It was a fateful day when you found yourself into our lives.
My aunt just arrived from the States and went straight to your tiny community parish of San Rafael in Navotas. My grandmother died while she was on vacation, and she couldn’t bring herself to go home. Instead, she asked to be driven to the church where you found her crying. Over the years, you’ll find light in that situation and cajole my aunt on the circumstances of your first meeting every time you get the chance. From the first moment on, you consoled my family. You were family.
Since then, you have made it your panata to celebrate our family’s annual New Year’s Eve. My lola died in 1995. That’s 21 New year’s eve masses you’ve celebrated with us. You’ve seen my family grow, get married, bear kids, and see those kids grow. You’ve literally seen us multiply. You’d notice the new additions to the family, as well as those who have left us. You’ll bring this up on those famed funny, and lengthy homilies you are known for. You’ve brought joy to our family and those families in poor communities you were logistically assigned to. When asked why you never moved away from the communities in Tondo, you were always quick to quip, “The Cardinal ( late Cardinal sin ) wanted the poor communities to be happy, and to keep them coming to church.” And they kept on going to church, because of you.
We’ve moved a couple of times, and so did our mass locations. Each year you’d kid that even though the locations change, it seems the decor doesn’t. It was always cut up crepe paper and a gold reused Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year banner. The “choir” never improved as well. Our family was never known for our musical talents.
In these latter years, we’ve seen you get sick since you’ve lost your father. We’ve seen you increasingly suffer from your illness, but you never once missed our annual celebrations. You try to still remain the jovial Paring Erick Santos, the priest, not the singer. The years before this one, you became wary of what you ate, but not this year, as I’ve noticed. You ate everything my aunts and mama served in front of you, albeit in moderation. I took a couple of family photos for posterity and you bid goodbye, bringing home the caramel cake you’ve requested.
Thank you for all the years or laughter and guidance, Fr. Erick. You will always be family. You will be missed.