGET KARINA.” I notice that with those words you did not bring attention only to your birthday, but more meaningfully, to remember you on the day.
It was as if you knew you won’t be around when your birthday came. But if you only knew, my darling, that forgetting you, wherever you’d be, is like
forgetting to breathe and to think at all, you would agree with me that there really was no need for the reminder, priceless and cherished though it is
Early in the morning, the family will hold communion with you and all the other saints through the Holy Eucharist during one of several Masses to be said for you during the day, Masses here and elsewhere offered by your schoolmates, by your friends, our friends, by the family and other relatives.
Later in the morning, we shall bring to your classmates the refreshments you had planned to give them yourself on your birthday. It will be as you and we had planned. There will be the usual kind thoughts and loving regard for you. But there won’t be the mischievous smile, the witty banter, the laughing eyes, not the dulcet voice—because Somebody Up There, it has turned out, has had plans quite at variance with ours.
Your sudden departure from our midst cannot make us forget either November 7 or Karina. Long after the ink with which you scrawled that filial
reminder will have faded with the tears of the years, the memory of you will yet be as lustrous as the beauty of your soul. Long after these eyes, now squeezed dry of tears, will have closed in sheer exhaustion through the years, long after this grief-laden heart will have ceased to beat, multitudes—not the rest of the family alone—will be singing hymns to your memory.
How can we forget you, darling? In life you gave us our most blissful moments; just as in death you gave us the most poignant hours. Forget you, Karina? We would just as soon forget life itself.
There are indications that although you took leave of us with split-second suddenness, it looks as if all the time you had some pre-arranged covenant with the Almighty Father, the Father of us all. By your departure you seared our hearts beyond repair. But as in our limited and slow comprehension it dawned on us that it was as you had craved it and as He had willed it, I ask myself why I weep. And I realize that possibly my sight had been blurred by the tears of self-pity that I helplessly shed. I realize that, in my selfishness, I weep for myself—for the loss of the joys that you caused and the magnificent delight that you were to me, for the parental stupidity and neglect that allowed the circumstances that brought about your departure.
In our prideful happiness over you, we did our best to make you happy, but we must admit our best is but an infinitesimal drop in the eternity of bliss that is now your well-deserved reward, and which you quietly, unceasingly sought. You came to us an angel and after lighting up our lives with twelve years of unblighted happiness, you were recalled to receive your infinite reward for a job well done.
As we bow our heads and pour our grateful hearts to Him who loaned you to us, we thank you, Karina, for enriching our lives and giving us the sublime
example of your life.
Remember the day in September that your mother caught you at the telephone saying in verses you yourself spun that “THE BEST DAY TO DIE WOULD BE ON THE FIRST DAY OF NOVEMBER, BECAUSE IT IS FIRST FRIDAY AND ALSO ALL SAINTS’ DAY AND THE NEXT DAY IS THE FIRST SATURDAY?” And in my pocket all these days is a piece you dictated over the telephone a day before your departure, and which was written down by a bosom friend and classmate. And I quote what you had dictated:
“THE DAY WHEN I DIED”
IT WAS NOVEMBER FIRST WHEN I WAS SUFFERING WITH ACHES. TWELVE O’CLOCK STRUCK AND NO WORD CAME OUT FROM MY MOUTH. I FELL NTO THE HANDS OF MY MOTHER WHO WAS WATCHING ME FOR THE WHOLE NIGHT ITHOUT ANY SLEEP. SHE KNOWS I AM DEAD AND SHE CALLED FOR MY SISTERS AND BROTHER…
“MY SCHOOL WAS INNOCENT ABOUT MY DEATH UNTIL THE PHONE RANG AND ANNOUNCED MY DEATH. I KNOW IT WAS A BIG SHOCK FOR THEM.”
It was twelve o’clock of November first—the First Friday and All Saints’ Day—when I jumped out from my car in company with two doctors and two loyal co-workers in the office to rush to your succor at the beach. And you had just expired then. That this day I remain sane after those frenzied moments and hours of shocked lunacy, I attribute to your kind prayers for me.
And as you had predicted, your school (the Sisters) did not know of your death until their phone rang and your sisters and your brother tumbled through their tears the announcement of your death. And I am certain it was a shock to them. You see, it was a shock to me too.
This evening on the arrival of your loving brother from Baguio, he handed to me a letter from his Father class adviser at the St. Louis University.
The coincidence of similarity between his letter and the piece you dictated over the phone on the eve of your departure is poignantly but significantly striking. The letter said, “…She went on All Saints’ Day—heaven was open and she took the best occasion to enter. Please look with faith upon your grief because from heaven she will be able to send more graces than ever....”
Although for reasons of your own you kept it back from me, you repeatedly had expressed your dream to be a writer. Now that joyous wish will always remain a dream, for me as well as for you. And this adds to my anguish because I know you would have done great credit to a discredit profession. I felt it in the icy printer’s ink that passes for blood in my hardened veins that with your spunk and intellectual endowments, you would be a great newspaperwoman.
