Sunday, March 07, 2004

Five-Star Grandpa

(In memory of Col. Antonio L. Edralin PC (GSC) (Ret./Dec'D) [1/17/1920 - 3/3/2004], who was called to return to his Creator's embrace in heaven last March 3, 2004. He was 84. He is survived by his wife, Purita R. Edralin, and his loving family. He was interred with full military honors last March 7, 2004 at the Manila Memorial Park, Parañaque City. I wrote this eulogy which I read a few hours before his burial.)

Whenever I come from class at the UPCM, I have to walk through a stretch of the Philippine General Hospital. Rich in history, full of valor, and overflowing in love, the public service hospital which has become known to me in the past year as my new school can approximate, more or less, the way I know my grandfather. This I choose to be my analogy because I fondly remember how my Lolo would say that he used to walk from San Andres in Manila to the PGH whenever he had a small injury. Still, above all reasons as to why I prefer the comparison is because Lolo wanted me to become a doctor.

Antonio L. Edralin was born on 17 January 1920 to Mrs. Eustakia Lloren Edralin and Mr. Numeriano Edralin. He entered the world North of Manila, specifically at Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. Numeriano Edralin happened to be the first cousin of Doña Sepa Marcos, which made Ferdinand Edralin Marcos my Lolo’s second cousin. Lolo Tony had seven siblings with him, all of whom fondly called him Manong Tony. I remember his tales two Christmases ago when we visited Auntie Eta in Badoc, those tales about the Sta. Monica Church in Sarrat. He told me that in his childhood, he would play around the secret passageways and tunnels under the church structure, leading to the Carrayan River.

He attended Law School at the very same campus that I am now studying medicine in – and that is, UP Padre Faura (Manila). If ever he could still vote, Lolo would have opted for FPJ not because he is an FPJ fan, but because Fernando Poe Sr. was his contemporary at UP Manila at the time. Even Ruby Kelly was with them, and she was an American student who together with Fernando Poe Sr. was a campus figure. Both of them were cadets of the UP Vanguard. It was also at the State University where Antonio Edralin met Purita Rivera, a young lass taking Education who at the time got through college on the merits of her talents, with the smallest of finances. They definitely had good chemistry going on, because they were classmates in the said subject.

Lolo had preliminary military training during the summer of 1940, when he was twenty years old. Little did he know that the year later, World War II would break out fully at the Pacific Theater, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A week later, Lieutenant Antonio Edralin was called to active duty and sent to war, BUT only after he married my Lola on December 14, 1941. A Hollywood classic worthy of a Ben Affleck casting, you would say. But this happened on the other side of the globe, in Manila, where the family of Lt. and Mrs. Edralin was born.

Agnes Edralin Baduria, the first child among six, was born on September 16 of the year after. Lolo told me how Auntie Agnes, as a child, would be dragged along while Lola was running through jungles in the mountains, trying to evade the Japanese who were invading our country at the time. Lolo also told me how he was held and kept from moving with his troops when, instead of going with the rest of the family, Conching Edralin, one of his two sisters, would refuse to let go of his military officer brother even as everyone else was already boarding the trucks that would evacuate them to safety.

Lola Puring also told me how, even as a young officer, Lolo was already bathed by fire – firepower, that is, when Japanese troops overran his post at Mauban, Quezon, leaving no more than two survivors alive – my Lolo and one of his troops. That became known as the Battle of Mauban, and it was even published in The Philippines Herald by the famous writer Yay Panlilio. They fought, and they fought gallantly. But they were simply outnumbered, and as my Lolo would say – the machine guns were already overheated causing them to jam, and ammunition was running out. Mortars were also falling everywhere. If ever Lieutenant Edralin did not make it through that ordeal, I would not be here to deliver this eulogy today, because the second child of the Edralin Family, Christina Edralin Domingo – my mother – would not be born until 1946 when the Americans liberated the Philippines from Japanese rule. Christina availed of the GI Bill of Rights privileges for her five-year course at UP Diliman; this was part of Lolo’s benefits as a good military servant.

In 1947 Lola Purita gave birth to their third child, Antonio R. Edralin Jr., the first of the three boys in the family. Sadly though, Antonio Jr. succumbed to illness, and passed away while still an infant. I am sure that the two Antonios are now together in that place they call paradise, catching up on each other on the years that they were apart.

David R. Edralin, the second son, was born two years later in 1949. By this time Lolo was already waiting for his next promotion, which came on 28 May 1950 when he was appointed to the rank of 1st Lieutenant of the Philippine Army’s regular force. His recognition as a gentleman and officer of the Philippine Army did not stop there, for later on promoted Captain Edralin was sent to Fort Lee, Virginia in the United States as a Philippine Government Scholar, a distinction that he earned by acing the logistics course in Camp Crame.

Danny R. Edralin, the third son, followed in 1951. According to family account he is the one who looks most like my Lolo, inheriting his sharply-featured nose and all. Uncle Danny was studying to be a pilot, having been groomed by the Philippine Airlines to be one of five graduates to be trained to handle the new jets.

Carminia Edralin Davidsohn, M.D. was then born in the year 1961. Having been trained also at the UP College of Medicine, and having flown to the United States for her higher medical studies, Dr. Minnie is largely responsible for the medical care of both Lolo and Lola. In fact, Lolo’s all-star team of physicians in his last few days were mostly classmates of Auntie Minnie, and the non-classmates were fellow alumni of the UPCM. We are forever grateful for their love of our grandfather, whom they examined and treated as their own Lolo.

While Lolo was watching a movie about airplanes in 1972, wherein Steve McQuin was an actor, Pilot Danny Edralin had problems navigating his training flight in a zero visibility exercise. He did not survive when his plane went down. When Ferdinand Edralin Marcos declared martial law on that same year, now Colonel Antonio Edralin contemplated on retirement. He may have been a member of the Philippine Constabulary where he served as provincial and assistant zone commanders, but he did not participate in the alleged abuses of the PC, because by the first of January, 1973, he was already retired.

The American Dream beckoned to the aging Edralin couple in 1985. From then on, whenever they would come home to the Philippines for a visit, Lolo and Lola would never forget to bring home pasalubong of all sorts for their children and grandchildren. We would all be lined up as they cut open the strings around the maletas and balikbayan boxes that Lolo packed so meticulously before they left for the airport.

Lolo had a passion for watches. He was in fact questioned once at the customs section of the airport as to why he had twelve metal watches packed in his bag. How did he answer the examiner? Simple – he said “Para sa mga apo ko ito.

His last years were spent here at home in Parañaque playing his favorite game – Lotto. That was why my parents named our Lotto franchise at BF Homes Phase I “Lolo’s Lotto”, because the game was his passion. He would also regularly patrol his new base, the village wherein three houses of three generations of his offspring were – from the two houses of children Agnes and Christie to that of grandchild Juffru with first great grandchild Michelin. He would never go to sleep until he found out that everyone was home safe. And his other pre-occupation was that of waiting for the water to come in as scheduled.

Now, Antonio Edralin lies in front of us, having completed a very fruitful life here on earth. And as I said when I began, I think of him as rich in history, full of valor, and overflowing in love. If asked again though as to how I REALLY know him – I would simply reply, “He is my five-star grandpa; He is MY Lolo.