It’s been a little over three years since Tito Dougs died very suddenly in his then new home in Lucban, Quezon; but it wasn’t until Thursday, Aug. 16, that we finally laid him to rest.
You see, three years ago, he never said goodbye. He just slept, and then never woke up. Famous for his French exits, he did the same even in death. His passing was so painful, so heart-wrenching, that I don’t think any one of us was ever able to let go completely. Yes, we coped; sure we did. We went on with our lives, missing him and thinking about him from time to time, always wistfully hoping the circumstances were different and that he was still around to see us through life’s defeats, and share in the joy of each victory.
After his cremation back in 2009, a group of about 20 of his talents and closest friends got a bit of his ashes, encased as each was in miniature urns, to bring home. We all had altars and we each found a spot for him there. Maybe it was our selfish way of keeping him close to us, even if the same was in a purely psychological sense. Anyway, for two years now my mom, who was also very fond of Tito Dougs, has been incessantly prodding me to gather all of Tito Dougs’ ashes so that the same could be entombed properly in a columbary. What really woke me up was when she said that in the columbary, all those resting there are included in the daily Masses and that the human body (or its remains) is so sacred that they must be honored that way especially in death. That is the importance of a proper burial. Also, asNanay Lolit (Solis) lamented countless times “Saan ko mapupuntahan si Dougs para dalawin siya samantalang watak-watak naman yung pagkatago ng katawan niya!?” A couple of days before the scheduled ceremony I was with Wilma Doesnt who was aghast at the idea that all this time Tito Dougs was technically in 20 different homes. “Ha?! Eh, paano kung ang naitago mo lang Te ay yung tenga niya, tapos yung isa naman ilong lang?” Okay, Wilamalyn, now I never thought of it that way. But the point hit home, and it validated all that my mom had been trying to tell me for two years now.
And so with the help of Marilen (Nunuez), the plan was well underway. It was scheduled much earlier actually, but then the typhoon happened and it had to be postponed yet again. A series of text messages went back and forth between the concerned parties and it finally happened last Thursday.
I woke up to a rainy, gray day — the kind that old folks always expect when a loved one is laid to rest. At St. Therese, a small group of Tito Dougs’ closest and dearest had already gathered. Busy as we all were, we had not been together for quite some time now and it was nice to be brought together again even if it had to be in that melancholic way. Each of the many facets of Tito Dougs’ life was represented by those that were there — his being a manager, a mentor, a father figure, a friend to all. Of the many roles he played, being a wise and loyal friend was what he did best. Mass was beautifully and solemnly celebrated by Father Cardoza who, despite not knowing Tito Dougs personally, was able to capture his essence, his value to each of us present there. After that, we all proceeded to a restaurant where we had a bounty of dishes Tito Dougs would have approved of. In memory of him, no one stopped anyone from eating too much fat or too many sweets. Food was enjoyed the way he always did — unmindful of cholesterol levels and calories.
It’s been three years. Sometimes that seems so short, although there are days that it does feel so long, too. But during Mass, as we gathered in a circle around Tito Dougs’ ashes, holding hands as we sang the Lord’s Prayer, we each became all the more aware of that dull, steady ache his passing had brought, that void that maybe we only got used to but never quite able to fill with something else. He still is missed. I guess that is just the way it will always be.
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