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Obituaries

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2021 - 12:00am

First of all, there is no truth to the rumor that owners of funeral parlors are lining up for listing at the stock market. No, but maybe they should.

It would be funny and ironic if they do get listed. Imagine… those who bury our dead may just inject some life in our stock market that has been pretty dead for over a year now.

But for now, it is premature to call your favorite undertaker and beg for an IPO allocation.

It is also absolutely untrue that so many people are dying because Duque, as health secretary, is implementing the Duterte administration’s population reduction program. No sir! Duque can’t be that efficient.

But there is no doubt the smell of death is in the air. I have stopped reaching for my phone upon waking up. It depresses me to see how my Facebook news feed has become an obituary page.

The obit page can be useful. People will not openly admit it, but it was one of their favorite pages in the days before electronic media. People check it to keep tabs on friends and enemies, and perhaps to make sure they are still alive. And it was a money maker for newspapers.

Before martial law, it was said that you haven’t really died until it was announced in the obit page of the Roces-owned Manila Times. The announcement was often delayed to allow the family to move bank accounts. Apparently, someone at the BIR scans the obit pages so they can freeze bank accounts to guarantee payment of inheritance taxes.

In some newspapers, newbie writers are assigned to write obituaries in their first few months of employment. Some of the best written obits at the New York Times by these interns are inspiring to read.

Every major newspaper also has a “morgue.” It is a file of obituaries and photos of famous people who are still alive. It is almost ready for printing, with minor editing in case the grim reaper catches up with the rich and famous in an unholy hour.

Now we get to read obituaries on Facebook. You and I have been reading too many obituaries and eulogies these days, it is simply depressing. We have also been attending too many of these funeral services via Zoom.

Over the past few days, we lost two stalwarts in local journalism, Crispulo “Jun” Icban, editor-in-chief of Manila Bulletin and Nestor Torre, veteran entertainment editor and television director. Losing these two is a sad day for our industry.

Nestor wrote an entertainment column for the Inquirer and directed television shows for the longest time. He was a highly literate entertainment writer and didn’t indulge in mere showbiz gossip. My wife worked with him in her early days in television.

Jun Icban, however, is someone who really touched my professional life. Jun was my professor at what was then the UP Institute of Mass Communication a half century ago. I was in his editorial and column writing class.

Jun taught us the basics that served us well. Write simply and make your thoughts flow through the paragraphs. And don’t overwrite.

Later on, Jun and I socialized in various journalism groups, including the Samahang Plaridel and the Tuesday Club at Edsa Shangrila. He is just about the nicest, best tempered editor I have ever encountered.

Jun knows a lot of inside stories. Jun is the person to go to for the most honest assessment of people and events. He has a good feel of people.

If not for this COVID, I fully expected Jun to have live to a hundred. He hardly got sick even if he kept a news editor’s punishing schedule. Indeed, I was told he licked COVID and was tested negative after a few days in a hospital, but pneumonia got him.

I guess our people are stoically taking all that’s happening around us because of our Christian faith. We have been taught that suffering could have a purifying effect by awakening our compassion towards others.

Our preachers last Easter Sunday delivered a message similar to that of a senior pastor in New York that: “the power of healing comes from Jesus alone for He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and by His wounds were healed.

“We pray for healing for the sake of the gospel, for the glory of the risen King… Healing, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, is always meant to point towards Christ.”

The Apostle’s Creed we recite during Holy Mass ends with these words: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting…”

The resurrection of the body… deep in our hearts, we know however bad things may be, it is not the end. How sad it is if we think death ends everything… that after those final gasps at a hospital or in the hospital driveway, there is nothing more.

For those who believe in Christ, as the theologian Tony Evans explained, “all believers living and dead, will be reunited with Christ and with one another. And we will never be separated from Him or from each other again…

“It is comforting to know that we will never really die. If our physical body dies before Christ returns, the people visiting us at the funeral home may think we are dead. But we won’t be there. We’ll be with the Lord!”

There is the promise of Revelation 21:4, that one day “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away.”

Then again, Duterte, Duque and company shouldn’t rush people’s voyage to eternity. Many of those who perished in this badly managed pandemic response have more to contribute to society or need time to fix their lives. Sad exits like what we are seeing now will always be tragic.

 

 

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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