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COMMENTARY

My ‘Manong Ed’

05:08 AM May 15, 2018

In death as in life, Edgardo B. Maranan, “Manong Ed” to me, was handsome and brilliant.

Every time he read my tributes to friends who had gone ahead of us that were published in Inquirer Opinion, he emailed me pronto, telling me, whom he called his ading (younger sister), to write of him in glowing terms when his turn came to join The Light.

This member of the Palanca literary awards Hall of Fame and record-breaker (35 awards under his belt) was the laman (content) of my Gmail account and cell phone inbox. He was such a tireless, unselfish sharer of links, opportunities and puns that sometimes made me laugh out loud or roll my eyes at their corniness.

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From him I learned a new word — “exhaustipated, a word especially useful to us senior folks. It means ‘too tired to give a sh_t.’”

But last year, he texted at length that things were not too good, health-wise. Yet he managed to retain his lyrical prose while saying this: “I am here at my sister Lingling’s Frangeli House in Baguio, sitting in a garden teeming with flowers, ferns, bushes and pine trees, savoring the cool winds and gentle rays of the slowly westering sun, watching the fog forming before me, sipping lemon grass tea and in deep meditation, wishing that the painful prostate cancer which has taken hold of my lymphs and bones would go away by magic. Otherwise, here then would be the perfect, quiet setting for a journey that shall begin when my time is up.”

He closed his message with a smiley emoji that stopped my tears in their tracks.

We still ran into one another at various occasions the last of which was the Philippine Center for International PEN conference at the University of Santo Tomas in November 2017. As usual, Manong Ed carried his digital camera, taking pictures of the panelists and the audience. He loved documenting people, things and places.

During the lunch break, his appetite was hearty as usual; he even had the waiter bring a plateful of roast beef to our table. “Here,” he said, gesturing toward the dish with his other hand holding a fork with slivers of meat on it, “it’s tender and masarap (delicious).”

He assured me that he would read my poetry manuscript for which he promised a back-of-the-book blurb. He emailed: “I’m just going to the UP Infirmary to see a doc about a really bad cold virus I caught last week. The birthing of a book is approaching! Congratulations.”

It was typical Ed — always giving feedback. For a piece I had written on the UP Faculty Center fire, he wrote: “A wonderful read! And leading off with Mrs. E and SV Epistola was brilliant. Their house was a kind of poets’ and philosophers’ salon. Wala na yatang sumunod sa kanila (Nobody followed their footsteps).”

I remember Manong Ed also as dance partner to another Baguio Writers Group stalwart, Baboo Mondoñedo, during one of our Christmas parties. A non-stop CD of Sergio Mendes and the Brazil ’66 was played while pairs of dancers competed for a Pandy Aviado print that was being raffled off.

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The judge, Pastor Oscar Pacis, decided to give the prize to Ed and Baboo because they exhibited grace and elegance. They moved in sync even without a rehearsal—when she bent back, he bent forward toward her, etc.

Ever the gentleman, Manong Ed let the rare edition of one print go to Baboo, and he settled for Tawi-Tawi place mats. But he complained two days later that his muscles and bones, especially around the hip area, were sore from the physical exertion.

He loved his family so. Among the emails we’d receive are updates on his children Diego and Len. When I’d congratulate him, he’d pooh-pooh me and say, “All their genius comes from the mother (writer Aida F. Santos). All their good looks come from me!”

Manong Ed also loved music and translating words to known melodies. I was able to dig up his translation of the nationalist song “Bayan Ko” which I quote in full:

“Philippines, my country, my homeland / Gold and flowers in her heart abound / Blessings on her fate did love bestow / Sweet beauty’s grace and splendor’s glow. / How her charms so kind and tender / Drove the stranger to desire her / Land of mine, in fetters kept, / You suffered as we wept. / Birds that freely claim the skies to fly / When imprisoned mourn, protest and cry / How more deeply will a land most fair / Yearn to break the chains of sad despair. / Philippines, my life’s sole burning fire / Cradle of my tears, my misery / All that I desire / To see you rise, forever free!”

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Elizabeth Lolarga is a grandmother of one, a freelance writer, and a painter.

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