CONVERSATIONS With Ricky Lo (Photo - Susan, widow of Fernando Poe Jr. — Photo by BABY K. JIMENEZ)

Susan Roces: I still feel Ronnie’s presence

You never recover from the death of a loved one. It’s something that comes on and off. There’s no prescribed period for mourning. It’s easy to say the two words “let go” but it’s hard to do it. There’s no such thing as letting go and forgetting.

To help me come to terms with Ronnie’s death, I focus my mind on my faith as a Catholic — that life has a beginning and it has an end. After birth, we are baptized and it’s a way of preparing us for the day when we meet our Maker.

I often ask if there’s life after death, or life after life. I read books about it and I ask people who have gone through the near-death experience, and none of them has claimed that he met a loved one there. But I love the song Tears In Heaven (By Eric Clapton who wrote it in memory of his little child who fell to his death from a skyscraper in New York. — RFL). It says, Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?

Some people decide to give away the personal effects of a relative when he dies. I have kept Ronnie’s things; I haven’t touched them. They are the way they were, intact.

[PHOTO -Susan: I don’t believe that life is short. It’s not how long you live that counts but how well you live.]

I’m thinking of writing a letter, sealing it and reminding someone to attach it to a balloon or putting it inside a bottle, so that if somebody finds it years from now, the finder will hopefully say, “Yes, I saw him in heaven; we knew each other.”

Did Ronnie send any “feeler”? No he did not, he has not. It could be because, while he was lying unconscious at the ICU, I asked forgiveness from God. Forgiveness for what? For adoring my husband. It’s only God that we have to adore. We can and we should love our family and people close to us, but we should not adore them. Adoration is exclusively for God.

Ronnie died seven years ago (On Dec. 14, 2004, seven years after the elections in which he ran for President and was allegedly cheated out of victory. — RFL). Life was never the same again without him. Did I have any regrets? None. However, he had to share the time allotted for me with his beloved friends. It hurts to realize that some of those beloved friends have betrayed him.

It’s true that our loved ones who have gone ahead become our guardian angels. Up to now, I still feel Ronnie’s presence. I close my eyes and I talk to him, tell him what I’m doing and I know that he listens. In times of uncertainty, I ask for his guidance. Like before I did my Rite-Med commercial, I talked to him. I said, “Ronnie, a lot of people are asking for medical assistance. You did very well in helping the needy without many people knowing it. Tell me, What will I do? I just cannot turn my back, especially since these are the people who have in one way or another served you in your lifetime.” Then, out of the blue, the offer for the Rite-Med commercial came. It wasn’t just coincidence, was it?

[PHOTO -Lorna, widow of Rudy Fernandez]

Wonderful things are happening to my career. I’m getting good roles. So I whisper to him, “Ronnie, you’re still around, ha!”

If you ask me now if I’m ready to die, I will truthfully say, “No, I’m not.” Much as I want to reunite with Ronnie and my other dear departed, I’m not ready for it yet. Why? Because I’m enjoying myself at my age (70). There is so much to do, so much to look forward to.

Some people say that life is short. I don’t think so. It’s not how long you live that counts but how well you live. — By Susan Roces as told to Ricky Lo

Lorna Tolentino: Rudy is now my angel; he’ll always protect me

Have I recovered from Rudy’s death (in 2008)? I’m not really sure. I don’t know how to gauge recovery. Up to now, kinakausap ko pa rin siya every day. Sometimes, nakakaya ko ‘yung pagmi-miss sa kanya, but sometimes naman it’s very hard and I really break down.

Every nook and cranny of our house reminds me of him. His clothes are in the cabinet, intact. Kung paano niya iniwanan ganoon pa rin ang ayos. But my sons (Rap-Rap and Renz) are wearing their Papa’s shoes kasi pare-pareho sila ng size. I would see them wearing the shoes and I would say, “O, kay Papa mo ‘yan, a!”

I remember Rudy every moment of the day; walang sandali na hindi ko siya iniisip, especially when I’m in the bathroom or when I’m about to go to sleep. It’s hard learning how to sleep alone. I ask him to help me out of difficult situations. When I pray, I would say, “Lord, please guide me.” Then I would tell Rudy, “Babes, back-up-an mo ako, ha!” And I’m sure that he does. Ramdam na ramdam ko.

