Amhiela Catacutan was making herself busy packing her things up. Nagdesisyon siyang sumama sa five-months long fashion catalog project ng Keithan Apparels kung saan siya nagtatrabaho bilang isang in house fashion photographer. Few months ago ay inalis sa responsibildad niya ang project nang biglaang mamatay ang kanyang ama. Her kind-hearted boss, Vladimir Cerio who happened to be one of the young exemplary pianists in the country nowadays and also the Vice President for Operation of the company, made sure that she would have ample time to grieve for the lost of her father.
Ngunit ang siste, ayaw niyang maburo sa bahay, huminto sa trabaho at isipin na lang lahat ng pains and regrets sa pagkawala ng kanyang ama ng mas matagal na panahon. She remembered her father said that if he died, they should keep on going. And being a good daughter, she wanted to follow his father’s will.
But that was terribly a hard thing to do especially if you are a child of Haime Catacutan. Her father was a talent scout and a former model too. His name was indeed known in the world of showbiz and that’s one particular thing why they can’t mourn at peace. Nang mamatay ang tatay niya, instant celebrity siya bagay na ayaw niya. Kahit na artista ang kapatid niya ay hindi niya hinangad ang parehong career.
The media wanted to interview her, wanted her to be seen on screen just for a simple reason that her father’s death was a hot issue thus all media people were taking feast of the event. Idagdag pa ang mga taong walang konsiderasyon minsan. Nakaburol pa ang kanyang ama pero in-offer na agad sa kanila ang paggawa ng movie featuring his father’s life, sarili niyang movie tv, appearance niya, commercial endorsement and a lot more. Every bit of that pissed her off. Hanggang sa mapuno na siya at tuluyang nilang pinagbawal ang press sa burol ng kanyang ama. They made the event private. Kung sino lang ang alam nilang kilala ng kanyang ama, kaibigan man o talent, sila lang ang nakadalo sa libing. And those opportunists who just want to make the event a money-generating arena, they were all banned. At least they were able to give her father a peaceful funeral.
But that didn’t end up there. Ang burol at libing ay nagtagal ng nine days pero ang pangungulila niya sa ama ay batid niyang habambuhay na pagsubok sa kanya.
Napahinto siiya sa pagtitiklop ng damit at napabuntong-hininga. “I should keep on going…” sambit niya sa sarili.
Iyon ang dahilan kung bakit last minute, nagpaabiso siya kay Vlad na sasama siya Batanes at sa trip around Philippines na gagawin nila para sa pinakabonggang yearend fashion catalog project ng company. She would keep on going no matter what… for herself, for her father.
Done with the clothes. She turned to other things she had to bring with her on her long trip. She grabbed her SLR camera and checked if it was working well. Habang ginagawa yon ay napapaluha siya. It was her father’s last gift… graduation gift for her. Kumpletong set ng mga gamit ng isang photographer, mula sa camera, lenses, lights, at kung anu-ano pa. Her father was very supportive of her ambition to be a full-pledge photo-journalist someday. They even talked about her biggest dream to be a wildlife photographer. Lahat ng plans niya ay alam ni Haime. Alam nitong bahagi ng pagka-adventurous niya ang planong i-explore muna ang iba’t ibang field ng photography bago mag-settle sa wildlife. And she was already on her first step as fashion photographer when her father passed away.
She went through the pictures saved on her camera until it showed the last set of pictures taken before her father left them due to heart attack.
It was a busy day. Amhiela was supervising the final layout and editing of the pictures taken for quarterly release fashion catalog of Keithan Apparels. Sa sobrang busy, ni hindi niya magawang sumagot ng calls. Kaya laking gulat niya nang sabihin ng receptionist na nasa lobby ng building ang kanyang ama.
Agad siyang bumaba mula sa 34th floor. Maraming naglalaro sa isip niya. Hindi naman usual na pinupuntahan siya ng kanyang ama sa office. Nag-alala siya na baka may nangyari sa mama niya o sa kuya niya.
Naibsan ang pag-aalala niya nang nakangiting sinalubong siya ng yakap ng ama. “How’s the work going, my princess?”
“Still hectic, Dad. Why sudden surprise Dad? Akala ko may nangyari ng di maganda.” They seated on the sofa in the lobby.
Her dad kissed on her forehead like he always do. “Nothing to worry about dear. I just drop by to bring you some food ‘cause I know you are being possessed by your mother’s workaholic attitude again and to remind you about our family dinner tonight.” Iniabot nito sa kanya ang paper bag na may lamang pagkain. Tamang-tama dahil nagugutom na nga siya.
Niyakap niya ang ama. “You’re so sweet, Dad. Thank you po.”