Yes, all that is gone. But, if it is a consolation to you as it is to me, you have become something more important. You are and will always be the Muse of him whom you singled out in your scrapbook as “my favorite and greatest columnist.” I will never measure up to even near-greatness only, but I want you to know that I shall always try to be worthy of you as a writer, my beloved Muse.
The day before you left, you, a freshman, triumphed over others more advanced than you in years by winning the first place in the declamation contest in the entire high school department of the Blessed Imelda’s Academy. While it pains me now to realize that I was not able to do anything to help you in your preparations, the fact somehow fills me with pride for then the honor and the glory was all yours and yours alone.
“CURFEW MUST NOT RING TONIGHT”— that was your prize-winning piece. They say—since I was not there just as I was not there either at the beach in your hour of your greatest need,—that you were terrific, you were calm and gaily nonchalant. It was a memorable farewell performance, because curfew rang for me the next day. Dusk has fallen over my life, and there’s no telling when it will lift again. And if and when it does, it will only be because I will have seen through the haze a glimmer, however faint, of the perpetual light that I pray to God must shine on you.
In a few more minutes it will be midnight, and it will be November 7, the cherished date you came to us twelve years ago exactly to the day. On behalf of the disconsolate of your own flesh and blood, my heart sings out to you the fondest “HAPPY BIRTHDAY.”
But before I turn in for the night, in another vain effort to meet you once again if only in dreams, allow me to scrawl our own reminder: ON NOVEMBER 7 OR EVER, DON’T FORGET US, KARINA.
Good night, my lovely Princess cherished deathless Muse, Heaven’s sweet Angel. May you and your prayers keep watch over us.
V. “KARINA, MY DARLING...”
by Ermin Garcia
March 1, 1964
Karina, my darling :
It’s been four months since we bade goodbye. I have gone through 120 arid days—days and nights spent on the precipitous brink of insanity, dizzying moments of alternating despondency and inspiration, when my mind swirled through a dark fog of ever-despairing, ever-dimming hope.
In the interim, even as I tenaciously held on to my tottering wits, this body, buffeted by the deep-cutting lash of a father’s grief, broke down. And for the first time in 42 years I conceded I was truly, seriously ill.
While in the preceding days I prayed to God “to hasten my reunion with my Karina,” the few days in bed gave me an opportunity to pull myself together and reappraise my thoughts in the light of my responsibilities to God and you. I realized then that I must live on and be strong for the family you and I love so much—the once-jolly brood of which you will always be a cherished member.
Like the dawning, the realization came to me that Up There our reunion will be of the spirit and that I do not have to abscond from my paternal responsibilities here to be really reunited with you—that with the grace of the Almighty, I only have to find the will and strength in order for me to be with you here and now.
You really have never left us. It is that in your journey to beatitude, you are somewhere there beyond the horizon of our limited, because selfish, sight. And I know, with a faith rekindled by the impact of our parting, that all that I have to aspire to, if I am to regain the joy and the blessedness of your company, is to grasp the Hand that is just waiting to lift me up to see beyond the horizon, and to overcome the distance between us.
The privilege and the faculty of seeing beyond the horizon are accorded only to those who would be worthy of the grace and blessedness that can only exist yonder. In my iniquity, in my weakness, I try to pull myself up from the morass into which I had long fallen. I try to be worthy of you, to walk in your footsteps. My initial attempts, like the spiritual invalid’s that I am, have been wobbly. And after each fresh attempt, I tried to rise again, only to fall flat anew on my puny efforts.
In this my desperate and uphill battle against myself, my weakness, allow me, my darling daughter, to count on your tender assistance—your prayers and your fervent intercession. I need your help. I need you beside me always, as you were at home, and abroad, in church and in our outings—before November 1, 1963. We were a team, you and I—remember? In church it was on you that I always counted on to look for a seat where we could be near each other, and, together in silence and mutual unspoken caresses, we prayed.
As it was then, so it is now that I look up to you, my Karina, for assistance in my feeble efforts to seek a place beside you in God’s grace. I pray to the Lord you honor and glorify, and to His Beloved Mother, to allow me your comforting inspiration and guidance. I have strayed too far out, and I know that in my frailty I may not have the grace and the strength to find my way back to Him, without assistance. And who else can I lean on for spiritual support and comfort but my own beloved daughter and constant companion, other than God Himself and His Beloved Mother?
Our team has not really been broken up by the seeming distance between us now. I say “seeming” advisedly because I realize that I’m only as far away from you as the distance I keep from God; and, on the other hand, I can be as close to you now as we ever had been before November 1, 1963 if I only try to unite myself with Him.
Our teamwork is even closer than ever, with a slight revision in our line-up. Where before I used to be the captain and coach, now you must be Muse and coach. Anyway, it never did quite work out with our previous set-up. I bungled most of the plays, and our team would have been routed but for the magnificent yeoman work you did, doing practically all of the
scoring, by improving on my erratic coaching. Because of your standout performance, the Divine Critic and Judge has put you in the Big League. And I still have yet to make it—with your inspiration.
