Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Words of remembrance by Lakambini A. Sitoy

Spoken at the memorial service for Leilani A. Sitoy Nodado, November 29, 2007 at Silliman Church, Dumaguete City, 3 pm

April 19, 1966 - November 18, 2007
Dead at 41 of breast cancer, diagnosed in September, 2004 at Stage IIIB

I never knew life without my sister.

She was a constant presence as I discovered the world, ventured out into the garden of the small university faculty house near what is now Coco Grande Hotel where we lived, made friends with the pet cat and forayed into the homes of our neighbors. She was the initiator and mischief maker, and I was the clown.

When we were about 4 and 7 we began to make up stories, extending the worlds of our books and the few movies we then had seen, until we were the owners and creators of a complex and secret realm that we nurtured from those years until we were about 15 and 18 when her focus shifted to activities in school and with her friends.

She shaped the person who I am right now. My perceptions and expectations of life were channeled through her perceptions and expectations. We were like two trees emerging from a single substrate, molded and shaped by each other’s growth, never alike but always understanding one another.

She was the foremost influence in my life as a teen-age apprentice writer. She was influenced by ideas of feminine beauty and behavior, and lent another angle to my view of men. I was the feminine but coolly critical sister; she was the wild but hopelessly romantic one, who longed for a tough, streetwise lover The song “Old and Wise,” by the Alan Parson Project, is a song she requested, at age 17, to be played at her funeral. It is addressed, I think, to each one of us who were her friends, but also to that special someone, that soulmate that every woman, I think, longs for and which she hoped it would be her fortune to meet some day.

But from early adolescence, she only longed for a peaceful, stable, conventional and happy family life – the loving husband, the beautiful kids, the nice suburbia house, and the dog.

One of the most striking traits of my sister was her capacity to keep each component of her life – each barkada, you might say – hermetically sealed from the others, so that those who made her acquaintance knew only a component of the greater picture. I’m sure there are many of us here who are pleasantly surprised by the diversity contained within her single life. I’m glad so many of those who knew her and loved her are gathered here – each contributing to our picture of her.

One thing is consistent in that picture though – she was a selfless giver, a sharer, and a sacrificer, never seeking the limelight, who thought of the comfort and enjoyment and feelings of others before her own.

In a manner so typical of Lani’s doing things, she made provisions for her family. Her investments with AXALife and her insurance with Sun Life, and her two Metrobank Kiddie Saver accounts were for her children. For her husband, she bought a motorcycle and a car which she had registered in his name. She planned activities, outings and vacations in resorts in Laguna and Bulacan for her family. The specific question she usually asked the children after each outing or activity was: “Are you happy?” Because to her, the most important thing is to make them happy.

To make appropriate plans for her family, Lani did several specific things for them, as follows:

First, early in her service with her former place of work, the Solidbank Corporation, and this even before she had children, even before she got married, Lani took advantage of a Solidbank program to provide housing for its employees. Lani bought from the bank a house and lot at the bank’s housing project in Santa Rosa, Laguna.

Second, many years later, in fact, during this present year when it became clear that the family would not be staying in Santa Rosa, Lani decided to sell the house and lot, half of which she deposited with AXALife for a time deposit for Bea and Fia’s future schooling, the other half being spent for a car which will facilitate her going on a wheelchair first to work and then to the hospital, and for her immediate medications. Lani also started two other deposits to be “held in trust” for Bea and Fia, also for future needs. (NB: This money was subsequently claimed by her husband some weeks after the funeral.)

Third, in the last days of her illness, Lani specifically entrusted to her father and mother Bea and Fia, with a specific request that they live in the Sitoy family home in Banilad, and that they study in Dumaguete, so that they could experience the very same experiences of growing up and schooling, and acquire the same life-giving values, as she and her sister Bing had had. “Mama,” said Lani, “please take care of Bea and Fia.” Specifically, she wanted her children to study and grow up in Silliman University.

Fourth, to insure that Bea and Fia would know of this her decision, Lani asked that Bing video tape her declaration of this request, so that Bea and Fia, and all others, may be able to hear from her own lips and see her as she did it – this wish for her dearest children.

Lani has gone on, back to our Creator, but her legacy will live in our memories and in our hearts.

NB: "Old and Wise" by The Alan Parsons Project was played as per Lani's request to me way back in 198 -- "play it at my funeral." Our cousin She-She Sitoy provided vocals. Elmer Caguindangan on the Hammond organ.

Words from our father T. Valentino Sitoy Jr.'s eulogy:

Years ago, Lani had occasion to express her views of loving and caring when she said: “If you love someone honestly, truly, and sincerely, and your love is not reciprocated in return, it is not you the true lover who loses, but the one who will never know how it is to be loved honestly, truly, and sincerely by you.”

All her life, Lani loved honestly, truly and sincerely.

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