[PHOTO -Lorna: When I pray I say, ‘God, please guide me.’ Then, I would tell Rudy, ‘Babes, back-up-an mo ako, ha.’ ]

On Rudy’s 60th birthday last March 3, Rap-Rap and I went over Rudy’s pictures. Rudy was very organized; inayos niya lahat ng mga pictures niya. (Sen.) Jinggoy (Estrada) was hosting a party for Rudy, so Rap-Rap and I chose Rudy’s photos taken on his birthdays from 2002 to 2008 for a videowall. Six hours namin pinagpuyatan ‘yon; we went to sleep at five in the morning na.

During special occasions, we see to it that we spend time with Rudy at his mausoleum at the Heritage Park. On his birthday, we had a Mass said there before we proceeded to the party for him. All our friends were there. Besides the family, your friends are a great support. They are there especially when you’re feeling low.

Even if I feel that he’s just around, never naman siyang talagang nagparamdam. I’m sure that Rudy went straight to heaven because of the suffering and pain na dinaanan niya (due to cancer of the pancreas). It was daw a cleansing process for the soul and I believe it.

He was in and out of the hospital for more than two years. When he came home from his last hospitalization, Rudy assured me that he had already a one-on-one with God. “I‘ve been talking to Him already,” he told me. He asked to be brought home because he said he wanted to have quiet time with God.

[PHOTO -Boots, widow of Pete Roa]

Regrets? Hmmmm, I think about it sometimes. My dream is to go to Europe and sayang na if ever, hindi ko siya makakasama unlike during our several trips abroad. But I know that he will be with me. He’s my angel; he’ll never stay away from me, he’ll always protect me.

Life is indeed short. There’s no sense in being negative. What’s important is for us to be positive. — By Lorna Tolentino as told to Ricky Lo

Boots Anson-Roa: I still ask for Pete’s intercession

Five years after Pete died (in 2007), I still get the urge to cry pero nare-rendahan ko na. Suddenly, it just hits me that, you know, wala na siya. Sometimes, I even wonder, wala na ba talaga siya? If he were still here, what if…?

But then, I have reconciled with myself and I said, “Let him be! Let him rest in eternal peace.”

Up to now, I still ask for Pete’s intercession. Before I make an important decision, I ask him to guide me, “Help me with discernment!” When my sisters-in-law learn about it, they tell me, “Utang na loob, pagpahingahin mo na si Pete. Tahimik na siya; huwag mo na siya istorbohin.”

When I get an offer, I would ask Pete, “Should I take it?” Wala lang. I just want him to know. Should I start going out? I want him to know. (Yes, Boots admitted that she’s dating a US-Canada-based suitor who is known to Pete, a family friend. Boots said she has brought the man twice to visit Pete’s grave— RFL)

But I’m sure that Pete is listening. How do I know? In times when I talk to Pete, naaamoy ko ang sigarilyo niya. (It’s called “olfactory sign,” according to a book called Life After Life. — RFL). Marlboro was his favorite and he smoked it until he died. Naku, ayaw niya pasaway talaga!

[PHOTO -Boots: I always talk to Pete. How do I know that he’s listening? Naaamoy ko ang sigarilyo niya. His favorite was Marlboro.]

Am I convinced that Pete is somewhere, happy where he is? Oo naman! I don’t think that he should be in a place where he has to suffer because he had already suffered so much during the 10 years that he was wheelchair-bound after he suffered a stroke, especially during the last six months of his life when he was afflicted with cancer.

Did I give away his personal belongings? Well, little by little. I gave some to his brothers. But I keep the important items, ‘yung may sentimental value — among them our wedding rings, his watch and his cane. It took me a while before I could give away his leg braces. I gave them to the church para ibigay d’un sa nangangailangan.

During the grieving process, I read self-help books. I consulted my priest-friends. After reading the books, I passed them on to Lorna (Tolentino). Her husband, Rudy (Fernandez), died a year after Pete.

Do I have regrets? Oh yes, I have. I wish I had worked less so I could have spent more time with him. Kasi kahit sabihin mo pang “quality time,” iba ‘yung mas maraming oras kayong magkasama. You didn’t have to talk to each other; you just have to be with each other. Pete was a TV buff. For me to start a conversation with him, even if, ironically, I’m not a TV person (up to now!), I would sit down with him. I used to call myself the “commercial wife” because I would wait for the commercials to be aired at doon ko lang siya puwede kausapin.

What did Pete’s death tell me about life?

Well, sometimes we give so much attention to our physical state, our earthly possession, when at the end, when you are at your most helpless, what really matters is how well we live our lives. — By Boots Anson-Roa as told to Ricky Lo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
All rights reserved