This time I mean to play it for keeps, to at least qualify for the Big League. Now I know it’s the only goal worth aiming at—the only one anybody should have. If I’ve learned anything that can give meaning and worth to living, it’s this simple lesson, arrived at through an arduous, dolorous, circuitous route that took me all of 42 years to get to. And but for the light you struck for me, flaring to its stunning full intensity last November 1, I might not have found it at all. In my blinding cupidity, I could not see my way through, until the Good Shepherd got you to lead me and to show me the way—to sort of blaze the trail for me. With you leading me on, laboriously treading on each little footprint you left for me to follow, I now think I can see the faint glimmer of the light of that HOME I seek.
I know you’re there, you’re HOME. And if I finally succeed getting to Heaven’s threshold, all I must do is knock, and I’m sure Our Father will let me in. And once more, my darling, together we shall bask in the warmth of His dwelling. I know only too well, my darling, how keen you were about being always at my side. Now, with the afterthought of near-certainty that you are among GOD’S ELECT, the pride in me is sobered down by a feeling of unworthiness.
I have since learned that when the family had plans for everybody, except myself, to live in Manila for all of your schooling in the coming school year, 1964-65, you told of your own plan to remain with me here in Dagupan, to keep me company, to minister to my needs. This much you confided to your friend at Blessed Imelda’s, Mother Amparo.
Because of the knowledge that you did not wish to be separated from me, I feel that the least I can do now is to try to keep and fulfill that desire as nearly as possible.
Before you were called to your reward, I had committed myself to run for the Board of Directors of the National Press Club, with the arrangement that upon election to the Board, I would be chosen President. When I was called to Manila to campaign, I underwent an agonizing soul-searching. I knew that if I got elected as planned, I would have to stay mostly in Manila. I knew that you would not like it, not only because your remains are in San Fabian, but because of the tempting distractions that were bound to plague me. On the other hand, I also felt that you would not wish me to renege on my commitment to my friends at the NPC.
So, I decided to go to Manila and campaign only for a week, keeping my exertions to the bare minimum. I left it to you to pray for whatever was best for me. I would not be honest to myself it I did not admit that I would be disappointed somehow if I missed out in the Board. So, I decided to offer my defeat, if I did not make it, for your own eternal happiness. And that if I should win, I would dedicate my election and my work to God’s greater glory.
Well, I lost. But I wasn’t much disappointed. I felt that having missed it by only three votes, I was able to assuage my human weakness for prestige. And I’m convinced that you indeed had intervened and that it was best that I am not now the President of the NPC. There is so much to be done in our paper. For this, I’m humbly grateful, my dear one.
In the rush and shelter-skelter of work during the day, I manage to drown my thoughts and hide somehow from the bleaching heat of my misery. But as the sun recedes in the west, and the day’s business peters to its close, I am with you. As darkness mercifully blots out the distractions of the day just ended, I return to you and to thoughts of you, eager to clasp to my bleeding heart the balm of your memory. Each recollection of my naked failures towards you opens wider still the wounds in my heart, and yet it is only in the full contemplation of this my bitter gall that my heart and mind find peace. And I know it’s because in thoughts of you, I find my way to God, in Whose bosom I wish, more than anything else, to believe you now cuddle in genuine happiness.
Through the mist of my eyes and the bloody tears in my heart, I smile my humble gratitude to Him for sending you to me as the instrument of His Love and His Mercy. Looking back through it all now, scanning every detail and circumstance of your arrival on November 7, 1951 through the ebullient twelve years that you brought days of joy and nights of gladness, to the dark days when shock and grief tottered on the brink of lunacy on November 1, 1963, I realize you came to my life as His ANGEL.
BY YOUR OWN EXAMPLE, YOU SHOWED ME THE TRUE LOVE I HAD BEEN MISSING BECAUSE I WAS AVOIDING IT. THE LOVE YOU SHOWED ME OPENED MY EYES TO THE GREAT LOVE I HAD IN MY FOLLY SPURNED. BY YOUR OWN CONSTANCY TO HIM AND HIS BLESSED MOTHER, I AWOKE TO THE SENSELESS FLIGHT I HAD LONG PURSUED.
By all the things you stood for and quietly labored for, you proved to me I was merely thrashing in a wallow of egoism and iniquity. By what you were, I saw, in the contrast, my own ugliness—the various aspects of which elicited from you an upturned, quizzical brow, a silent chastising glance, and sometimes a misty, if not tearful eye.
* * *
April 25, 1964
As I write this, my darling, the sun sets on a day of observance, of another day 43 years ago in that small town so dear to our hearts, San Fabian. As you have known, I never was for celebrating the day. I have always felt that nobody in the world is the richer, materially and spiritually, by my birth. And as I could recall, I could not see any reason for self-congratulation. The joys of my life never could match the extent and the profundity of the myriad sorrows and tribulations I went through.
With your passing almost six months ago, the mood of grief seems o be permanent. On occasion, with your sisters and brother, your Ma, and close friends, I smile and even dare to laugh. But in my subconscious mind, a pall of mourning never lifts. I laugh as best and as frequently as I can—and I’m quite aware that these are far between, so as not to deepen the sorrow that I know they are all bravely trying to fight back and hold down.
