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Pia a pillar of strength

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Pia a pillar of strength FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo
March 09, 2009 12:00 AM 

Pia Arroyo-Magalona at the wake of her husband Francis at the Christ The King Church in Green Meadows, Quezon City
While everybody (other family members, colleagues, friends and fans, etc.) are dissolving in tears on national television and at the Christ The King Chapels in Green Meadows, Quezon City, where the remains of her husband Francis Magalona lie, Pia Arroyo-Magalona acknowledges the hugs and handshakes of sympathizers with a smile and with not a hint of tears.

Maybe she has cried more than enough in the seven months that she stayed beside Francis, who died at 44 (born Oct. 4, 1964), during his brave battle with acute myelogenous leukemia?

Pia smiled, her eyes showing not the pain and sorrow that mark  this kind of tragedy but apparent joy that Francis is now resting in peace in the bosom of The Lord, and said, “I’d rather treasure beautiful memories of our life together,” that is, with their eight children (two of them actresses Maxene and Saab), “and that’s what I will miss most about him.”

Throughout their joint battle with the Big C, diagnosed in August last year, Pia proved to be a pillar of strength.

“Otherwise,” she said, “if I showed any sign of weakness, it might adversely affect Francis. I didn’t want that to happen. I had to be strong for him. With him gone, I have to continue being strong for our children,” added Pia, daughter of graphic designer Edwina Koch Arroyo and, according to her, related to the Arroyos of Bicol (including Sen. Joker Arroyo) and not the Arroyos in Malacanang.

There’s just one thing that Pia wanted clarified: Francis’ illness was not hereditary contrary to some reports. (Francis succumbed to secondary sepsis and secondary pneumonia last Friday, March 6, at the Medical City in Pasig City where he was rushed last Tuesday for his usual blood tranfusion.)

“Niether was it congenital,” explained Pia. “He started having persistent fever in summer last year and he thought it was one of those things, so he started taking Paracetamol. The fever didn’t go away, so he was forced to consult a doctor.”

Asked if Francis left any last wishes, Pia smiled again. “Well, he did. He had all of seven months to do it.”

One of Francis’ last requests was for Pia herself to do his make-up if and when. “I just supervised the make-up artist,” said Pia.

In his casket, Francis wears a dark suit and holds a gold rosary. His hair has started growing after the series of chemotherapy that rendered him bald. This month, he was supposed to undergo a radical bone-marrow transplant.

Pia recalled that during his last hours, Francis was aided with a ventillator that made talking difficult. He was sedated so he wouldn’t feel any pain as his vital organs broke down.

“When his heart stopped beating and the ventillator was removed,” said Pia, “I whispered ‘I love you’ to him. I knew that a dying man’s sense of hearing is the last to go so I kept whispering to him, ‘I love you very much; you are the one I will always love.’ I knew he was listening because I saw the heartbeat monitor move a bit.”

Francis’ remains will be cremated on Wednesday, March 11, after a morning mass. And then he will be laid to rest at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City.

During last Saturday’s second reunion concert of the Eraserheads at the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds, the disbanded band’s vocalist Ely Buendia asked the crowd (estimated to be more than 100,000) to shout out the name of Francia Magalona and then screamed, “Mabuhay ka, Francis!” before he and his co-Eheads sang Francis’ hit song Kaleidoscope World. Francis was supposed to be a guestEly in the concert. He and Ely have started work on an album of inspirational songs.

In last Saturday’s edition of Startalk, Ely sent the following message for Francis: There are no words do describe the sadness I feel. He was my brother and I will miss him forever. Thank you, Kiko, for inspiring me. Now you are a true Freeman. Say hi to my mom for me. (Ely’s mother died in August last year a few days before the Eheads’ reunion concert at The Fort which was cut short after Ely was rushed to the hospital with chest pains.)

When the wake is over, when the sympathizers are gone, when everything starts to go back to “normal” and when reality sets in, when tears have been shed, that will be the time when Pia, the pillar of strength, will surely start to feel Francis’ not being there anymore. The painful reality hasn’t sunk in yet.

“And then,” said Pia, a certain sadness crossing her eyes for the first time during the interview, “it will be only between Francis and me, just the two of us.”

I will end this piece with the following letter from readferGem Tullao-Atienza who, I think, expresses what Francis’ fans and friends feel:

Dear Francis,

When I learned that you died today,

a sudden gush of blood run through my veins

I felt sad and I mourned quietly

I asked why and how

You must have gotten tired of staying at the 4th floor.

Did you die in pain? I hope not.

Your friends, kababayans and fans think it’s too soon

And you made us believe that you were okay

You have such an intense valor that kept everyone going

But was it all just an act?

The pain must have gotten you all worn out

Did you ever want to go? I understand why.

More than a decade ago,

You sang “Meron akong Ano”

It was only a year ago when you announced,

“Meron akong cancer”

We were all sad and we prayed

Did you get sad too? I didn’t think so.

You took us by surprise with your TV guestings

You were busy here and there, despite your condition

You managed to be stable and move forward.

With high hopes, we thought you could manage.

Did you have high hopes too? I certainly thought so.

And how wonderful it is to be like you.

You passed away on a hot summer-ry day

Yet it feels like a cold summer night.

Your absence left everyone in awe

Much to our surprise, you were gone.

Did you ever want to leave on a summer day?

So we could mourn and sing your song?

I know you didn’t mean to.

Like your three stars and a sun

You shine the brightest.

You were a talented creature

Your hopes and passion

Has put you to where you were.

A man with a free mind, gone too soon.

Did it have to end like this? I don’t really know.

You said you knew that your journey

Is on full speed ahead

Yet your writings show that you willingly

Submitted yourself to our Creator

You must’ve known that death is on your way.

How lucky could you be, did you know that?

But how tragic it is for everyone who loved you so.

You were a devoted artist, a loyal friend,

a proud daddy and a loving husband.

It must have felt great to be one of them

We could only mourn and go on with our lives

Did you really go away?

Our heavenly father must have taken you.

But in our illusive minds, lies one man named Francis M.

Go in peace. Farewell my idol.

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