Saving the Best For Last

December of 2006 when my wife's relatives from Australia came to the Philippines to spend their Christmas holiday. We were ecstatic in our preparation to delight these balikbayan relatives at the very least, letting them experience once again how is to be Christmas in the Philippines. We decided to have our dinner in a sea food restaurant along Macapagal Boulevard, known for its festive ambiance come night time. At the dinner, I remained timid as always though bit observant of almost everything that is going on around the dinner table. As everybody is having their meal, I noticed my sister in-law painstakingly peeling of the shells of a large size sugpo (shrimp), and carefully set it aside her plate. When the dinner was about to end and it was time to foot the bill, my son saw the peeled off shrimp near her aunt's plate. Thinking that her aunt no longer wanted to eat those, he tweaked it from his aunt's plate and PRESTO! It was all gone in seconds. My sister-in law was so furious and berated her nephew by saying, "di mo ba alam itinitira ko yun para sa huling subo? (Don't you know I reserved it for my last bite?). Everybody was laughing at my sister-in law for how the best that she had saved ended as the last bite of my son.
The Test of Life
It was also that same year when we experienced life's most difficult test. I left my lucrative job in the semiconductor industry because of personal differences with my boss and settled for another job that pays relatively lesser than what I used to receive. With the kind of lifestyle, we found ourselves in the difficult situation of transition. Gone were the days of family's usual weekend get-away outside Manila. The countless Friday dinner dates with my wife and the Sunday treats for the entire family were all vanished in an instant, together with my pride and self-esteem.
My new job as a Manager in a fashion retail company demands time more than what I can give to myself and family. My health succumbed to the pressure of stressful work and so as the intimacy in the family. After consulting my wife, I decided to leave the company and settled for small business at home. The business though profitable didn't provide enough for the family's needs and we were facing then the toughest question; can we still afford our children's high cost of education? That time, I was considering to downgrade my children's school; - from private to public, an option that my wife doesn't agreed. With no other options left but abroad, for me is a bitter pill to swallow.
Gone for abroad
August of 2007, I packed my things for abroad armed with hope of giving better future for my family. There I left my wife, a son and three daughters. While I was toiling away in a foreign soil, I managed to exchange communications with my family and she makes sure to update me every time even the smallest and trivial things that are happening back home. Our life improves a bit and we were slowly picking up fragments of our broken dreams. "This is the kind of break I need", I quipped.
The Tragedy
A month before Christmas, I was busy filling up and checking the list of my pasalubong inside the balik-bayan box and making sure that everything is complete and that nobody will be missed out. Canned goods, chocolates, toys, shoes, perfumes and clothes were all perfectly selected based on my kid's preference. While packing the boxes, I remember my daughter's constant prodding, "Daddy, kailan mo papadala yung yung gift mo sa akin?" (Daddy when will you send your gift for me?) "Malapit na, basta bago mag Pasko" (In due time, I will send it before Christmas) was my reply. "This time I'm sure they all going to' like it because these are nothing but the best" I remember telling myself.
Days had past and Christmas is just around the corner and it was Sunday, just a typical working day for me in the office. It's almost past 12 noon and still never received any text messages from my wife or my children. Though quite unusual but I thought they are just busy. I sent a text message to my wife to check if everything is okay but still haven't got a reply from her. That Sunday proved to be the most difficult test of my life. I received news that my wife and three daughters ages 2, 7 and 12 got involved in a vehicular accident while inside a jeepney on their way to the church. The vehicle they were riding was rammed by a wayward truck while it is crossing the intersection of San Andres Street and Osmena highway. My two younger daughters were slightly injured for they were cushioned by the bodies of other passengers that filed on top of them.
My eldest daughter was thrown out of the vehicle because of the impact of the collision and escaped death only by a hairline; thank God that there were no oncoming vehicles to the spot where she landed. The young lady sitting beside her was badly hurt and her leg was later amputated due to the severity of the injury. The old lady; a 'balikbayan' (returnee) sitting next to my wife didn't have the luck; she died on her way to the hospital. My wife who happens to be sitting in the last row near the vehicle egress absorbed most of the injury that could have been for my children. After having been thrown outside the jeep, though conscious but her vision was too blurred caused by the impact of her head hitting the pavement. With her remaining strength, she struggled to reach for my daughter who was crying in pain while being lifted by a bystander to safety. She cried for help from other bystanders to remove my two younger daughters still pinned inside the jeep with files of bleeding and unconscious passengers.
Saving the Best for Last
When that news was relayed to me, I was in the office and I couldn't remember if I cried. All I know is that I was dumb-founded, motion less and I don't even know how I would react. At that instance, I realized that everything I saved, the people I cared about and good future that I hope for can render futile in just an instant. When I came back to my room that Sunday evening, I saw the balikbayan (returnee) boxes sitting in one corner of the room. I opened the boxes and saw how the stuffs were carefully and neatly arranged inside but almost could be rendered nearly worthless by that accident.
Learning Curve
That accident had opened my eyes on the deeper understanding of life. My desire to achieve the best of everything out of this world defines the kind of life that most of us is creating in the process, hence neglecting the very purpose of our life. We often enslaved ourselves to work limiting our role as a parent to just a provider. How often we failed to visit our mother on her birthday because we are busy with our work? How many times did I forget to greet my wife on our wedding anniversary because I was preoccupied by my thoughts of work? Life is short and we have to make the most out of it every single day. The love that we keep inside should be expressed for no one knows what will happen tomorrow.