The intense devotion that fills their prayers for you more than proves that their grief is no less heavy than mine. And I can see too the special effort they are making not to show it to me, knowing how broken my spirit has been by your passing. In this loving thoughtfulness, they prove themselves to be of tougher fiber, of much greater and finer character than me, for I think that in my selfishness, I have been thoughtless many a time, and in their midst I have been moody and distant from them. And yet I know that if anything should happen to any of them, my grief would not be less severe.
I have let the word pass around to my intimate circle of friends headed by our Father Tito that I would very much prefer them to lay siege on Heaven on your beloved behalf rather than spend to buy gifts for me.
I have everything for my simple needs, and a gift for me would almost be meaningless but for the cherished intentions of the giver. If they really wished for me to be very happy, it would only be because they offered special prayers and mortifications for your happiness in God. I know that if you have any to spare, you would ask Him to apply the graces to me. The best gift, aside from all those given for you, is a small book, in very readable type, of Thomas a’Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ” from Miss Liwanag, who has, together with Father Tito, helped me immeasurably in my finding the way back to you and remaining on this path resolutely inspite of my weakness. But what I love best about the gift was the dedicatory note. It reads: “To the Father of the lovable little angel, Karina, in the hope that this little book will act as a bridge to reach his little one.”
In this short but magnificent note is included all that I ever care to be and aspire to: the deathless pride of having been your father, unworthy though I am; the frenzied desire to get to you, to reach you—and reaching you, find my way back to God.
I keep going back to the days between my First Communion when I was ten years old and my twelfth year. Those were the years I walked with God in my innocence and intense devotion to Him. I gladdens me to note that in His Love for you (and possibly for me), He plucked you at the height of your innocence and the crest of your devotion, your missionary work for Him. For your own sake, my darling, I am happy that He took you when He did—before the world could infiltrate your soul. For I recall that in my own case, I started to stray not very long after my twelfth year.
The memory of my twelfth year gives me assurance that then I yet walked in my innocence. It was the year your great-grandfather, Ambrosio, died, and I remember how I felt and prayed for him.
On this, my 43rd birthday anniversary, my thoughts go at the same time to your grandmother, my beloved and most loving mother, for whom I pray always. I like to imagine both of you together Up There, having met each other, watching and praying for me and the rest of the family, for your grandpa who loves you deeply and of whom you were very fond, for your great-grandma, in my great love for whom you readily joined me, and for your loving grand-uncles and grand-aunts.
* * *
May 1, 1964
A half year has passed since we said goodbye. The turmoil in my mind has somehow settled down, calmed in the belief and the faith that YOU ARE AMONG GOD’S ELECT. But in my heart yet rages an inferno of sorrow, of regret. There is no use reporting this to you, because it will never cease—this storm in my heart. As I have said, I’m happy that He took you up and spared you all the pains and the spiritual anguish in a longer life in this valley of tears.
And yet, I miss you terribly so much. I miss your arms around my neck, your cheeks close to mine, the words of fond endearment we exchanged. Darling, I miss you and your love. It was only an innocent heart such as yours that could show to me without shyness your love and your total lack of fear for me and my unbridled temper. I miss your smiles as I go home at noon and at night, and the sight of you curled up in my and your Mama’s bed, waiting for me to join you, if only for a few warm moments—of embrace and horseplay.
The half-year mark of your departure, May 1, fell on a First Friday, just like November 1, 1963. And we went to Holy Communion in the very chapel (St. Therese’s) at probably the same hour you went there for your last Communion on the November 1st, that First Friday, that All Saints’ Day. As you must have seen, there were Masses for you (aside from that at St. Therese’s chapel) in the cathedral, in Calasiao, at the chapel of Blessed Imelda’s, and in San Fabian. And we visited your tomb in the morning.
The next day, Father Tito and I and others in the office paid you another visit. As long as I have the strength, my darling, I shall always keep my rendezvous with you, each time I can manage to get away from all the burden on my shoulders.
I thank you, my darling, for praying and getting for me the special honors and privileges (totally un-expected) and opportunities from the International Press Institute. It was as if on that day of May 6 you took me by the hand and sent me to Manila, to Tarzie Vittachi. It was all your intercession and Mama’s, I know. And maybe that was why you did not want that I would be the President of the NPC. Membership in the International Press Institute Board of Governors is an even greater honor and is more useful than the NPC Presidency. And if I were the NPC President, I could not be asked to make that survey and study of the provincial press.
This survey will take me away from your hallowed resting place for several weeks on end, but I shall be strengthened always by the knowledge that as I go away you and your prayers will always keep me company. And all my efforts in my work in the survey and the IPI Board. I shall dedicate and offer to God for your eternal happiness. Each chore, each line of writing to be done in this new enterprise, I shall offer as a prayer for you. Pray, my darling, as you have been patiently doing, that I shall not be distracted along the way-. Ask Our Father to enlighten my mind and give me the grace for moral and spiritual strength. Don’t take your hand away from mine
* * *
November 1, 1964
It has been exactly a year since you left us, and yet it seems only yesterday that I last saw you and hugged you in my breast.
