Dearest Tito Ernie,
This is how we know a legend has truly left a legacy — this is proof of how well you’ve taught us to do what we do:
That our timelines teem with stories of you teaching us how to tell stories;
Stories of how we learned to teach by watching you touch people’s minds and hearts through telling stories;
Stories of how we’ve sworn our lives to the craft of storytelling and devoted ourselves to teaching so we may touch minds and hearts in ways you have, in ways you’ve touched ours, forever changing the way we look at learning, living, and loving;
Stories of how you taught us to leave not one grain of rice uneaten to honor every Filipino farmer’ sweat and blood;
Stories of how you taught us to clean up after ourselves, every space we walk into and use – especially the theater and the classroom – because the spaces we are allowed to dwell in, these spaces we share with others are sacred;
Stories of genuine faith in people’s capacities – how the blind can tell the most colorful of stories and those who walk in crutches dance with the most heartfelt grace – in truly believing in the fullness of every soul;
Stories of how we have been humbled – shame on us if we had to complain about sleeping on a teachers desk in the very same classroom where we will hold a workshop the next day or about needing to walk through forest thickets to be able to perform toilet duties during our community outreaches, our tiny bubbles of self-indulgence burst, so that instead of becoming so absorbed in our personal comforts we begin to see the value of what others have to endure so that, in turn, we learn to value the gift of life much, much more;
Stories of love, of clay pots finding their rightful pot covers, of faith in the way the universe works ❤
This is how we cope — by sharing a piece of our own memories with you, every single story a life lesson in itself. We say our pieces, burst into tears in each others words, we tell and retell and heed each other’s telling; we create and recreate pieces of you from our memories to hold on to some semblance of strength, something to keep us upright in this world you’ve taught us to feel thankful for and still strive to make better every day.
Mumsie, you are our master teacher, our mentor, and we will tell and retell your stories to the young and old, until they can tell their own stories to others who have to tell their own.
My fondest memory of you is your variety of claps, all sorts of applause imaginable, many of which invented at a moment’s notice: fireworks clap, rain clap, barbershop clap, Coke clap, silent clap. The simplest gesture of appreciation often taken for granted but you’ve made it so special.
It’s our turn to applaud you and the life you’ve lived. It’s an applause that will echo in every story beyond this lifetime.
We love you Tito Ernie. A love that, through you, we’ve learned to deepen in every way.