Monday, December 24, 2012

I love you, Jerry Araos

Always larger than life even as his body weakened, Jerry smiles at my camera. He always sits at the head of the family dining table.

Our comrade in arts and letters, even in "gourmandizing", Jerusalino V. Araos, 68, Jerry to all of us, died peacefully in the bosom of his family last night. His daughter Liwa and her fiance Archie Española, newly arrived from Australia, were there to catch his last moments.

Among Jerry's last requests is that no wake be held. Although the crematorium is closed for the holidays, Jerry's once invincible body will be cremated immediately on Dec. 26. His ashes will be put in an urn, then placed in the garden he built and tended in Antipolo on the morning of the 27th.

Please pray for this great man whose life touched, healed, restored mine so I can learn to say "I love you" sincerely once again. The Lolarga family of  Pepin Street, Dimasalang, Sampaloc, Manila, had deep ties and kinship with the Araos family: Jerry, his mother, Mama Juling, and two other brothers. After the war, with Jerry's mother widowed, my lolo, Enrique Acosta Lolarga, took her in to work at the Boy Scouts Manila office.

Jerry and family were frequent visitors at our old family house, even in the Baguio house on M. Roxas street, Lower Brookside, in the 1960s. 
A preppy-looking Jerry posing with my grandmother Telesfora C. Lolarga and grandaunt Flora Cariño in the old Brookside house and garden in 1966
Jerry's thoughtful, handwritten dedication to his "adopted" lolas
He always liked to introduce me as the daughter of the doctor, Enrique Lolarga Jr., who circumcised him and "delivered me to manhood", Jerry's phrase. And that is how I choose to remain in his biography--a footnote. No kidding, Manong, I love that my dad did wonderful work on you so you were able to sire six beautiful children with Melen! These ties have been maintained and further strengthened with the coming of my grand-daughter. My dad and Jerry's mama had their last reunion at the Antipolo garden in 1991.

The reader may choose, if you don't pray the old-fashioned way, to remember him for a quiet second amidst your holiday preparations--for qualities, among many, like  his true compassion and mamon heart underneath the seemingly hard shell of irreverence or kabastusan, his never-ending zest for life up to the very end, e.g., appetite for good, rich food, his bottomless source of humor (Archie, Liwa's fiance, was at the receiving end of his cariño brutal even at the end, by way of blessing his and Liwa's union), his fierce loyalty to his friends (that I am missing already), his unquestionable kindness, kindness, kindness, and the fact that he considered himself a communist, never turning his back on the theory and praxis of his beliefs while remaining an abiding Christian, two contradictions that he carried with so much grace and elan.
This is among the set of photos I took of him and Melen in November after interviewing him for an article on his last show for a national broadsheet.

Jerry, in all-white outfit, with his family at the christening of his granddaughter Amarra in November this year
My family and I condole with Jerry's family in their "hour of lead": the gallant, valiant widow Melen who, when he was alive, joined him all throughout their time in the Sierra Madre at the start of a revolution and who stayed with him till he breathed his last, his children Waya and Ernie, Jemil and Patch, Liwa and Archie, Roja and Chris, Mira and Dino, and Julian, and several grandchildren whose last count I've lost track of.

Journey back to the true Jerusalem, teacher, older bro, wedding photographer, friend for life and after. 
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