JONATHAN VITUG, 21 DECEMBER 1970 – 06 JUNE 2014: HIS MEMORIAL AND INURNMENT

 

Columbary at Christ the King

On Monday, I called my boss to notify if I could get two days’ off from work for Monday and Tuesday as we get the business of my brother sorted out–I previously have an approved Friday and the following Monday leave that I initially intended to devote time to compose my Mr. World articles before this tragedy struck.  He suggested it might be better that I take the whole week off, and I decided to agree and take on his suggestion.  It proved fortuitous as I actually needed the rest since I was also down with a phlegmatic cough and cold at the time.

I got to join my parents as we ran errands and searched for a columbarium to place Jonathan’s ashes.  We had two candidates–a friend of my dad suggested Christ the King seminary, and then there was Sto. Domingo Church, the latter because it was adjacent to our high school, now known as Angelicum College.  We loved the peaceful atmosphere provided by Christ the King in contrast to the rather sweltering heat and under-construction state of the area surrounding the columbary in Sto. Domingo so we easily decided on the former.  The former also offered a venue where we can hold a memorial for Jonathan so we arranged to have the memorial and inurnment ceremony there on the traditional 9th day of his death, on Saturday, 14 June.  My mother and sister were also concerned about my phlegmatic cough and cold so they insisted that I go see a doctor the next day.

On Tuesday morning, I went to Manila Doctors and used by company health plan to see a pulmonologist.  He prescribed some antibiotics good for five days and to avoid cold foods and sweets.  So for the rest of the week (with the exception of Friday) I stayed put at home and rested (though I also devoted a few hours of my downtime on my computer preparing the photos for my Mr. World articles).

Throughout the week, my sister was bombarded by calls and messages over Facebook with condolences from Jonathan’s college classmates, and former colleagues from the companies he worked with over the past 20 years.  She received word from my brother’s former officemates in Makati Shangri-La that they would shoulder the snacks that would be served during Jonathan’s memorial and inurnment.  My brother’s college classmates also offered a mass for him in Greenbelt chapel and invited my sister to attend (which she did).  At home, there were friends and relatives from both my mother’s and father’s sides who also came to visit to pay their condolences.    The day during that week typically closes with a novena prayer dedicated to Jonathan.

If it weren’t for Jonathan’s death, I would’ve only begun the dedicated compiling materials for my Mr. World articles only on Friday and would have devoted the time for the text of the article on Saturday, with the likelihood of completing the article either that Saturday evening or at the latest Sunday afternoon (a few hours before the scheduled Mr. World final).  But under these circumstances, I had to complete the articles on Friday so I can devote the Saturday for the memorial and inurnment.

When Saturday came, I was feeling physically better as the antibiotics eliminated most of my cough.  My mom and sister asked that after the memorial mass, I’ll be the one to give the speech thanking the people who came to the memorial.  I was looking forward to it, as I wanted to meet the people Jonathan worked with as I want to get more insights on what he was like at work, since I rarely had the chance to talk to him about it.  We arrived at Christ the King columbary at around 2:00 PM, about an hour ahead of the scheduled 3:00 PM service.  We waited at the columbarium space we selected to place Jonathan’s ashes before we were allowed in the chapel at 2:20 PM.

The memorial ceremony

My sister brought her laptop where she loaded up a slideshow presentation of vintage photos of Jonathan from the past to prior to his death.  It was a fond trip to memory lane for me when I saw the old photos.  The guests started pilng in at around 2:40 PM.  Relatives came first, then some old neighbors and my mom’s friends and business colleagues, then Jonathan’s former officemates from Makati Shangri-La, followed by a couple of colleagues from St. Giles’ Hotel, then some former high school classmates, then a group of Jonathan’s former college classmates, and finally a group from Expedia.  The mass began on time at 3:00 PM and more guests continued to pile in during then–more relatives, family friends, and some of my brother’s former colleagues from Agoda and Crowne Plaza Galleria joined in.  The chapel was supposed to seat between 80-100 people but the room was filled up to standing-room-only capacity.

The priest deviated a bit from the typical funeral rites as he didn’t read the traditional funeral gospel but used the gospel that was meant for that Saturday.  He then also gave a beautiful homily about the pains endured when a child is lost ahead of his parents and about how you get a picture of how a dead person has conducted his life by the people he affected and touched like those who showed up on this memorial.  He noted that despite the drastic act that he committed, based on the love he brought there might be room for mercy for him in heaven.

After the communion has ended the priest then opened the floor for family and loved ones to deliver their eulogies.  As I was tasked to do, I came forward first to deliver my thanks for the support and condolences provided to our family.  I then opened the floor for others to say their last words.  Two of Jonathan’s best friends from high school came forward and gave a moving speech with a humorous anecdote that lightened up the room.  Then came my brother’s former boss from Shangri-La, who called him their group’s historian who provided some enlightening glimpses about him, then from St. Giles who reported what a wonderful manager he was to them, and finally a colleague from Expedia who provided some fresh insights to my brother’s character.   I’ll share key bits of their insights on a subsequent post.

The eulogies were done by 4:15 PM and I carried the ashes to the columbarium where his ashes would finally rest.  The priest performed a final blessing with us family members and a few of my brother’s best friends and some relatives also blessing the urn with holy water.  The columbarium slot was actually placed a bit higher up that it required a ladder to place the urn–I was supposed to perform this task but it was decided to have a maintenance man bring the ashes up to the slot instead and then close it up as I am notorious for my lack of physical coordination.

We then descended down to the reception where Jonathan’s former Shangri-La officemates hired a caterer to provide some sumptuous and delicious snacks.  It was nice to share and reminisce with old friends and new about my brother.  I mainly stayed with the Angelicum alumni though I also hobnobbed with Jonathan’s college classmates back in La Salle (I can recall back in college where I was invited to my brother’s freshman homeroom party–note that I was studying at the my brother’s main rival university then, but I was warmly welcomed by them then).  The reception went on for about two hours and we all went home with our fond memories of Jonathan.

Just like in my speech at the memorial, I am very grateful for all the prayers and support we received during this tragic time, and that I hope Jonathan’s friends, relatives and colleagues will continue praying and supporting us as I know we’ll have more trials ahead of us.

COMING UP:  MY MOTHER’S REFLECTIONS ON HIS PASSING

 

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