Looking back to the first twelve months of your absence, I can say humbly that they were the dawning of another life.
Let’s say it started that day, about two weeks before your departure, when you told me to listen while you gave me a sample of your Bible lessons in your catechetical work. I was lying then on the red sofa in the living room and my heart pulsed with pride as you explained to me a colored picture from the Bible.
Of course, it was your sudden leave that jolted me to my senses. And while it has been a painstaking effort, my erratic attempts often threatened to break up our joint undertaking. My weak, spineless character often wilted in the face of constant, incessant pressure. But each time I have gone down, I have tried always to rise again from my failure—chastened and humbled, but more determined than ever.
I have prayed to God and for your intercession that I would someday grow to be worthy of having been the Father of Karina, to walk in your footsteps, to trace the quiet paths you left as my legacy from you.
My mind is much clearer now. The fog that has settled around my soul all through the years seems to have lifted considerably. And I seem to have found, through you, the meaning of my life. In you and from you I discovered the simple truth about this life and about myself. I no longer grope in utter darkness. It is still somber, and shadows keep flitting, but my vision has cleared somehow and I have found the courage and the humility to live as you had lived and as you wanted me to.
“THE BEST THING A FATHER CAN DO FOR HIS CHILDREN IS TO LOVE THEIR MOTHER.” This is the message you left behind for me, as you wrote it down in your slum-book. Aside from indicating how quietly you had suffered because of my thoughtlessness for your beloved mother, that advice you so pointedly imparted to me has never dulled in my sight or in my mind.
Because of you, my darling, I have since vowed to love your mother as you had wished me to. Pray for me, my beloved, that I shall never be wanting in measuring up to this wish. I thank you, Karina, and most humbly I shall try to live by your precept.
* * *
August 1, 1965
Karina, ever my darling—
After many months, I go back to this folder (your own) and put down once again my thoughts. Distractions from various quarters—largely work on the paper and its business and civic work have kept me away-. But in the interim, I have lived as ever on thoughts of you. The days and months have not in any way dimmed the memory of you nor exhausted or weakened the love I have for you. Hardly an hour passes that my thoughts flit back to you, wherever I am, whatever it is I do.
As the months rolled by, I felt I was getting closer to you. It’s not only that each day brings me closer to Eternity. In my own journey as a pilgrim to the Everlasting City, I feel that I have been making some headway—not by leaps and bounds, but in painful single steps, weak and clumsy yet still I think that overall I make some progress to the objective your going away has set for the taking as you did when you were with us.
I seem to have found my bearings. YOU HELPED ME and I have found it easier TO LOVE GOD FOR HIMSELF, FOR WHAT HE IS, AND TO TRY HONESTLY TO LIVE FAITHFULLY BY THAT LOVE FOR HIM. I NOW REALIZE THAT HE IS ALL- GOOD, ALL-LOVING. That His love is ours for the taking as you did when you were with us.
We have had several inquiries about your life, requests for vignettes and anecdotes. Those who have had the joy of knowing you and those who have known you only through others are highly confident that you have joined the heavenly host. In their admiration, faith, and love for you, they have been praying to you for your intercession, and they tell me most joyously that God has been kind to their prayers to Him through you.
The faith of strangers, as well as of friends, has touched me deeply. It makes me humbly proud of you, unworthy a father though I had been to you, in the awareness that you are everything you have been, utterly regardless of me, inspite of me.
I think that all that you are can be traced back to the fact that you eagerly made yourself a true child of God. If there’s anything I would count as my most cherished blessing, it is the inexplicable fortune of having such splendid children as you and your sisters and brother. I am as grateful to Him for you all as I am of the talents He has provided me. And just as you all are directing your lives to the love of God, I now aspire to employ my talents in His service. I shall work in my occupations in the full understanding that He has given me my work to accomplish for Him- and for His children.
Pray for me, my darling, that I may yet put in some constructive effort in His scheme of things, that I may justify the gift of His talent by putting it to salutary use, however humble and small. I hope and pray that my life would be as meaningful and construc-tive in His plans as yours was in its fleetingly brief span of twelve years.
There is no way for me to divine His plan for me, to find out what it is He wants me to do, but to seize every opportunity TO BE IN HIS SERVICE—DIRECTLY OR TO THE PEOPLE—and to apply myself with all serve Him through my pen. I regret that in the past it had been used at times in perfidious disregard or violation of His wish and commandments.
This school year I have started paying for the tuition of a very deserving seminarian of Binmaley—Camilo Natividad of Mapandan. I met him when I had my Retreat in the seminary last year. Father Tito assigned him to attend to me in my room, and he was especially selected because of his personal qualifications, according to our beloved Father Tito. As you know, I make barely enough for the family and the education of your sisters and brother, but I feel the boy needs help, as he comes, I understand, from very poor parents. Right now I can’t recall his face, all I can remember was that he was a very alert and respectful young man, and from his letters to me I know he’ll make a worthy minister of God. Beyond providing for the needs of the family, I HOPE AND DO INTEND TO GIVE ALL THAT I HAVE TO THE POOR.
