Death and dreams

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

The art world and the business grapevine have been abuzz since the weekend a young artist’s death, a billionaire’s son, illegal drugs and dreams washed away in the waters of La Union.

The police are trying to find out what really happened inside that room.

What is clear is that a young artist died, an artist known in the international and local art scenes for her work – brilliant, mind-bending and visceral to the core. I offer my deepest condolences to Bree Jonson’s family, her friends, and loved ones. My heart goes out to her mother and father. No parent should ever have to go through this. I also think of the parents who recently lost a son or daughter, different as the circumstances may be – Pablo Tariman, Sharon Dacera, Ramon Ang, Henry Sy, Jr. and those who lost their children to the bloody drug war.

My thoughts are with the Ongpins, too. I’ve met Julian a few times when his father, tycoon Roberto V. Ongpin or RVO hosted press conferences to share updates on his business empire. Julian said he is in the arts while helping in his father’s business.

His business card reads,

“Assistant to the Chairman.”

That he is also in the arts wasn’t surprising. The Ongpins are in business or in the arts.  Alfonso Ongpin, the father of RVO’s dad, Luis, was known as an art connoisseur.

There are crises, just like in any other family or business. But because they’re the Ongpins, news about them makes the headlines. The late finance secretary Jaime V. Ongpin, the brother of RVO, took his own life. RVO himself has had his share of not-so-good news, including ups and downs in his business such as his divorce with British fund Ashmore.

As to what happened in La Union, an investigation is ongoing as I write this. I am one with the public in waiting for the truth to come out.

As I said, no parent should ever have to go through the death of his or her own, and on the other side of the story, one can only imagine the pain of seeing one’s son or daughter tagged in an event where there is death involved.

In the hearts of the parents

Who was it who said that the biggest source of anxiety in this world is parenting?

Parents – prince or pauper, powerful or not – can only protect (or control) their children so much. Once their young ones go out into the real world, nobody really knows what they’re doing 24/7, who they are with or which poison or antidote they choose to take to cope with their heartbreaks and joys.

Lucky are the ones who do, but for sure, no parent will ever fully know everything about his or her son or daughter. Children are their own persons, after all.

Parents can’t really hear the neanderthals banging inside their children’s heads or see the monkeys hanging on their backs, neither can they fully understand their children’s most personal dreams and most cruel of nightmares, nor really know what’s truly in the deepest, farthest recesses of their hearts and souls. And who can, really?

The human mind is a complex one, and so is the heart. There will always be parts of us that nobody can ever see, hear or feel, not even the ones closest to us. There will always be gaping holes behind the smiles and swagger, especially in these trying times.

Fathers, mothers, and surrogates can only try their best to nurture individuals to be ready to face a world that is at times cruel and topsy-turvy, and hopefully, inspire them to grow into adults who will strive to make the world better than when they first saw it.

As Kahlil Gibran said:

“Your children are not your children, they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”

And so, parents can only wait and watch with bated breath. Watch their children chase their dreams, take on the world, and wait until they blossom; watch them fly to the highest plains or dance in unknown membranes in this universe; and to be there when they spiral down to their lowest lows to lift them up again. In the years of waiting, no parent should ever have to get that dreaded phone call bearing bad news about his or her child.


As for the drugs, it pains me to know that illegal substances remain present in the country, which I attribute to the perennial failure of authorities to stop the flow of these illegal substances from the sources, despite the much-touted and bloody drug war, which is mostly focused on the slums.

The result of this is the sad reality that drugs, for decades now, continue to appear in the stories involving young people, together with, ironically, their love and dreams.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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