Every time I hear of the death of someone known to me for quite a time, my first reaction is, to be brutally honest to my readers and the bereaved families, not one of shock. Maybe because I also experienced having deaths in my own family – my parents, brothers, and sister, and even my wife. I am the lone survivor, to say the least.
In fact, when my mother, whom I’ve never seen for years as she lived in Manila while I was here, was in a coma for 14 days before she passed. I visited her in her hospital bed to personally observe her condition and met all the siblings who were much older than me to decide on the fate of our mother.
My kuya and Ate and the rest can’t agree whether to finally end the suffering of my mother who was only sustained by a life-saving apparatus. They let me to decide because they can’t.
I accepted their majority decision and let the doctors cut the lifeline that kept my mother alive.
After a week when I was back home in Davao City, my mother died peacefully, still in coma, in the house of my brother, at the age of 83.
That was a very, very horrible and unchristian decision I’ve ever made. I “killed” my own mother.
The truth of the matter, before my readers condemn me, is that I accepted the request of my elders then with the condition that I will never sign the waiver allowing the hospital to cut off the lifeline because I wanted then to keep my mother alive in my mind and also I will not attend her burial for the same reason.
My other siblings agreed with the two requests. But since her death, every year, I visit her and my father’s burial plots at the Angelus Memorial Heaven in Bacoor, Cavite to offer my respects and to ask forgiveness for my decision to decide her fate.
That’s why when I read yesterday in the TIMES the death of a long-time friend and colleague in the media, Efren Flores Elbanbuena, former director of the Philippine Information Agency in the region. I received his death as just an ordinary news but silently prayed for the eternal repose of his soul that finally “Efren, you’re now in peace and may continue writing with Him as your co-writers.”
Efren was assistant director then to the late Ate Fina (Josefina C. San Pedro) in the early 90s who rejoined the TIMES as publisher after she reached the government retirement age and he took over as director in 1993.
The PIA helped me a lot in running the TIMES then when I was running alone the oldest newspaper with regular current press releases sometimes personally delivered by Efren himself in the editorial office late in the afternoon. The TIMES was still in Claveria (C.M Recto), now occupied by a convenience store.
Once in a while, I drop by his office also located in Claveria for a cup of coffee and biscuits and a little chat with him. Efren then also gave me some points on how to be an effective writer. “Haluan mo ng jokes ang column mo para maraming magbasa at sumaya,” he said then. That was when we became close to each other.
When a group of media men that included Efren, Tony Ajero, Priz Rojo, Roger Flaviano, Pat Tubat, among others, went to National Administration and Power Corporation (NaPOCOR) in Ormoc, Leyte to cover the operation of the government facilities in the Visayas, I was among those in the group invited by Efren with free board and lodging and plane tickets.
We stayed in the area for almost a week and after three days after we left, a landslide in the site occurred caused by typhoon that killed and injured more than 2,000 residents and employees of NAPOCOR in Ormoc.
The last time I met Efren was at SM Ecoland when PIA transferred its office at Quimpo Boulevard and where my old residence was.
There, I noticed that Efren had difficulty talking and he told me that he was suffering from diabetes.
I remember telling him then, “Efren, ingat ka sa sakit mo. Baka mauna ka pa sa akin.” He just laughed.
Efren died at the age of 66, a year after he reached the mandatory retirement age of the government.