In my boyhood, I had admired the ministry as a vocation but I realized (too readily) that I was destined for another kind of life. The monthly expense for Camilo is not much, compared to the annual outlay for Josie, Junior, Charisse, and Frieda. I’d like to think of my expenses for Camilo as my expenses for your own education, my darling, if you had stayed around—part of it only anyway. I know you’ll be happy and honored to have the priesthood take the vocation you would have picked for yourself.
I am indeed humbly grateful for the opportunity to contribute in a small way to the making of a minister of God. Some priests, starting with Father Tito, have been very kind to me. They have been taking extra pains to help me on my road to God—and you.
VI. THE INTERVIEW, Part III
(Conclusion of the Interview between Ermin Garcia and A.C.J. in the Sunday Punch Office, December 22, 1964).
Excerpts from the words of ERMIN GARCIA:
About a month ago, I told Don Rafael Gonzales, a friend of mine, “I always pray for you.” And he was very silent.
He himself was deeply touched by Karina’s death, largely because he saw how it affected me. Also he told me that his wife kept talking to him about Karina. She had read that “A Letter to Karina On Her Twelfth Birthday” I wrote after Karina’s death.
Don Rafael used to call my attention...even tonight, he said, “What I want you to stop is this habit of yours of going to the cemetery. Your daughter is not there. Just the mortal remains, the bones.” Then I told him, “You know, I go to the cemetery not because Karina is there, but as a personal sacrifice on my part.” And he readily understood it. And he appreciated it. “Yes,” he said, “on that ground, it is really something very good.” Just a personal sacrifice to show God, in the hope that God would let her know that I go there because I love her.
Once Don Rafael was telling me about the sudden grace, although he doesn’t call it grace—I told him that it is grace —to go back to God, and to look at things always in terms of God’s love for him.
And the mere fact that a man of his stature and at the height of his success is determined tomorrow to make a public declaration of his faith in God as well as an intimate account of his life and the blessings he has from God...the only way I can explain that is perhaps Karina helped me in my prayers for him. I really prayed for my friend to see the light of God.
Tonight, I was very happy...the main point is that before, Don Rafael would never be caught talking in public, talking about God, about Religion or piety...it was really spontaneous on his part, no occasion really for him, except maybe it’s Christmas. But it is so unlike him. It is so out of character, the character that we have known all these years. And he said, “You know, I was brought up, like many Filipinos, in a Christian home and my sort of faith in God was, when I was a child, very strong. It surpassed the modern child’s idolatry of Superman. But in the years of struggle for survival and for achievement, later I lost tract and the light”... His faith slowly glimmered. But now that he is successful, now that there is really nothing much that he would really want for himself, he comes out batting for God, for piety.....
* * *
I regret very much now: I was away from the house often, except during those times we went out to San Fabian, or to Baguio, or for long drives. Well, of course, in the house we were together most of the time. And when we were together, Karina and I would start teasing each other. Sometimes I tried to just get her goat. Sometimes she would get bored, and she would just ignore me. But even when she was bored, she was always smiling.
She had a very friendly disposition and yet, for all her cheerfulness, her outwardly happy-go-lucky nature, she was made of sterner stuff. And then she never thought of telling a lie. And no matter how we joked about things, she never told a lie.
Deep inside her, Karina was very pious. But she did not show it outwardly. And she made a point not to embarrass people, people like me, for instance. Sometimes I would tease her while in church. She would just smile at me, and huddle closer. She never tried to show me that she was better than me in religion. But although for instance she used to remind me at table about fasting, it was always in the spirit of, of like a friend.
She was very open with me, she treated me like her own gangmate... but she never went beyond bounds, and when it came to calling her down on the things that I did not want her to do, she promptly obeyed me.
She was very affectionate. Of all the children of course she was the most affectionate—to me, her mother, her sisters and her brother. She was
very close to me, to her mother-. She was the one who approached us, who cuddled up to us. And even to her sisters...she even cuddled up to her sisters.
And she always took her work very seriously, without taking herself seriously. She made fun of herself, enjoyed laughing at herself, even when she was working...but she always tried to do the thing which she was supposed to do properly: her homework, her schoolwork, her mission work. When it came to raising funds for charity or for the Church or for the Foreign Missions she never had any inhibitions. She showed an amazing self-confidence. She could talk to adults or with children much younger than she with equal ease and compo-sure. Nothing seemed to rattle her. Her affectio-nate nature found an outlet in children, especially babies. She was very fond of babies and volunteered always to take care of babies and little children.
Oh yes, definitely, the family, since the death of Karina, has been close together as never before... I’ve never seen the sisters quarreling, or the brother. There has been complete rapport and implicit understanding and the desire to help one another without of course trying to exaggerate it.
The way I see the meaning of Karina’s life was: FOR MYSELF of course, because I cannot help but take an apparently egotistical viewpoint on this, but it is the only experience that I can speak of, anyway..... GOD INTENDED HER FOR AN INSTRUMENT TO TRY TO GET ME BACK TO HIM.
