Friday, December 07, 2007

Tribute to Msgr. Jaime San Andres (The Great School Master)

"NiƱa, we always remember you in our prayers. Tomorrow we will offer mass for you. Be strong and pray and God will take care of the rest." (Msgr. Jim/May 31,2007)

Many knew him as Rt. Rev. Msgr. Jaime M. San Andres, NPS school director, the head of the premier Catholic school for boys in Caceres. I knew him like a father, a confidante, and a boss-exactly in that order.

Long before I first met him, his image was already painted in my mind. An icon of strong character with a very high regard when it comes to discipline. The first meeting was remote from what I expected. It was a witty bantering of words with the director known for being serious asking me about the meaning of my name which was according to him, "little girl".

During my first year in NPS, I lost my father due to cancer. It happened six days before Christmas and four days before his birthday. Msgr. did not only sympathize but made me understand the whole meaning of death. He constantly assured me, Papa was already free from sufferings and pain.

For him, discipline was such a big deal. I remember the time when he asked me how I define it. Without much qualms, I told him that being discipline means doing the right things even without the presence of others. After that, whenever we talked he would ask me about my views and suggestions on how to improve discipline of the students. I was inspired by his ways that I really made it a point to live up with his expectations by doing my best in implementing rules and regulations.

There was this moment also that I found myself crying with the "tough" director when I was beseeched with weariness due to pressures. Candidly, he showered me with advice saying that I didn't need to keep on looking for approval from everyone. He further said that being a leader means being ready to criticism since we would never please everybody. He told me to keep things in perspective and loosen up myself. I left his office feeling enlightened and encouraged.

The best moments were the intelligent discussions I had with him. He was a person who didn't make decisions easily. I learned by heart that whenever I would seek his approval in any project, I needed to rationalize my reasons. Opportunely, I never went out of his office disappointed.

I was blessed also to experience humbling moments with the director. There was a time that I was presenting to him a TV commercial which unfortunately, did not work in his computer. Msgr. without thinking twice went to my office (quite far from his office) to view the cd in my computer.

He listened countless times to my ideas and respected my ability to do things. I guess in one way or another he was instrumental in making me more confident with my job.

During competitions, Msgr. would constantly challenge us to bring home the bacon. He instilled to the students that Parochialites are good so it's only normal to reap achievements. Msgr. would then bless them for guidance during the contests. He was known to purge the best out of teachers and pupils. It was not a surprise really why Parochialites continue to reap awards in various competitions.

Three years ago, I accepted his challenge to bring home first place in the Regional Presscon. I never thought that it would be myself who would receive the honor. It was through him that I got inspiration to work hard for the attainment of my goal.

When I decided to file one year leave of absence because of some inevitable circumstances, I had difficulty requesting for his approval. He assured me that I would be given two whole months of rest without any hassle of work but I didn't need to leave for a year. Eventually, he agreed to grant my request but not until I submitted a letter promising to return after a year.

Msgr. Jim was one of those people who flooded me with prayers when almost seven months ago, I became seriously ill. An hour before my operation, he texted me though he had difficulty because of shaking hands (which was the effect of his heart surgery) giving me an assurance that despite of the malady that inflicted me everything would be fine and I just needed to have faith. He was right. After the surgery, I've never been healthier in my whole life.

The paradox of life is hard to grasp at times. My source of strength several months ago bid his final farewell last night. It was after a whole day of party that I received the message informing me of his death. I could almost taste the bitterness of what his death brings to his family and the whole NPS community- grief, tears, melancholic feelings.

Coincidently, papa died in the same month also during a party. Again, the tapestry of forlorn feelings was repeated. I lost a surrogate father, a friend, a confidante, and an intelligent mentor.

Regrettably, he would not be able to keep his promise anymore to celebrate my wedding. He told me once that when I find the right man, he would be the one to officiate the mass for me.

I could enumerate the wonderful memories I had with him but I don't think my lifetime would be enough to finish it. Now, as my heart mourn his death, I would just remember what he told me five years ago, "Death is the heaven's ticket of the life lived fully in bliss."

The familiar twinge of longing and emptiness is back after five years of losing Papa. I miss Msgr. and his ways of explaining things full of wisdom. For sure, the man considered as the institution of NPS would be a great loss to the whole NPS community.

Last night, while reading his text messages he sent me when I was sick, I couldn't help when a sigh of mourn escaped from my lips. Msgr. Jim would always be remembered by all of us...