Tumayo na ito. “Dumaan lang ako anak. Eat that meal before you go back to work.”
Haime gave Amhiela his usual loving hugs and a kiss on a forehead. “I love you my one and only princess.”
“I love you, Dad. Ingat po kayo.”
She felt something strange on her father. It seemed like something wrong was going on. “Dad, are you okay?”
Her Dad smiled. “Of course, baby I am. Don’t be late okay?”
Amhiela bravely browsed over the pictures kahit na nagingilid na naman ang luha niya. Wala naman siyang magagawa ngayon kundi ang mag-reminisce ng past at ang umiyak at paulit-ulit na magluksa. Hanggang ngayon kahit halos mag-iisang taon na nang mawala ang kanyang ama, para sa kanya ay parang kahapon lang yon. Ni hindi nababawasan ng panahon ang sakit sa damdamin niya.
Her SLR camera showed a picture of her parent’s last dance. Parehong gabi nang bigla siyang dalawin ng ama sa trabaho ay nagyaya ng special dinner ang kanyang ama. Walang okasyon nang gabing yon. Her dad just wanted them to be there home…complete.
A very inspiring and heart-melting scene…As Amhiela arrived home she saw her Mom and Dad dancing sweetly at the lanai where their special dinner was served. Sinadya niyang umuwi ng mas maaga that time para hindi magtampo ang kanyang ama. Her parents were like teenager having their first dance together. They hugged, swayed, and lovingly stared with each other. Even beyond their age, it was still obvious how much they love each other. And that kept her wishing to find a guy that will love her like how her father did to her mom.
Nanatili siya sa pinto at pinagmasdan lang ang mga magulang. Hindi niya naiwasang iangat ang SLR camera at kuhanan ng picture ang mga ito.Ngunit bigla siyang nag-alala nang ma-capture ng camera ang mata ng kanyang ama. Her father looked happy but his eyes were full of worries and sadness. Kanina pa lang ay nararamdaman na niyang something was going on to her father. It’s just, hindi niya yon matukoy.
She heard her father hum a love song while he lovingly danced her mother.
“What’s wrong Haime?” her mother Mhiel asked.
Haime just hugged her and kissed on her lips. “Nothing. I just want to dance with you, to be this close, just like the old times. I love you so much, Mhiel. You are the greatest thing that happened to me. Having you, Hamiel, Miguel and Amhiela was the best experience enough to be treasured forever. I don’t know if I was able to be a good father to them. Ang alam ko lang, minahal ko kayong apat ng sobra pa sa sarili kong buhay. I wanted all of you be happy no matter what happened.”
“Why are you too emotional, Haime? Kung may problema, sabihin mo sa akin.” Her mother worriedly caressed her father’s cheeks. “I know something strange is happening to you. Hindi ko lang alam kung ano. Please, tell me. I love you so much Haime.”
Her father wept for the first time. “I’m sorry, Mhiel.”
Hindi na nasagot ng kanyang ama ang tanong. Bigla na lang itong nawalan ng malay. “Dad!”
Nagmadaling lumapit si Amhiela at tinulungan niyang dalhin sa hospital ang ama. Doon nila nalamang may sakit pala ito sa puso…something he kept secret to them for a long time. Kritikal na ang kanyang ama nang ilabas ito ng ER at inilipat sa ICU. Tinapat na rin sila ng doctor na hindi na ito magtatgal.
Amhiela sobbed. Masakit pa rin sa kalooban niyang alalahanin na pinanood lang nilang mamatay ang kanyang ama. Nagmatigas kasi itong kabitan ng aparatong makakatulong ditong lumaban pa para mabuhay. He even refused for medication. Alam na daw nitong mamamatay na ito kaya nagsasayang lang daw sila ng oras. Pinagsisishan niya ang bagay na yon. Kung di nila sinunod ang kanyang ama, malamang ay kapiling pa nila ito o nakatagal pa ito ng ilang araw.
“Dad please…accept your medication,” pakiusap niya. Being one and only daughter, baby siya ng tatay niya. Pag humingi siya sa tatay niya ay binibigay agad nito.
“For what?”sagot ng ama niya sa naghihina nitong boses. “My dear, I know it’s already my time. Nasabi na rin sa akin dati ng doctor na hanggang dito na lang ako. Kung gusto kong magpagamot, noon ko pa sana ginawa.”
She cried. “Why did you hide this to us?”
“Because I love you so much and I don’t want you, Hamiel, Miguel and your mom to worry about me. I don’t even want to prolong my agony. Call me coward my child, but I rather die peacefully than live like a dead. If time comes and I had my final cardiac arrest, please endorse to the doctors and nurses that I wanted not to be resuscitated. Nasabi ko na ito sa mama mo, but I know she will never follow me.”
