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Saturday, May 8, 2010

We still feasted …truly pinoy, typically kapampangan!

On the 31st of January 2004, Rev. Fr. José Lapid Saplala died at De los Santos Hospital, Quezon City.

Manong Joe had been battling severe metastases to his liver and bones for seven months. In and out of the hospital he was, initially only for tests and chemotherapy. During this time, he was staying with his brother Benny and other family members in Alabang. Everyone gave him tender loving holistic care.

His last days, however, were spent in the hospital. Day by day, his health deteriorated. On January 5th, his first day at De los Santos, he still could lift spoon and fork to feed himself, walk to the bathroom by himself, and engage in long conversations. But these scenes gradually became less and less. We all knew the end was nearing.

Yet, even on his hospital bed, never was there a solitary moment. Priests, religious, old-time friends, MJ confreres, and family members paid him visits, gave him good care, brought foodstuff, and offered flowers and prayers. Members of various prayer groups initiated and/or animated by Manong Joe likewise came and prayed over him. His niece, Jeannie, flew in from Canada just to attend to him. She, our own Ike Ymson, and so many others attended to Manong Joe’s needs day in and day out. Freddie Dulay, our General Coordinator, anointed him. Thrice, MJ and the Saplalas celebrated mass in his room. There were lots of singing and shared testimonies of touching and amusing experiences of and with Joe. And these were always followed with a meal, a feast. We still feasted … truly Pinoy, typically Kapampangan!

Manong Joe breathed his last at 2:56 PM on 31 January 2004. For three nights, his remains lay in state at the chapel of St. Scholastica’s College, Manila, thanks to the generous offer and warm welcome of the Benedictine sisters. Manong Joe’s very own blood sister, Sr. Celine, OSB, made it even more comforting for MJ and the family.

During the wake, the Eucharist was celebrated every evening. Manny Gacad made sure that the celebrations creatively expressed the praise and thanksgiving of Manong’s life, now returned to the Author of Life. The masses were successively presided by Percy Bacani, Luc Mees, and Archbishop Paciano Aniceto. Their homilies reflected on the life of Manong, accenting his special taste for life and his struggles as a religious missionary. Two other bishops also paid their respects on the last evening, Bishop Antonio Tobias of Novaliches and Bishop Gabriel Reyes of Antipolo.

On February 4th, we had the mass of the Resurrection. Bishop Carlito Cenzon of Baguio presided; Freddie Dulay preached. Thirty priests concelebrated—twenty-six of them, Manong’s MJ brothers from Benguet, Rizal, Metro-Manila, Mindoro, Davao, and Marawi. Representatives of religious congregations, friends, and relatives came. Except for Sr. Socorro, a Pink Sister based in Argentina; Diane, who is in Spain; and Bert, in the United States, the entire Saplala family was present. (Bert sent a message that was read during the mass. See message below.) The richness in content and style of the liturgy revealed that Manong was special. In fact, everything fitted the occasion, thanks to Manny Gacad’s liturgical expertise. The altar was well set. Symbols were offered at the beginning of the mass—a piece of white cloth with the MJ logo, a stole, and a cross on top of the coffin, and Manong’s picture, sculptured image of Christ (rostro), and mission stone at the side of the altar. The Benedictine sisters led the singing. The homilist spoke of and for the man, his originality as a person, his liking for good food and other fine things, and his bravery as a missionary. After the mass, we all proceeded to the Holy Gardens Valley Memorial Park, Antipolo City, where Manong was laid to rest.

Manong Joe is gone. He is now enjoying the festive gathering with the community of all the faithful departed, of the blessed. He surely will be missed by many.


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