To Our Dear Msgr. Jim:

Life has brought you many challenges 
many struggles and many hardships. 
The years left their marks as lines on your face 
and gray-hues colored your hair. 
Though the signs of life ebbed away,
your legacies would forever live in our hearts.
 We pray for you
a peaceful death, 
a death of days gone by. 
For you to slip away 
without pain 
and find a blissful rest in a different realm.
 Our dear Msgr. Jim, we will surely miss you this Christmas.

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Year 2007: The Chronicle

January 2- My sister, Dith, was stabbed in Ireland by a crazy man. She was in ICU for quite some time.

January 31- Three from my pupils qualified to compete in National Schools Press Conference in Baguio. One got 2nd place and two got third place.

- I was awarded also 1st Place as school paper adviser in the whole Bicol Region (with a teacher from Bicol University as 2nd place). There were about 400 school paper advisers who competed in the said category.

February 14- I spent Valentine’s Day with my three pupils in Legaspi City because they had training for the National competition. I gave them a treat in Jollibee after the training (What a sweet night!) Then they checked on some car toys in the mall (sweet indeed!).

February 19- Our 2nd day in Baguio. I woke up at around 2 a.m. with severe stomach pain. I could hardly stand.

February 21- My pupil won several awards in Radio Broadcasting Competition in Baguio City. That includes 1st place (Team Category/ Best in Radio Broadcasting/ English) and 2nd Place (Best in Infomercial/ Individual Category).

February 22- We went to several places in Baguio. I was in too much pain it was impossible to enjoy it.

February 23- My two pupils out of three won again all over the Philippines. Feature Writing and Photojournalism. We had snacks in SM Baguio to celebrate.

February 25- It's Family Day and our feat was announced to the whole NPS community which made my heart swell with pride and humility.

February 28- I went to the clinic because of stomach ache and dizziness. I was advised to see a doctor.

February 30- I went to an internist to have a check- up. First lab test- nothing's wrong.

February 31- We were given motorcade for our national awards. It was overwhelming to see my name all over the streamers in countless cars.

March 1- I had another check-up and several lab tests too. Except for my hemoglobin which was low, other tests seem okay.

March 2- Another check-up, another lab tests- nothing's wrong or the doctors were in the wrong track?

March 3- More lab tests but getting busy for the closing of the school year.

March 6- I decided not to go back anymore to the doctors- more of like getting tired with no clear results. Paper works were piling it was impossible to leave the office. My computer was attached with to-do-things.

March 7- 31- On and off fever and pain. Dizzy too. Paper works were killing me. Deliberation was going on and endless responsibilities- TV and radio commercial, promotional posters and leaflets, year-end school paper deadline, test papers and so many other things to prepare. My strength was completely robbed out.

- I went to Msgr. for the first time to ask permission to file a leave of absence. He didn't permit me.

- second time- still he didn't.

-third time he offered to give me the whole summer as my vacation without being assigned of anything. I didn't accept.

- fourth time- he called for me and told me he talked to the principal and he finally agreed to let me leave for a while on one condition- I need to sign something binding me to be back after a year.

March 28- We had dinner in Star Mark for the blow- out of one of the Most Outstanding Pupils. I asked the asst. principal, T. Alpe, why I was included to those who were invited for the dinner with the archbishop. She had this funny look on her face but did not explain to me. The CAE coordinator though told me that maybe because I worked so hard this school year.

March 29- We went to the wake of a friend's father. I sat beside T. Charie during snacks and she asked me if I have new dress for the grade six graduation. I said yes. In the car going back to Naga I was also asked by my coordinator if I have new dress and I said yes. She seemed happy. Something fishy was going on.

In the afternoon, I got my new dress but felt like the whole world crumbled upon me. I hated it. I was ready to tear it apart.

March 30- I was dead tired coz of so many paper works but compelled to make myself beautiful. Grade six graduation, so we all need to look beautiful despite of the swollen and black circles in our eyes. I was forced to use my dress last year!

-In the morning, I asked again the principal why I was invited in the dinner with the archbishop to think that it's supposed to be for coordinators and guests only. She's sort of hiding something and I could feel it.

-Something’s in the air I couldn't put into words what exactly. But I knew something funny was going on.

- Right after the awarding of honors for the pupils the CAE coordinator being the emcee was having sort of strange speech. Oh, my God! My name was called to be given special plaque of recognition for my achievements as school paper adviser. I couldn't move! Trece, a co-teacher accompanied me in going to the stage. The award was given by the Archbishop, and other heads of school. I knew it! It was a beautiful feeling. My efforts were finally recognized. A regret though because I wasn't able to deliver a speech since I was too astonished to think of one.

