A Tribute to Amiel Alcantara — Ateneo’s Angel

A statue in the Ateneo Grade School grounds that aptly represented Amiel

A statue in the Ateneo Grade School grounds that aptly represents Amiel

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!

The spot where Amiel was hit

The spot where Amiel was hit

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.

A glimpse of the Alcantara family, including Yaya Tata (in wheelchair) who was injured trying to save the kids

A glimpse of the Alcantara family, including Yaya Tata (in wheelchair) who was injured trying to save the kids

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!!!!”

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Just some of Amiel's classmates

Amiel's uncle

Amiel's uncle

Amiel's aunt

Amiel's aunt

His best friend Vince

His best friend Vince

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!

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A Tragic Accident in Ateneo (An Update-Feb. 26)

Today (Feb. 26) I read an update on what really happened to Amiel from the blogs of Cathy and Noemi, both co-founders of  The Compassionate Friends (Philippines) — a grief support group for those who lose a child . Cathy and Noemi are parents who had to deal with their sons’ sudden deaths. The Philippine Daily Inquirer also has accounts HERE and HERE. GMANews carries a 3D simulation HERE.

The details in Cathy’s blog sent shivers up my spine. Here is part of Cathy’s account:

My husband and I have just returned from his wake and I am shocked, stunned and restless over the circumstances surrounding his death. The Alcantara’s actually almost lost three children, and not just one.

Amiel, his 65-year old Yaya Tata (who has been with the family for 40 plus years), his 7 year old sister, and 13 year old brother Javi, together with the driver, were already so close to their car when the CRV driven by Teresa Torres, careened from behind and hit Amiel. Yaya Tata was able to push the youngest one and the elder boy out of the way but was too far to get to Amiel. Yaya Tata had herself suffered injuries and fractures and is set to have surgery next week. The most heart-wrenching thing about the whole thing is that it was the Alcantara’s driver and 13 year old Javi who had to extricate Amiel from beneath the van. The impact was so strong that three other vehicles were damaged in the process before the vehicle finally came to a stop. How does a 13 year old young boy cope with the image of seeing his younger brother that way?

It was the driver who took Amiel to the New Era hospital and they were en route to the hospital in another Ateneo parent’s car when Amiel died in his arms. Amiel’s father, Pepe Alcantara, former chair of the UP Student Council in the 1980s, and his mother, Niann, were no longer able to see their youngest son alive. It is a tragedy of such great proportions.

The CRV that careened through the parking lot was around 25 meters away from where the kids were standing. Apparently, for some reasons that remain yet unclear, the driver had stepped heavily on the accelerator because a screeching sound, akin to those that you hear at drag races, was heard by several witnesses before the car sped and hit Amiel.

Our youngest son who will turn 15 in a few days came to me a few weeks back and asked me: “Mom, next year is it possible for yaya not to fetch me anymore? I am big enough to walk home by myself.” Wanting him to learn independence, I had nodded my head and made a note of this for next year. But now, I can’t help but fear not only for him but for our older son who also walks home. No matter how careful they will be in crossing the streets, a careless driver could cause them harm. All parents, I think, are haunted by this possibility.

As the Alcantara family continue to deal now and in the future with this irreplaceable loss, I can only pray for them to find comfort in Our Lord and His Mother (she, who also saw her only son die).

Will I allow my sons to continue walking to school? Maybe. Most likely. But I will likely also step up my prayers over them. One great book I find very comforting during times like this is The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian. Try to get hold of a copy and use it to cover your children with prayers throughout their lives. We can only shelter our kids so much. The rest is up to Him.

A Tragic Accident in Ateneo

I was not about to blog about this as I still have a heavy heart. But I realize that LIFE has its happy and sad moments and both, combined, make up our human-ness.

My girls, who study in Ateneo, gave me a heads-up last night on the tragic car accident that claimed the life of a Gr. 4 10-year old boy inside the school grounds. His name was Julian Carlo Miguel (Amiel) Alcantara.

My friend Cathy has most of the details in her blog. As details unfold, it appears Amiel and his yaya stepped out of their car to get some food in the school canteen. Meanwhile, a 30-ish Mom in her van had taken over the driver’s seat while her driver went to get her son. Amiel and yaya were going back to their car when the Mom moved the van. Accounts differ as to whether the van was in front, behind or alongside Amiel. But it looks like the mom stepped on the gas instead of the brakes. Amiel is crushed between two cars and has to be retrieved, bloodied, from underneath. He does not survive. Amiel’s 7th grade older brother was in the car, witness to it all.

Tragic. Depressing. A huge loss for the Alcantara family that no words can describe. A horrific nightmare for the Mom involved.

No one wished for this to happen. I grieved for Amiel last night and shed some tears while reading news that came in trickles. No child would ever imagine that they could be anything but safe inside their school. I grieved too for the young Mom. She has to live with this thought for the rest of her life. I cannot imagine what must be going through her head today.

The incident was another awakening to the shortness of life and how it can be snuffed out of our loved ones any day, any time. I was imagining that if it could happen in Ateneo, it could very well happen in my boys’ school or any school for that matter. They walk to and from school daily, cross streets, and have to contend with the traffic that comes through our street since we live close to 2 schools. My girls in Ateneo also cross Katipunan almost daily to eat at restaurants there. They are just as vulnerable to vehicular accidents and it is only by the grace and protection of God that I see them come home safely each day.

I still believe that nothing happens by accident but in a situation like this, I cannot help but ponder what was the purpose of the whole situation. All I can do is trust that Amiel’s death HAD a purpose and he did not die in vain. But for now, as a mother, I grieve with both families. I pray that as today, Ash Wednesday, starts the Lenten Season, that they both somehow find our God’s comforting Love and Peace. 

And for those of us who have children who leave our homes each day for school or work, say a prayer of protection over them every night as you put them to bed, embrace them tightly, and tell them how much you love them. Don’t wait for another tomorrow. Tomorrow may not be there…

For those interested in wake details for Amiel, I am reposting this from Wawam:

His body lies in state at the Chapel of the Holy Guardian Angels, Ateneo de Manila Grade School.

Wake masses will be held at 7:30 PM from Wednesday, February 25, 2009 to Friday, February 27, 2009.

 The remains of Amiel will be cremated at the Arlington Crematorium, Araneta Avenue, Quezon City at 2:00 PM on Saturday, February 28, 2009. There will be a mass at 11:00 AM at the AGS Chapel before the body is brought to Arlington for cremation.


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