Sunday, March 28, 2010

Death of a Principalia

En veinti ocho de Marzo de dos mil dies años: fue sepultado en el cementerio de esta parroquia el cadaver de Teodoro Gumila Villarimo mestizo Español, soltero, hijo de Primitivo Villarimo, natural del pueblo de Carcar vecino de este pueblo y Felisa Lucero Gumila mestizo Española de este pueblo de Argao, ambos ya difuntos. Abuelos paternos nombres cuyos ignorantes. Abuelos maternos Don Teodoro Gumila Cabrera mestizo Español y Doña Trinidad Lucero Vismanos india natural de este pueblo ambos ya difuntos. Fallecio de muerte natural (asmatico).

The above narrative would be more or less how the burial of one of my closest friends and relatives, Theodore Gumila Villarimo, would appear had he died in the Spanish period Philippines. Kuya Ted, or to his very close friends in Argao Tudengga Virus, or Myrna, or Denggay, was a proud aristocrat. It was only fitting that his wake and funeral was very historic and dramatic. The family came in almost full attendance: descendants of Don Cayetano Gumila Santana, an Inspector de Obras in the south of Cebu during the Spanish period and Doña Maria Cabrera Lucero. Luceros and Kintanars, both families very close friends and relatives of Ted, came in full force. Escarios from Bantayan, Solons from Cebu, a Reynes of the Reyneses of San Fernando, and an Estrada of Barili, were some of the people who showed up for Teddy's memorial and funeral, all of whom, Ted would have been happy to know, would have been listed in the Spanish period as "todos los principales de este pueblos de Argao, Bantayan, Cebu, San Fernando y Barili".

His wake was held at the more than 250-year old capilla mortuario, whose centermost relief, a skull perched atop a globe with an hourglass above it, is a constant reminder that death comes to all at any time. The effect of his wake being held there, with candles and white flowers around, was pure drama.

On the day of interment, his body was paraded around the walled complex of Argao, past the Casa Real where many of Ted's ancestors served as gobernadorcillo and other members of the ayutamiento. Then the hearse passed by the Hall of Justice, where many of Ted's male ancestors were educated during the Spanish period when it was still the Colegio de los Niños, or the school for boys. Slowly, the hearse passed through the street where Ted used toi walk by everyday until it passed by his office, the place he spent more waking hours than his own home and where he spent his weekends in without any overtime pay. Finally, the hearse and those following it entered the walled complex again through the Puerta del Sur or the South Gate, and then finally came to a stop at the entrance of the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael the Archangel Church where many of Ted's ancestors and relatives were baptized, confirmed, wedded, and received their last rites.

As the casket was being carried out of the hearse, dozens of angel relief gazed down on the body. Carvings of Pelicans, symbols of self-sacrifice, adorn the church that Ted was so proud of. Finally, it made a slow procession into the vast church, 28 cherubs lined above and gazing down on the slow movement of the casket. Then, the melodic voice of Dwight Chavez, a descendant of the principalia Chavezes of Argao, broke through the silence as he sang Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up".

The last rites were exactly what Ted would have wanted. The murals of Canuto Avila and Raymundo Francia above his casket, with all 42 cherubs of the church looking down from their perch. The church choir, led by Baby Calledo Sarchez, also a member of principalia families, conducted the singing of various English, Cebuano, and most especially Latin songs which surely made Ted smile.

Then, after the ceremony, Ted his final journey. The funeral cortege passed by Rizal street, perhaps the second oldest street in Argao, passing by many old houses of de la Peñas, Luceros, Kintanars, and many more, until finally entering the church cemetery. Surrounded by his Lola Eding, Lola Sabel, and many more relations, Ted was finally interred together with his father's remains.

Truly, Ted's life, though cut tragically short, was how he would have lived it again if he were given a chance to live once more. He lived an unabashed, almost shameless, life of an aristocrat, a real mestizo Español who was proud to call himself a principalia. All the time we spent together I would always cringe when he would declare proudly that he was a real principalia in Argao even when there were many people around us.

But yesterday, and forevermore, he was and will always be a principalia. With that note, I now bid my prima, my amiga, adios! Vaya con Dios, mi prima principalia!

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