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Second chances

Jun and Kay Factoran.

One of the best gifts in life is a second chance.

A second chance at love; a second chance to reach your goal; a second chance to prove yourself and most important of all, a second chance at life.

In one day, I found myself listening to the stories of two people who were gifted with second chances — and made the most of them.

Last Saturday, former Natural Resources Secretary Jun Factoran held a grand bash to celebrate his wife Kay’s 70th birthday at the Mandarin Oriental Manila. Kay’s family (led by Jun, daughter Mimi, daughter Gigi and her husband Jay, son Bibit, son Robbie and his wife Jo and grandchildren Jeffee, Niccolo, Lucas and Leila); friends; and Jun’s former co-workers in the Cory Aquino administration were in full loving force. A band played danceable retro music, including Jun and Kay’s courtship song, The More I See You.

Among the Cory “vets” I saw were Sen. Frank Drilon and wife Mila,  Philip and Margie Juico, Defense Secretary Voltz Gazmin and wife Rhodie, Joe Concepcion and wife Marivic, Sen. Joker Arroyo, Deedee Siytangco, Teena Sarino, Anna Sobrepeña (husband Chito was on a business trip), Ping and Mimi de Jesus, Gem and Ofie Carague, Elfren and Neni Cruz, Dondon and Delia Paderanga, Justice Adolf and Mariasun Azcuna, Senen and Yolie Bacani, Danny Gozo and Reggie Coseteng. Cory Aquino’s daughter Viel Dee and her husband Dodo attended the Mass that preceded the party.

Kay’s beloved Bigay Puso ladies, the wives of the Cabinet members and other officials of the Aquino administration.

Kay (nee Mesina) was probably in heaven enjoying it all — no, make that “surely in heaven” enjoying it all. You see, she passed away shortly before her birthday. Kay and Jun (who thought he would go first) had agreed that when their time came, they wanted their remains to be cremated and they didn’t want wakes. In fact, one guest at the birthday party came bearing a gift — she didn’t know Kay had passed away.

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Jun said that since he had made plans to gift Kay with a birthday party, he saw no reason to do away with it even if she were no longer physically present. In fact, he saw all the more reason to proceed with it. To show his love and celebrate her life.

Jun recalled that Kay was stricken ill three years ago and had to spend several months at the Intensive Care Unit. By God’s grace and the care of her doctors and nurses, she was able to return home and live a relatively normal life again. Jun called the next 2 1/2 years after Kay’s hospitalization, their “second honeymoon,” a second chance to show her how much she meant to him.

Kay’s death, when it came, was a surprise to Jun. He thought that just like in 2009, she would come home again from the hospital. But he is grateful her doctors, led by Claver Ramos, called him an hour before she breathed her last.

Healing Servants Foundation founder Fr. Gerard Deveza (seated, center) with members Lucy Lee, Joy Sy and Benny and Michelle Soliven.

It was a second chance for Jun to say goodbye to Kay, anad as those of us who have lost a loved one know — a chance to say goodbye is priceless.

***

From Kay’s party I proceeded to another gathering that celebrated life — a fundraising dinner spearheaded by cancer survivor Michelle Dayrit-Soliven for the Healing Servants Foundation.

In the past year, Michelle has had to undergo chemotherapy, surgery and radiation to battle her cancer. But last Saturday, as we her batchmates were dancing to ‘70s music at the main Lounge of the Manila Polo Club, she was the most energetic dancer. She could have — and she did —  danced the night away.

This is Michelle’s second bout with cancer. She first vanquished cancer in 2007 and she didn’t say “Why me again?” when she was diagnosed again with the disease this year.  In fact, I’ve heard her say she is grateful that the challenge fell on somebody like her who was morally and spiritually prepared to face it.

The ‘Assumption Tarts’ at Michelle’s last ‘radiation party’: (from left) Ginnie Fernandez, Andie Recto, Sandy Moran, Michelle Soliven, Cynthia Gonzalez, Elaine Araneta and Lisa Uy.

I’ve seen Michelle stare down her cancer —  from the day she playfully showed us the wisps of hair that were slowly but surely falling off her head, to the day she entertained us in all her bald glory. Then she disappeared into her room and came back wearing a purple wig. She would continue to hold prayer meetings in her house (which she started even while in the pink of health) and share her joys and pains. Always, always she bared a grateful heart.

She would even thank God for nights when she couldn’t sleep, because they gave her the opportunity to see the luminous beauty of the moon from her garden or her window. Who but Michelle would appreciate the pain for the gift of the sight of the shimmery moon?

Michelle also thought of pot-luck costume parties during her chemo sessions — there was a Bollywood-themed party, a safari-themed party. And everyone either wore a wig, a hat or a scarf. Even her oncologist was amused and bemused by Michelle’s unconventional approach to her treatments.

As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Michelle organized a fundraising dinner at the Polo Club last Saturday for the Healing Servants Foundation. Her friends, former classmates and business associates came in full force to support her. Founded by Father Gerard Deveza in 2002, the foundation supports the education of the students of the Divine Healer Academy in Cabid-an, Sorsogon. To date, the school, founded in 2003, has 365  students from kinder to third year high school.

Where did Michelle get her strength from?

“I consecrated my sickness to God, so He provided everything I needed: strength, grace, Divine energy, the love of dear friends and family. I’m so happy!”

“God is so good,” Michelle adds. “He healed me just in time to fulfill my purpose. ”A second chance to fulfill your purpose in life — can life get any better than this?

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com.)

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