-Two of the awardees were an alumnus priest- Rev. Fr. Michael Dela Rosa and a successful alumnus- Mr. Gil Genio (One of the big names in Globe). I was the third one and no prepared speech at all!

- The dinner was spectacular and I was just simply enthralled with the surprise. They were all teasing me relentlessly. I was given a lift on the way home by T. Alpe, the asst. principal.

- In bed, though in pain again I slept in peaceful slumber.

March 31- Though tired the previous night, I woke up early for our Teachers' Intrams in Pasacao Beach Resort. I was thinking of giving a blow-out but never had time to prepare since I wasn't aware of the award. I just bought wine which was a gift last Christmas.

- We had so much fun and I won in several games. I was so fast in running that I couldn't imagine I was already terribly ill that time. I went boating too with some close friends much to the chagrin of oldies. They were so worried we were not permitted to go near the island I've been dying to reach. We also saw tourists in other private resorts, well it's indeed a beautiful place.

April- My sister and her daughter went back to Ireland.
- I didn't join the tour in Manila

- My mother had a stroke.

- I finally made the decision to stay in Batangas.

April 28- I bid farewell to my pupils in Journalism Class. That was our last day and my last day also in NPS. They gave me the best messages ever I've received in my whole life!

April 29- I broke the news to ma that I was leaving her. It was painful.

April 30- I travelled going to Batangas- for good. 

May 1- My bleeding started to get worst. My sister saw me for the first time after several years and told me I was dying because I looked so pale.

May 14- I could hardly stand. I woke up bathed with blood. The thick towel too was soaked with blood. I was in too much pain. I had my check-up in Mary Mediatrix, Lipa. I was scheduled for an ultrasound. The doctor said I might need blood transfusion.

May 15- I was alone in the room for ultrasound. Tears brimming on my face. I had bilateral ovarian tumors. As the doctor probed and poked the instrument my hope died that moment. I went out of the room devoid of emotions. I wanted to bury myself in agony. My sister, Dith, cried with my pain and promised unwavering support.

May 16- My brother told me to seek for another opinion in Manila.

May 17- I had a check-up with another doctor. I was scheduled for another ultrasound. I had the tumor-marker test the same day. They extracted 6 syringes of blood from me.

May 21- I had another ultrasound. Same results only that my condition was getting worst.

May 28- My birthday. I got my lab results. Normal CA 125 was 0-35 but I got 94.7-high. High probability of cancer. The internist checked on me. He was hesitant to give the CP Clearance for the surgery. At the end, agreements were made. I was requested to have CT Scan to check on the extent of the damage in my stomach.

We went to Glorrietta after the check-up to celebrate my birthday or to forget the bad news? I wasn't really sure. Everybody's laughing while we were watching the movie. I was silently crying. I felt like my life has no more hope.

May 29- I had CT scan. It was the most painful of all the lab tests. I was in too much pain I was in tears the whole time. Needle pricks were left and right. I was clutching so hard my rosary feeling like I was being robbed out of breath. I was in the room for about three hours.

May 30- I faxed the result to my doctor in Manila. I didn't understand any medical terms. We had lunch in Pizza hut. I ate plenty after several days of being in misery and besides the food was too expensive not to be enjoyed.

I went home earlier to rest and left Shayne and Dith in the mall for some groceries. The moment I arrived home, I kept on thinking back about the word carcinomatosis in the CT scan result. I immediately made research in the internet. It's widespread carcinoma in the body-or in short cancer. The phone rang and it was my doctor. She told me I was scheduled already the following day to be admitted in the hospital. I'll have surgery the soonest possible time.

That afternoon, my family and whole NPS family cried with me. They've comforted me in ways possible but it was just too much to handle. I could only cry and cry but it was impossible to feel better.

That night, my best friend Tin and T. Charie, our principal who's also a very good friend travelled to be with me. I wasn't able to sleep the whole night.

May 31- My sister, Angel, accompanied the driver in fetching Tin and T.Charie. The car was stoned and it has a damage. When it rains it really pours). Now, the problem was how to explain to my sister, Con, but Dith told me she'll do the explaining.

I was admitted in the hospital then received pricks and pricks and endless needle pricks. I've mastered how to receive it by clutching my hand tightly and closing my eyes then praying, "I believe in God..."

We couldn't find blood donor. We were forced to buy.

June 1- A mass was offered on my behalf in NPS chapel and other parts of the world through friends and family. Text messages flooded my cellphone. Calls too which made me cry and cry more.

