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The Day We Buried Our Parents

Last March 8, we buried our parents. Or perhaps I should say that I watched my parents being buried in Naga’s Eternal Gardens via Messenger. Kind of weird? Perhaps, but that’s exactly what happened.

It was not a typical funeral. There were no bodies. Present in the cemetery were my oldest brother, my youngest brother and his wife, and four cousins, one of whom was the long-time care provider of my parents when they were still alive.

There was no hearse. There was no blaring funeral song. There was no procession. But there was a priest who made sure that my parents received the appropriate blessings.

I was in constant communication with our youngest brother from the time my parents’ remains were being exhumed in Quipayo Catholic Cemetery. What an eerie feeling when my brother sent me the first batch of pictures – again through Messenger – of my parents’ skeletal remains.

The skeletal remains were placed in two separate thick plastic boxes; one for my father, and one for my mother. The bones looked dark brown from the pictures. My brother explained that it could have been due to the residue of the rotten wooden casket whose stain or color has stuck to the bones.

Seeing their skeletal remains for the first time in pictures didn’t bring me comfort. In fact, it made me realize the finality of death. Nothing can bring my parents back to life.

I thought the skeletons would be intact, just like what one finds in a lab. They were not. I could not identify the rib cage from the femur or the fibula. But I saw a crucifix in one of the boxes which reminded me of my parents’ Christian faith and belief in the afterlife. That was enough consolation for me.

I didn’t know how to react. To see the skeletal remains of the two human beings I have always loved was kind of sad. It brought back a lot of memories.

My parents were both buried in Quipayo: my mother, close to twenty years ago; my father, ten years ago. Why in Quipayo? There’s really nothing special to showcase in Quipayo, a small barrio in the town of Calabanga, except that it was home for my parents. My father was born in Quipayo. My mother lived in Quipayo with my father. They loved the place. They were friends with the people they grew up with, including their many relatives. In time of crisis or difficulties, the people were ready to lend their support. In fact, during the Japanese time, my parents hid in Quipayo because that’s where they felt safe.

My parents were especially proud that many of the people in Quipayo descended from one Mariano de la Concepcion Castilla and his wife Maria Cortez de Jesus, who had seven children, and where the pedigree of our relatives like the Maristazas, the Paglinawans, the Severos, the Alvarezes, the Celevantes, the Hugos, the Borjas, the Sanchos, to mention a few, came from.

Years ago, I said goodbye to my parents. It was emotionally crushing. I said goodbye to my mother at her funeral Mass twenty years ago, when I stood in front of close to 100 friends and relatives who loved my mother and talked about her love for the teaching profession. Ten years ago, I did the same for my father in the same church in Quipayo, where my father used to serve Mass as a young boy.

Burying our parents for the second time was not as hard for me as the first one. This time I did not want to repeat my goodbye. The feeling was more of gladness that I had the chance to see their remains again sans their physical bodies – even in pictures only. I did not go through so many emotions. I did not feel numb. In fact, I was thankful that my parents were buried at the same time in the same place. It was not just symbolic. It was real. They are together once again. I could not believe that this was happening.

From Quipayo my brother brought my parents’ skeletal remains to our house in RJ Village in Canaman in a private car for a final visit to the house they built. There they stayed for almost two hours unknown to the neighbors before being brought to Eternal Gardens for burial.

As I look back on that afternoon of March 8, I still miss my parents but I am thankful that my brothers and I have never forgotten them. I hope they felt loved with our decision to move them to a new resting place – which signifies our eternal love for them.

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