Today, Amiel Alcantara was laid to rest. I was unable to attend. Last night, my sore throat came back for the second time and my nose was congested. But I am glad that I was able to visit — yesterday.
I was not feeling that well yesterday either. My energy felt sapped. But there was an inner compulsion in me to go and visit Amiel Alcantara’s wake in Ateneo before he was laid to rest and to finally meet the little boy that occupied my thoughts ever since I heard about his accidental death in Ateneo.
Dine and one of my 2 girls who study in Ateneo, were with me. We were actually wondering where Amiel died because I only had the GMA News simulation to imagine where it was. As we approached the entrance to the grade school, just off the gym and Henry Lee Irwin Theatre, we saw a spot blocked off by metal barriers, filled with flowers and surrounded by candles. It was right smack where the kids were being picked up, very close to the gate that led to the Grade School. I began imagining just how many yayas, drivers and kids saw everything happen. It must have been so traumatic, so terrible, especially for the young ones!
As soon as we entered the GS chapel, we knew just how well-loved Amiel was. The place was packed to overflowing. His teachers were there and so were his classmates and school friends. Most of the adults were in black (a sign of deep mourning and regret for a young life lost) while his batchmates were still in their PE uniforms.
We prayed briefly before Amiel’s coffin, then met his dad Pepe — a soft-spoken man. When Dine asked what that day was like for him, he recounted how it was just an ordinary day when he saw his kids off to school. But there was one striking detail about that day, he said. The car bearing his kids had began to move off already when it stopped. The door opened and out came Amiel running back to hug him. He said his thoughts were: What does this kid want from me? You know how kids are — when they want something from you, he told us. But Amiel just wanted to give him a hug since he forgot to do so.
Shortly after, the 6pm Mass began with Fr. Ben Nebres as the main celebrant and 3 other co-celebrant Jesuits. Dine and I were asked to stay in the first pew, just opposite the pew where the Alcantara family was. It was a blessing. We were able to listen intently to Fr. Ben’s homily as well as the sharings of his family and best friend, Vince.
Near us were some of Amiel’s classmates from 4-Manobo. I spoke with them during a lull after Mass and asked them what they remembered doing with Amiel that day that serves as their best memory. Typical of 10-year old boys, one boy chirped up, “RECESS!!!!”
Their stories showed just how loving Amiel was. Fr. Ben recounted a time when Amiel spent 3 hours looking for a teacher so he could get back a friend’s soccer ball. His aunt, a dentist, recalls how Amiel (described as more mature than his age) called her the day before to set a dental appointment. She had asked him if he would go out since that Monday was a holiday and he responded no because “I like to BE home!” Was this comment a purview of things to come? I don’t know — but what really gave me goose pimples was his aunt’s comment that whenever she would text and type Amiel’s name using predictive texting, what would come out was “ANGEL”. Yes, Amiel, you are now an angel and you are truly HOME!
I briefly hugged Amiel’s mom, Niann. There were just too many visitors coming to her. Too bad because I found out later that evening that she was a childhood friend of my good friend and kumare, Aly.
I’d like to end with this video lovingly prepared to show the boy who loved and was loved. Amiel’s uncle told us that he had wanted to add another thing a classmate had written: “You are now so popular. Even Boy Abunda sent you flowers!”
My hands were a bit shaky while holding my camera so I will replace this once Amiel’s family posts the original video. Meanwhile, take a look at the life of a blue angel…
Rest in the arms of our Lord, Amiel. You are now a totally whole, healed person in your eternal Home. Watch over your loved ones who will continue to miss you. Ask our Father to grant them peace, comfort and healing knowing you are safe with Him.
UPDATE (March 16, 2009)
Dr. Martin Moreno, Amiel’s uncle, sent me a text today with good news. Yaya Tata will be discharged tomorrow, March 17, before noon, after a successful debridement operation, saving her left leg from amputation. Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful news!