Sunday, October 26, 2008

Robuan's Funeral

Last week was a blur of days for me. The overnight travel and full agenda while in Naic made Monday through Thursday difficult to distinguish as separate days. But I will try to paint a picture of my experiences related to Robuan's funeral.

The entire experience began with getting on the Cable Tour bus Monday afternoon. (The first time I saw the office in town, I thought there was a suspended cable car in the mountains somewhere.) The bus was nice except for one detail which became a major drawback for the trip: the seats were too close together for my long legs. I could not sit with my legs in front of me like normal. I could move them sideways or lift them and put my knees on the back of the chair in front of me. As the 12 hour trip went into the night, sleep was elusive because of this. Fortunately, the person directly in front of me never tried to put their seat back. Most of the trip the chair next to me was empty so that helped a lot. When I arrived in Manila about 3 in the morning, my friends Greg and Jerry, from Valley Cathedral Children's Home, were waiting for me. About 2 hours later, I was resting in a bed at Valley.

Later that morning I visited with the Valley staff and those students who had not yet gone to school for the day. The kids were really disappointed that Lisa and the girls had not come as well.

We made plans to go to Kakabay to visit with Robuan's wife, Tess, and to hold a memorial service for the people of Kakabay and the teachers from Valley Cathedral Academy. Pastor Tang invited me to share the message that God had put on my heart from the time I had first been told of Robuan's death. So in the afternoon, we loaded up the generator and sound system and went to Kakabay.

We parked the vehicle outside of the garbage dump and carried the equipment through it into the village. Fortunately it was dry so the walk was not difficult.
In the covered area just outside of their doorway, Robuan was in a white casket. At either end of the casket was a candle stand. The open portion of the casket was covered with glass. On the inside of the lid were pinned ribbons with the names of their 12 children and a picture of Robuan cut from one of the snapshots from the album I had given the village when we visited last month.

Someone from Valley had printed a full-page print of a picture I had taken last year of Robuan, Tess, and their youngest son. When we arrived and gave Tess the picture, she began wailing. Although I could not understand what she said, it was clear that her emotions darted between grief and anger as she cried out. It was explained to me that she felt guilt because she had not taken good care of him.

Tess shared that Robuan had been looking at the photo album a week before and talked about his salvation. He even teased that he had proof of his decision and she did not.

After sitting a while with her, I joined the others as they set up the sound equipment for the service. Pastor Tang spoke a few words (in Tagalog) and then introduced me. I reminded them of the day they saw Robuan proclaim his decision to follow Christ by being baptized in the river. I talked about how I was sure he was in heaven, no longer restricted because of the stroke he had.

After the service, we headed back to Valley where I was able to visit with the kids more. I love being able to enjoy the love and affection these kids so readily share. It is especially amazing when I consider the horrific things so many of them have gone through.

Wednesday, we headed back to Kakabay for the actual funeral service. I was asked to speak again. Pastor Francis translated for me and performed the graveside rites. After I spoke, several eulogized, again in Tagalog. It was easy to see the grief that they felt. After the closing prayer, the somber, quiet tone changed. People went back to where the casket still sat. There they began wailing. I have never experienced such a show of emotions. Men, women, and children were all crying, sobbing really, and wailing. It was really loud! There were even a couple of gunshots fired. One man was so overcome with emotion that had to be helped as he staggered from the room.
Pastor Francis commented that this was a cultural lesson from "Filipino Missionary 101". It certainly was not something I have seen before nor was it something I was expecting from this culture.

As soon as this began to calm down, the casket was taken out to a truck that had been brought all of the way to the village. We all then walked about an hour and a half to the cemetery. When we reached the road, the casket was moved to a hearse.
The cemetery is much different than the manicured lawns and rows of marble headstones of the midwest. There were crypts of various levels of craftsmanship. Some were covered with marble or tile and inside barred enclosures. Others were simple cinder block enclosures with a name painted on the end. They were placed close together, even on top of each other. I had to overcome my own cultural hang-ups and walk on several crypts in order to get to the grave. Rather than manicured grass, I was warned of broken glass underfoot.
Prior to committing him to burial, a graveside ceremony was performed. For the most part it looked much like what I was familiar with at home. There was one thing, however, that I had to ask about later and saddened me that it was part of a Christian funeral. At one point, the small children, perhaps Robuan's grandchildren (?), were handed over the top of the casket. While holding the child, the second man would turn his back on the casket for a moment, then turn and return the child to the first man. When I asked about this later, I was told it had to do with preventing the untimely death of the children.
Then it was back to Valley for a few good-byes. (I was sad that my little buddy, Jason, was sick when I went to say good-bye.) I did not have a lot of time before we needed to travel to Manila to catch my 8:30 pm return bus. Fortunately for me, there was more room between the rows of seats so I was able get some sleep before arriving back in Bontoc Thursday morning around 9 am.
It was a long trip. At times I was feeling very sick. But I pray that in some way I was able to be an encouragement to the people of Kakabay during their time of grief.

1 comment:

  1. "Tess shared that Robuan had been looking at the photo album a week before and talked about his salvation."

    Oh, Tom, what a wonderful reunion awaits you & Robuan in Heaven! I feel so privileged to have witnessed your obedience in introducing Him to Jesus . . .