Dear family and friends of Neal Cruz
In behalf of my mother and sisters and our family, we thank all of you here as well as the countless others who have condoled with us in the past three days, for the love and support you have shown my father and our family. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much.
In particular, we would like to express our sincere thanks to a special group of his friends who worked tirelessly behind the scenes, helping us, supporting us, from the time he was admitted to the hospital last July 17 until today.
Thank you. You are a godsend to us and I do not know how we would have made it and been able to give Daddy this singular sendoff without your help. You know who you are and I know that Daddy is smiling at you from wherever he is.
We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support you have extended to us in our bereavement. We are likewise overwhelmed by the magnitude of love and admiration that people from all walks of life have expressed for Neal Cruz.
The past couple of days, we heard so many stories of how he was—a fearless journalist, an astute political observer and strategist, a crusader for the oppressed, a lover of animals, a supportive boss and mentor, a faithful friend, a caring brother and a great man.
I am so poignantly moved to have met people, who are avid readers of his Inquirer column “As I See It,” come to the wake just to express to me how his writings had so touched them that they felt compelled to pay their respects to the man this one last time, that they would come early in the day (before the rush of crowds) just to be able to see him and say a prayer.
He was so many things to so many people. But to us, his family, he was simply “Da” or “Lolo” who loved us unconditionally. He was the glue that held our family together, the fulcrum around which our lives revolved, our guiding light and inspiration, our moral compass, but most of all, our dearest friend.
When he was with us, he put politics aside and instead talked about the most mundane things, laughed with us at the silliest jokes, played pranks, listened to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Broadway tunes with us, advised us and inspired us on how to be the best persons we can be.
Let me tell you a well-kept and well-guarded secret: He was really Peter Pan—a child at heart who instilled a childlike sense of wonder in his children and grandchildren.
One of my favorite memories is how he made us believe in Santa Claus. As children, we wrote letters to Santa Claus, hung stockings on our Christmas tree, and eagerly awaited his arrival on Christmas Eve. We would often lie in bed waiting for the clock to strike midnight on Dec. 24 because that would mean gifts on Christmas morning!
At the stroke of midnight or thereabouts, we would be thrilled to hear sleigh bells ringing outside our window signaling Santa’s arrival! We would tightly shut our eyes so that Santa would think we were fast asleep (lest we lose our gifts); but in truth our hearts beat all the faster with excitement.
The truth was that Daddy had bought a set of sleigh bells during one of his many trips abroad. On Christmas Eve, he would take the sleigh bells, crawl on his hands and knees outside our window, and ring them vigorously, just to delight us and keep the legend alive. He would holler “Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas!” using a cardboard megaphone.
I accidentally uncovered the charade when I was seven years old. In my excitement, I threw my blanket aside, leaned out the window, and beheld Daddy there with a big grin on his face.
Another favorite story I have is how Daddy got a kick out of doing the silliest things—just because.
We had two rubber Frankenstein masks, the kind people buy for Halloween. Often, out of the blue, he would call me; we would put on the masks and he would drive around the streets with the car windows down.
At a stoplight, he would bring the car to a halt, and ever so slowly (for effect), we would turn our heads to the left or right to stare at the driver or passenger of the cars next to us.
And I remember how we would explode in laughter seeing how we surprised them and made them jump in their seats. He and I would laugh so hard till the tears came to our eyes, and then he would drive off when the light turned green! That was my Dad…
He was also generous to a fault with us. He would share everything he received with his children.
And now that I am married and have a house of my own, there was many a time when, out of the blue, my family would hear two quick successive rings of our doorbell signaling his arrival at our home unannounced—despite his very busy schedule.
I would open our front door and there would be Daddy with his bag of goodies for us—anything from fresh (or sometimes overripe) fruits or pastries or even bangus—and his trademark “Hello, Dennis.”
I would promptly holler, “Nandito si Daddy!” And my wife and daughters would rush downstairs to meet him, and we would spend the rest of the afternoon just shooting the breeze with him. That was Daddy to us—a child at heart and a loving father.
We love you, Daddy. You will forever live in our hearts, and we miss you terribly.
We thank the Lord for giving you to us and for the times we shared. We thank the Lord that he gave you a life well-lived and that he allowed you and empowered you to touch the lives of so many.
Indeed, big things come in small packages. What you lacked in height you more than made up for with your big heart.
Rest well, my dear father, you have run the race and completed the journey. We commit you to the bosom of the Lord now.
In closing, I quote from “Hamlet” by one of his favorite authors, Shakespeare: “Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
We love you, Da. Until we meet again!
Dennis Cruz, only son of the late Inquirer columnist Neal Cruz, works for an international humanitarian organization. This piece was delivered at the necrological Mass for his father last Aug. 1.
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