My surgery was postponed. My doctor talked to me for a very long time giving me courage to face my dilemma. My blood transfusion also started. My sister, Baby, arrived from Subic (she attended seminar) and stayed the whole night in the hospital.

June 2- I woke up and couldn't breath. I was put in oxygen and received more and more needled pricks. I dreaded the time hospital attendants would enter because I knew they were about to do something painful to me! Potassium was the most painful IV of all. It made my arm swollen.

My sister, Nene, arrived from Bicol. She has with her some of the papers I needed.

I refused for my BP to be checked. My two arms were swollen and extremely painful. Besides, full of bandages, too, then the head nurse entered and I had no choice but to follow.

Afternoon was too much. I couldn't bear the thought of not being able to go out of the OR alive. I posted a prayer in my bed railing and prayed it incessantly.

My sisters were in agony too. I hated their looks when I was brought in OR at 2:30 p.m. I made them miserable.

I was put to sleep at around 2:45 p.m. I could hear myself singing mass hymns before finally drifting off to sleep.

I woke up around 7 p.m. (there was a radio outside of the recovery room so I knew) I cried bitter tears. I thought the operation was that short because they couldn’t touch anymore the tumors. I feel asleep again. Still too weak to fight it.

I woke up again at around 9 pm. On the way to my room. Everything's swirling. My sister, Nene, kept on telling me it wasn't a cancer. Or was I just hallucinating?

June 3- I woke up around 3 a.m. somebody opened the door of my room but nobody entered. I was too dizzy to stand and check. Then it opened and closed again. It happened for about three-four times. I tried to wake up my sister to check on it. She fell from the chair. Nobody was outside. I might be that dizzy but I knew the door opened and closed several times. Then nothingness again. I was still lightheaded.

I woke up at around 7:30. Still can't open my eyes for long. Fr. Jerry Orbos said in the TV. "You are blessed. Marami ka pang gagawin". (You will still do many things)

My sister finally explained that it wasn't a cancer and no organs were removed just like what they told us they would before the operation. The Oncologist and other doctors just cut through my intestines which were glued together to check on my other internal organs. Severely damage but curable. I won't need chemotherapy.

My blood transfusion continued then I had convulsion with very high fever. I was thrashing and writhing back and forth and it felt as if every cell of my body was on fire. Doctors and nurses were frantically trying to figure out what went wrong. More and more needle pricks again.

Good that when Shayne and Trisha (my nieces) arrived with my sister, Dith, my fever subsided. I had no food for about three days already and I only survived with different IV's attached to me. I was craving for good food badly!

My doctor cleaned my wound that night. It was gruesome. I felt repulsive looking at it. My doctor also showed my pictures during my operation. It was simply horrible and my stomach was stretched wide open by an instrument!

She told me I've never been luckier in my whole life.

June 6- No further complications so I was discharged from the hospital. My sisters, Dith and Con, and my brother, Nestor, paid quite a fortune for the hospital bills. Made my feelings more miserable.

Though I was in front of the car and it was reclined, I vomited the whole travel. I stopped the car at the middle of SLEX.

June 7- My agony in the company of medicines started. More than 20 medicines were my companion before and after meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I cried almost every day not fully understanding the reason why. I was grumpy and nobody could talk to me properly.

June 13- I had vaccination- anti-flu and anti-pneumonia. I had fever that night and despite of taking medicines that would put me into sleep, I was awake the whole night. Uncontrollably crying. There's an emptiness I couldn’t explain.

June 4- November- My dilemma continued. I was in constant pain. I was always in bed I already had bedsores. I also had rashes all over my legs and arms. I cried more- in silence. But I've started to gain weight. My appetite improved and slowly my body recovered.

December- My heart was in deep sadness brought by shining glimmering Christmas ornaments. Christmas carols brought tears to my eyes.

December 7- My mother and Shayne’s birthday party. I was busy the whole day.

December 8- Msgr. Jim, our school director died. He's very close to my heart.

December 12- I went to Bicol to attend Msgr.'s wake.

My co-teachers saw me for the first time after seven months. They hugged and kissed me and were just simply ecstatic to see me.

December 13- I gave eulogy for Msgr. in a very large crowd to the biggest church in Naga.

December 14- Msgr. Jim was buried in Holy Rosary Major Seminary.

December 15- I had lunch date with the parents of a former pupil. They gave me a gift.

-I also delivered speech for the bridal shower of a friend.

December 17- I went back to Batangas. A bit sick with sore throat and cough.

December 25- Happiest Christmas ever. -->

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