Tito Roy Buñag passed away on March 27, 2010.
I take a few moments to honor my tito with a few stories. Memories of my Tito Roy and what I learned from him.
A gift of music
Tito Roy was a presence in my family life at the early memories of my childhood. Memories of family gatherings are filled with images of Tito Roy’s laughter.
Among the very first lessons I learned from Tito Roy was a love for music. Tito Roy was a very good pianist, and the first pianist I met who played “wido” – playing by ear, self-taught. We had a 60-yearold piano at our ancestral home in Lingayen Pangasinan. With Tito Roy’s tender and joyful caress of the piano keys, beautiful music would chime out from this piano. And I, as a little boy of 6 years old, would watch Tito Roy, mesmerized with where all this beautiful music was coming from.
I remember how Tito Roy taught me and my kuya Eric how to play Chopsticks. Gently, patiently, he taught me the rhythm and melody of Chopsticks that all first-time pianists would play. Once I had learned the first sequence, I would play my melody while he played the accompaniment that completed a lovely duet.
He later on taught me how to play one of his original compositions, “Roy’s Blues”. In contrast to the song’s title, it is actually a very joyful, playful tune, a real pleasure to play. I even taught the song to my elementary friends, some of whom brought the tune to a high school play. That was your song, Tito Roy!
Until this day, I still play tunes I learned from Tito Roy. I play Chopsticks, sometimes with my mom, sometimes with another younger pianist. It is my turn to teach a younger musician the beauty and joy of music. I’ve progressed now to playing the piano wido-style – just like Tito Roy did – listening to music or even just recalling a tune and starting to play the tune with the piano.
For this gift of music, I thank and honor you Tito Roy.
For joy, laughter and family
In our family gatherings in Lingayen, Baguio or Las Piñas, there would be three of us families – My father’s and his two sisters’ families: Sorianos, Buñags and Usshers, three sets of parents and a brood of 9 cousins (and today, a brood of 9 apos). In these gatherings, we’d always play games and sing songs, sometimes a little children’s program or a magic show. Tito Roy was always one to start up the games. Tito Roy brought in the laughter and cheer to our family gatherings with games and songs like “Lu lula lu, lula lula lula lu!” and that siopao song. Fun times!
For the fun times in our family gatherings, I thank and honor you Tito Roy!
A loving presence
In circa 2006, I was going through a lot of challenges in my life. Tito Roy and Tita Helen had a dinner date one evening, just the three of us. That evening, I shared with them the journey I had been treading for the past many years. They were there to listen to me and understand with their hearts and minds what I was going through. Both Tito and Tita were deeply affected by what I was sharing. They were with me in my sorrow and pain. And through our entire 3-hour conversation, I felt their love and reassurance.
They were with me in the hope and the joy of what was yet to come in my life. They were with me in the full trust in our Lord that all these are all in God’s plan. They were with me in prayer that everything was going to be okay.
For your empathy, reassuring words and loving presence in my life, I thank and honor you Tito Roy and Tita Helen!
For your gift of love
When I heard of Tito Roy’s health condition more than a month ago, I was deeply disturbed. At the same time, I was somehow very trusting as well of God’s plans for Tito Roy. Tito Roy had a very strong faith in the Lord. He has always a worker in God’s vineyard ever since I could remember. And I somehow knew that Tito Roy had the best health and life insurance anyone can get. This was already provided by the vineyard owner, our one God, whom Tito Roy had served with his life. I had the opportunity to spend time with Tito Roy when he was undergoing some physical healing at the hospital. The very first night I visited him, I walked down the hospital corridor looking for Tito Roy’s room. From 15 meters away, I saw a group of more than 20 people and I knew this group was there for Tito Roy.
When I saw Tito Roy he couldn’t speak because of the medical equipment strapped to him, including a respirator. It wasn’t easy seeing Tito like this, but I managed a joyful smile. This was, afterall, a sweet reunion with Tito Roy. I gave him a warm embrace and started talking to him, sharing some of my sunshine and joy. He looked at me deeply. At first, I wasn’t sure if he recognized me. Then he responded by scribbling on a small white board: “I am very happy to see you!” I am very happy to see you too, Tito Roy.
Through the few days and nights I spent with Tito Roy, Tita Helen, my cousins and their many friends at the hospital, I taught them a few tricks on how Tito Roy can continue to communicate more easily despite the physical challenges. Gradually, they learned to understand each other more deeply through hand gestures and by asking intelligent yes-no questions – some lessons I learned from charades and pinoy henyo. :-)
I’m also glad that many of Tito Roy’s friends had a chance to take home some of the maaaannnyyy loving messages that Tito Roy wrote for his many visitors. Funny that in his most physically limiting situation, Tito Roy was at his most “talkative” state. All out of love.
In the last days of his life, Tito Roy had found even more ways to express his love, through his scribbled notes, his belabored voice, through his loving embrace, through the warm squeeze of his hands and through his loving and expressive eyes.
In the last evening that I saw Tito Roy, he spoke to me and asked me to massage his feet. His legs had swelled from the fluid that had been building up in his body. I began pressing my fingers on one foot, steadily watching Tito’s eyes and face to see if he was feeling some relief. With my tender touch at the soles of his feet, I knew he was feeling better. This was one foot massage that I put so much love into.
these strong fingers that massage your feet now
were, once upon a time,
small and fragile fingers
that you held in your gentle hands
when you taught me how to play the piano
when I was six years old.
As I put in my love into this massage for my Tito, we both gazed into each others eyes. And, without words, we shared a moment of deep expression of love.
For all the love that you showered to your family, to our family, us pamangkins and apos,
For all the love that you showered to your Focolare family,
For all the love that you shared to all the people that you touched with your life and faith,
For your life that was truly a gift to our God,
I thank you, love you and honor you, Tito Roy!