By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
SUDDENLY, he stopped sending jokes. I thought it was normal, assuming he must have other things to preoccupy him with. The jokes are mostly about politics, and predictably about women. We joked about ourselves, our imperfections, our pride, our humbling experiences, our most trying times.
Rafael Howard Baraan. Rafael sounded like an angel. Now, where did the “Howard” come from? It sounded very American. I have always thought of him as Raffy, the City Administrator of Dagupan and the “Little Governor” of Pangasinan, and most important, as the “Kuya Raffy” of Armi Bangsal Lorica.
I always pass by my good friend, Armi whenever I have official functions at the Capitol in Lingayen. I make it a point to invite her to come, especially when she thinks Raffy has forgotten to send an invitation to her for public gatherings.
“Agko gabay su unla, agak imbitado.” (I do not want to go, I am not invited.)
“Of course, you are invited. It is a public gathering, so he did not feel it necessary to send an invite.”
“Akin sika ey?” (Why do you have an official invitation then?)
“Because I am officially part of the program. Also because, maybe he thinks I have to be reminded.”
Then Armi would be convinced and join at a later time. Almost always, Raffy would lighten up when he sees her, except for the times his world was preoccupied with the issue of “black sand” which made his face force a smile that seemed so unnatural you could almost always think it is a perpetual frown. With the frown, a certain sadness, a look of uncertainty, a prime concern for the resolution of the one issue that he felt, tarnished his name.
And then, at 8:03 a.m. on 04 December 2020, he sent me a private message:
“Thank you so much for your prayers. During the promulgation of the decision on our “blacksand sand” case, which Gov Ama Espino, Engr Alvin Bigay, and I personally attended yesterday afternoon, the Sandiganbayan 6th Division dismissed the case and we were finally acquitted by the court. Praise and thank God. Good morning.”
He was relieved. Raffy was back to his joking self. Our exchange of political jokes, good manners and right conduct, international economic and geopolitical analysis, and funny accounts of our common friends were again on mainstream.
Then a silence. A silence where you somehow suspect that something had happened and you think, he needs time to reflect, be alone, be at peace with the presence of God. Then I read from the timeline of Joy Cruz Napolitano:
“Eternal rest grant unto him, Oh Lord! I will always remember you po and the wisdom you shared. Paalam, Tito Raffy!”
It did not shock me. After all, recently, he was talking about walking with God, turning to God, taking God’s hands, and that when no one can be there, God is always there. He sounded like an angel, like his name, Rafael, no longer the Raffy who was quick to laugh at earthly jokes. I quickly opened his profile on Messenger.
“This Content Isn’t Available Right Now. When this happens, it’s usually because the owner only shared it with a small group of people, changed who can see it or it’s been deleted.”
We all get deleted at some point, but our digital footprint, like our carbon footprint stays long before we have departed this life.
Thank you, my friend, for the rough and tumble of our very long friendship. Thank you for the laughter. Now you can laugh with Josefina Lolarga and Tessie de Venecia, in a place I can only imagine to have eternal light.
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