When I was in the Ateneo, I was fascinated very much by “The Hound of Heaven” poem.....
I don’t know why I became attached to Karina and why Karina also became so attached to me in a very special way, so much so that when she died, a major prop in my life was pulled away, and I had to hang on TO GOD.
Because well, if it had happened to any of the other children, maybe things would have turned out differently. But the fact is: of all the children, it was Karina who was closest to me. And it was she who was taken by God.
And if there’s anything that I’d like to read about now, it is about the things which would bolster my faith in the life after death, in heaven... I believe in it. But sometimes, you know, there are thoughts that challenge that truth, challenge my faith...and finally I say, “I believe because I want to believe.”
And if there is something that I could not under-stand, that does not make sense to me, that I think would be contrary to reason, I just say, “Well, I can never hope to understand God completely, anyway. No one was ever intended to really fathom God.”
Now all these things stem from that association I had with Karina.
I AM GOING TO GOD THROUGH KARINA...AND MAYBE GOD WILL UNDERSTAND THAT IN THE BEGINNING WHAT BROUGHT ME
BACK TO HIM WAS NOT EXACTLY MY LOVE FOR GOD BUT MY LOVE FOR KARINA.
THE END OF THE INTERVIEW
* * *
EDITOR SLAIN IN COLD BLOOD
Dagupan City, May 20—. Ermin Garcia, Editor of the Sunday Punch was murdered today by one of two armed men who broke into his office.
An elective official, reportedly, was involved in the killing.
Garcia suffered gunshot wounds in the chest and in the abdomen. He died at the Provincial Hospital at 10:47 tonight following an operation.
In an ante-mortem statement, Garcia was said to have described the man who had shot him. The description of the gunman reportedly fit that of the official involved.
The shooting came after Garcia and a reporter of his paper, Rodolfo Toledo, had been warned by telephone not to publish the story exposing an alleged money order racket here.
Toledo told PNS the story was to have come out in the next issue of the provincial paper.
When Garcia and Toledo demurred, the people involved in the racket went gunning for them.
At 2 p.m. today, a taxicab bearing four men stopped in front of the Mendoza Printing Press where the Sunday Punch was being published. Its four passengers alighted and inquired from the press owner for Garcia and Toledo.
Told that the two newsmen were not there, the four men reportedly boarded the taxicab again and proceeded to the Sunday Punch office some 100 meters away.
Two of the passengers went up to the office while the other two stayed in the taxicab.
Garcia who met the two strangers told them to go home “because you are drunk.”
Three shots suddenly rang out. Garcia slumped to the floor. The assailants then rushed downstairs.
- The Saturday Chronicle, May 21, 1966
SMUGGLE RING TIED TO RUB-OUT
Reports reaching Malacañang yesterday indicated that the slaying of Ermin Garcia, editor of Sunday Punch, was tied up with the terrorist tactics of smuggling syndicates.
Malacañang was informed that Garcia incurred the ire of smugglers because of his outspoken crusade against smuggling.
In the wake of this report, the President mobilized government forces for an intensified drive against smugglers. Earlier, the President ordered the Pangasinan PC to coordinate with the Dagupan police in swiftly bringing to justice the persons behind Garcia’s murder.
— The Sunday Chronicle, May 22, 1966
PUNCH EDITOR LAID TO REST
Grieving thousands paid their last respects to Ermin Garcia, martyred editor-publisher of the Sunday Punch, as he was finally laid to rest Tuesday, at the little cemetery of San Fabian, his birthplace.
As the Philippine Constabulary band played the soft strains of “Nearer My God To Thee” the murdered crusader’s casket was gently laid to rest at the family burial plot, beside the graves of his youngest daughter, Karina, and his mother, Josefa Erfe-Mejia Garcia.
Ermin Garcia was gunned down in the afternoon of May 20 at his Sunday Punch office by two persons, during a heavy downpour.
Mike Soques rushed the wounded Garcia to the Pangasinan General Hospital where he was given prompt medical attention. He was operated on by a battery physicians, most of whom were his close friends.
The gallant efforts of doctors went futile, as he finally expired four hours later, at exactly 10:47 P.M. His wife, children and close family relatives were at his bedside when he died.
He was survived by his wife, Paulita Fernandez-Garcia, son Ermin, Jr., and daughters Josie, Charisse and Frieda. He had previously edited the Pioneer Herald, the Counterpoint and Free-dom magazines and was a one-time Rotary Scholar at the Columbia University School of Journalism in the U.S.A.
Ermin Garcia was the first President of the Federation of Provincial Press Clubs of the Philippines and a member of the Philippine delegation to the Afro-Asian Journalists’ Conferences, held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1964.
As President of the Dagupan City Rotary Club up to his death, he was mainly responsible for the program “STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS” which won the Rotary International “PAUL HARRIS AWARD” for the most outstanding project of the year.
Necrological rites were held for the slain crusading newspaperman last Saturday, at the Pangasinan Medical Society building.