Wala siyang masabi sa Dad niya. Nagagalit siya sa paglilihim nito at sa pagdedesisyon nitong hayaan na lang nilang mamatay ito ngunit mas nangingibabaw sa kanya ang takot na anytime, maaaring bawiin na sa kanila ang buhay ng kanyang ama.
“Dad, don’t leave.”
“I have to my dear. Just don’t forget me when I’m gone. Sorry kung di ko na mahintay na makahanap ka ng prince charming mo…hindi ko na mahintay na ihatid ka sa altar for you to get married. I’m sorry for being such a selfish father.” Tears fell from her father’s eyes.
Umiling siya. “No you’re not selfish. You love us so much Dad.” She wiped his tears away.
Her dad smiled though she knew he was having some difficulty smiling, moving and breathing. “Find a man who could love you more than I did, my princess. And when you finally did, love him without regrets, without hesitations, without doubts…then you’ll find your own definition of love.”
“I will Dad… I will.”
“And do me some favor. Be on your mother side always. Be strong for our family. Take care of your mom, for me. Let her remember that I love her so much and I am too sorry to leave.” Then her father just shed tears.
Pagkatapos ng pag-uusap na yon ay pinatawag nito sa kanya ang kuya niya. Ilang minuto din silang nag-usap pagkatapos ay ang ina naman nila ang kinausap nito. And when her mother went out of the room crying…they heard the machine beeped, indicating a lost of a life. The doctors and nurses were there. But since they have a DNR or do not resuscitate order, they just stay and didn’t do anything but to look over of her dying father’s body.
Napahagulhol na ng iyak si Amhiela. “Daddy…I miss you Daddy!” Inilapag niya ang camera sa kama at kinuha niya ang teddy bear sa sulok ng kama niya. The bear was wearing her father’s shirt. Identical shirt yon nilang mag-ama na pinasadya nila noong last birthday niya na buhay pa ito. Niyakap niya ang teddy bear as if it was her father.
“Daddy….” She was crying like a baby remembering the feeling when she last hugged her father’s lifeless body. Palagi siyang ganon tuwing maaalala ang kanyang ama. It was always like he just died few minutes ago. Ganon pa rin kasakit, ganon pa rin kahirap tanggapin.
Bumukas ang pinto at humahangos na nilapitan siya ng kanyang ina. “Amhiela anak, it’s okay.” Niyakap siya ng kanyang ina.
“Daddy…. I miss Dad so much, Ma.”
“I do too, but he’s not going to be okay if we will stay like this dear. Look at me, baby.” She did. Her mom, was crying with her too. Bakas sa lumuluhang mga mata nito ang sakit na nararamdaman sa pagkawala ng kabiyak. “I do miss him, every second, every day. Kapag pumapasok akong mag-isa sa silid namin, sa kusina, sa sala, sa study room, sa lanai, sa entertainment room, sa bawat sulok ng bahay na ito…naaalala ko siya dahil lahat ng nakikita ko ay may alaala ng iyong ama. Hindi madali anak, but we have to be strong. We promised him that we will get going.”
“I’m trying, Ma. I just missed him so much.”
Her mom held her hands. “I do too.” Tears fell once again on her mother’s cheek.
They hugged…getting strength with each other, telling each other that they can make it. Batid niyang hirap na hirap na emotionally ang kanyang ina. Kita niya kung paano ito nasaktan at nagluksa. At alam niyang sa pagkawala ng kanyang ama, doble ang bigat sa kalooban ng kanyang ina sa tuwing makikita niyang umiiyak silang magkapatid.
“I can’t understand, Ma. What’s love for if once you find your lifetime partner, time will come he will just leave you behind? Bakit kailangan pa kayong pagtagpuin kung paghihiwalayin rin kayo. Love is a great feeling right? Then why this thing happened? Bakit kinuha agad si Dad, knowing that God knew he was your life?”
“Anak, ang bawat tao ay may sari-sariling definition ng love at sari-sariling love story. This is your father and I’s love story. And soon, you’ll have yours. Maiintindihan mo lahat ng bagay na yan kapag ikaw mismo ay nagmahal na.”
She just accepted what her mother said. Wala pa naman siyang nagiging boyfriend. Sa ngayon ay paghanga sa boss pa lang ang meron siya and that was pretty far from love at all.
“Ma, I’m leaving.”
Her mother just simply smiled. “If that will help you cope up with your father’s death, then go ahead.”
Aalis siya…. Susubukang ibalik sa dati ang buhay na iniwan sa kanya ng kanyang ama. At hahanapin niya ang taong magmamahal sa kanya ng higit pa sa daddy’s love na nakuha niya dito. Tutuparin niya ang pinangako sa ama.