Save 20% off! Join our newsletter and get 20% off right away!



The game plan was simple: To love her till the end.

During their 28 years of marriage, Papa Joe never wavered in his love for Inang, my mother-in-law who passed away two weeks ago.

Once he is up from his bed, where for hours he lays, he’ll lead himself to the direction of Inang with the help of his walker.  He will ask how his “dear” is and begin to show his affection by stroking her arm and holding her hand, even for a few precious seconds.

Papa Joe is practically blind and stroking Inang’s arm is probably his way of telling her that he’s around and he cares.  On occasions, especially when facetiously urged by the caregivers or Inang’s children, he will plant a kiss on her forehead.

In the early days of their marriage, they were inseparable.  They travelled together.  They partied together. They went to Church together.  They went caroling with us together.  They went camping together.

Years later, when Inang had a stroke, two successive strokes at that,  and suffered from the debilitating effects of lung cancer,  Papa Joe made sure that the woman he called “dear” was well-taken care of and was comfortable, even if he himself was gradually beginning to lose his eyesight and experience hearing difficulties.

Two weeks ago, after 28 years of marriage, Papa Joe bid adieu to his “dear.”

I was in the Philippines when my wife and I were informed that Inang’s days were numbered.  I immediately thought of Papa Joe who was reportedly devastated and shed tears upon hearing the news of Inang’s impending demise.

Papa Joe is a veteran of three wars: World War II, Korean and Vietnam.  He was in the Death March in the Philippines during World War II.  So he had been through hell, so to speak. He is tough. He is strong. He is gutsy. He is made of hard stuff.  But the news about his “dear” dying hit him hard, probably in the same intensity it hit us, her children.

The many trips and social activities that Papa Joe and Inang participated in defined the first part of their marriage.  Also, as Papa Joe religiously attended to the needs of Inang’s family, including her grandchildren, Inang instilled in Papa Joe the importance of cleanliness.  Bright, independent, and open to the signs of the times as she was, Inang educated Papa Joe on the harsh realities of Martial Law in the Philippines.

Papa Joe and Inang’s social life vanished when his “dear” had her first stroke in 1998.  Thus began the second part of their marriage which was characterized by their struggle to stay healthy.

Today, at 97, Papa Joe sometimes gets disoriented.  He struggles with his balance.  But whenever  this writer’s daughters or the other grandchildren are around, as if on cue, his eyes light up and he gives them advice that’s borne out of his years of struggles, not only in the battle fields, but with life, in general.

In one of my visits at their condo, Papa Joe told me, “You know, I really love your mom.” What an affirmation of his love for Inang.  There was nothing I could say. There was nothing I could ask.   I knew it came from the heart.  He said what he felt. And he meant it.

As Inang declined in her health, Papa Joe was always there for her.  He never stopped asking about her condition.  He never stopped stroking her arm.  He remained patient as ever under the most difficult circumstances.  I am sure he wanted to do more, but his own health problems put a limit to what he could do.

This army veteran provided everything for his “dear” that allowed her to be herself.

The sight of Papa Joe in a wheelchair silently holding on his lap the urn of his “dear” at the end of the Mass last week was a powerful symbol of his love for Inang.  Ever a class act, he wanted to hang on to it. But the urn was getting heavier. Someone had to get it from him before he accidentally dropped it.

He finally let his “dear” go consoled by the thought that his love for her remains.