Lolo Aldo lives in his house near the fishponds he owns, which now belongs to Tiyo Jessie, his son, who lives with him, watches over him while he lies down on bed every day. When we reached their humble house on that afternoon, Tiyo Jessie was having an early drinking matchup with a friend. Was it lambanog? I am not sure. There was a dog tied on a post outside the house, which we made sure to avoid. The animal was quiet, but Tiyo Jessie said it has bitten several already.
There as a bunch of us, most from Calamba—Lea’s family and Tita Joy. Everyone went to see Lolo Aldo but not everyone stayed long inside his room. I stayed because Lolo Aldo was a fellow Pangasinense, and Lea’s mom thought it would be nice for the old man to speak with someone who spoke his mother tongue again. I understand why they didn’t stay. His room was filled with urine stench—that stench which says, “I am losing control. And there is nothing I can do about it.” The opened windows, somehow, lessen the smell.
Since the old man can no longer talk audibly, I had to come near him. “Taga iner kayod Pangasinan? (From where are you in Pangasinan?)” I asked him. “Maasin” he said, referring to one of the barangays of Mangaldan—a once railroad barangay, something I find interesting because he also, now, lives in a railroad barangay here in Lopez.
We talked a lot about many things but two things struck me. Lea’s mom asked him what food he wants to eat. He doesn’t seem to care. What goes in his mouth doesn’t seem to matter anymore. He has reached the point where the taste of food is irrelevant. He is in his 90s. His daughter would later say to us that he can’t eat much solid food. Soup on rice is usually enough. When asked what food he wants, he didn’t answer. He stayed silent for a while. And then he uttered the words I will never forget. “It’s near. The end is near for me. But thank you so much for remembering me. For visiting.” He then said he was tired and wanted to lie down. We helped him get back to his pillow and we all left the room.
Three months later, I heard that people visited Lolo Aldo once more. He was no longer in his room. And the stench of urine was no longer in the air.