Among the orators were: Press Secretary Jose Aspiras, Manila Times publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces, Governor Francisco Duque, Mayor Liberato Reyna, Past NPC President Nereo Andolong, present NPC President Tirso Rodriguez, Cong. Aguedo Agbayani, Rotary Governor Jose Barredo, NPC Vice-President Stephen Sergio, Philippine Press Institute director Johnny Mercado, Dr. Blas Rayos, Sr., Romulo Villamil of the Sunday Punch, Dagupan Rotary Acting President Renan Santos, Bank Executive Romeo Alegria. YPLC President Rosalynda de Venecia, Rotary Ann President Ruby Concepcion de Guzman, Jaycee President Gabriel Zabala, Boy Scout Executive Candido Guadiz, Federated PTA President Victorino Daroya, Manila Times columnist Maximo Soliven, and Rev. Fr. Guido Tiong.
Ermin Garcia, Jr. the slain editor’s only son, delivered the response in behalf of the family.
— The Sunday Punch, May 29, 1966
VII. EPILOGUE: “LET NOT HIS BLOODY DEATH BE ALL IN VAIN...”
(Delivered by Ermin F. Garcia, Jr. in RESPONSE to the tribute given to ERMIN GARCIA during the NPC-Sponsored Necrological Services held in
Dagupan City on May 23, 1966).
Dear Friends of Ermin Garcia:
In behalf of my mother and my sisters I would like to thank you all for this sincere manifestation of your esteem and affection for my departed
father. Everything that you have said and written everything that you have done and felt is your tribute to a man whom you consider great. You call him great. And he is great.
We are proud of him. And yet we cannot help but miss him. For he loved us—tremendously. It is very hard to describe love. But it is very easy to be aware of it. My mother Paulita, my sisters Josie, Charisse and Frieda—we were always aware of Papa’s great love for us. He gave us the best, the very best, that a man can give his wife and children.
Ermin Garcia—he who all his life had valiantly fought for the truth, and by his example has taught you and me to stand up for our rights—he can fight and teach no more. Ermin Garcia——he who had just begun to recover from the tragic drowning and death of his favorite child Karina—he too has become a victim of tragedy and death. There he lies now in that coffin, he
who only four days ago was so full of life, of vigor, of courage, integrity, and dedication.
And yet, my friends, he did not have to die. He could have chosen to sit back in easy leisure, just watching life go on, caring nothing for the needs of those less fortunate than himself, mindful only of his own petty, selfish interests. But no, Ermin Garcia would never consent to such a selfish, superficial life. He would rather die a thousand times than live a life of shallow mediocrity. That was his deliberate choice in life. That was his deliberate choice in death. And you who were close to him realize that he died just as he had lived—a man full of commitment, a real
man of total dedication.
And now he is dead. Murdered. Treacherously, violently murdered. Ladies and gentlemen—you who are friends of Ermin Garcia—what is the meaning of my father’s death? Did that fatal gun do nothing but merely end another life? Is that all that it means?
What would Ermin Garcia wish me to say to each one of you tonight? What is his dying message, a message which is loud and clear and strong, underlined and punctuated by the dripping red of his own life-blood? Ermin Garcia is still and silent now. But in his silence he speaks to you and to me: “
“Life is short. Do not waste it in selfish mediocrity. Look around and compassionate with your fellowmen who are helplessly deceived and abused by the avarice and the greed of those who are selfish.”
I have fought the good fight. I have won the race,—but the battle is not over. Each one of you must carry on the fight, or else my cruel death is all in vain.”
“Three bullets from men of evil ended my life. Let three ideals for men of honor now allow my spirit, my cause, and my crusade to live on in the heart and the life of those who call me their friend.
“A life worthy of a real man is a life of intense love, of sterling trust, of divine faith.
“Intense love: not by word, but by the toil of your hand and the sweat of your brow. Intense love—for truth, for justice, for patriotism. Intense love—for the poor and the oppressed, and all your exploited, unchampioned fellow-Filipinos.
“Sterling trust—that once we do our very best, we have done our share in life. Sterling trust—that we are not alone; that although the forces of crime and evil are numerous and strong, more numerous and more strong are the forces of justice if only they wake up and work together and give their entire selves.
“Divine faith—that God is with us; divine faith—for as I lay bleeding and dying there with three bullet wounds in my body, my last words were the words of prayer. I believed in God and trusted in Him as I lay dying, just as I had done through all my life. For we are not, my friends, fighting our battles alone. We are fighting with God, and for God. Divine faith—belief, yes, that with the help of God we can do all things.
“Love. Trust. Faith.——three ideals for men of honor, men who would gladly live and gladly die for what they know befits them most, simply because they are men. “Let us be men, my friends. Real men.
“This is my last appeal to you. LET NOT MY BLOODY DEATH BE ALL IN VAIN. “LET NOT MY BLOODY DEATH BE ALL IN VAIN.”
I THANK YOU.
ERMIN F. GARCIA, JR.
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|Reviewed by Nellie Feng
|EXCELLENT !!! A very honest and vivid report of real incidents and real people !!! Karina nad Ermin's memory will live on...|