Wednesday, September 9, 2009

THE DECENT GOODBYE ] Carlo Tadiar on how to write a eulogy. Or why bother

9-0Bea Camacho, Portrait Series, 2007, Artist Book. Photo from Magnet Galleries

The all time worst eulogy I have had the misfortune to endure was Kit Tatad’s for Larry Cruz. What made it egregious was not its excruciating length (Claude Tayag had to cut his charming eulogy short for Mr. Tatad), banalit√© of thought and expression, and the pompous dirge of its delivery, but the fact that it had nothing to do with the deceased. It was an exegesis on the movie Babette’s Feast. A crappy exegesis.

Hoping to make Mr. Tatad come to a stop (as well as to pass the time), I texted my pew-mate Alya Honasan, who was sincerely bereaved by the death of Mr. Cruz, if she knew the eulogist’s number. She texted back: “1-800-BORE”. And yet still more about Babette and her feast. On and on and on.

As soon as the eulogies came to an end, I jolted out of my pew for a cigarette. Who should walk out from the other end of the chapel but the bore himself. I felt like I ought to go up to him to tell him that that was the crappiest eulogy I’d ever heard in my entire life. But I thought the better of it and had a cigarette nalang. I’m told he wields powers over fire and brimstone.

One of the best eulogies I’ve read is by Teddy Boy Locsin for the recently departed and much beloved Corazon Aquino. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch its delivery as I was engaged in one of the countless quotidian senselessnesses I must endure para buhayin ang sarili ko, those things that fritter away at life so that you might make a livelihood.

Mr. Locsin enunciates his love for his President and describes how she had changed him. Of all her advisers, Mr. Locsin says, he likes to think of himself as “the one who loved her most.” And the desire for vengeance on the few so many suffered under went away even as her victory put him in a position to seek it.

“It never again occurred to me that I had scores to settle,” he remembers. “And not until today, that I had passed up every chance to get even…

“I certainly never noticed that I had left my anger behind. I don’t know how it happened. Except that Cory Aquino ennobled everyone who came near her.”

As a conscientious speaker, Mr. Locsin is reflexive. Tragedy is so easy to exploit.

If you saw me as I felt myself to be, anyone would fall in love with me.
I saw myself in that hospital room, a knight at the bedside of his dying sovereign,
on the eve of a new Crusade, oblivious to the weight of the armor on his shoulders
for the weight of the grief in his heart.

'Nothing can be said. This is especially true of violent, sudden, senseless deaths.'


I always cry at funerals. I will not shed a tear at a wake, but once final rites are underway, I cannot stop the tears. It embarrasses me. In part, it is the rapacious finality of death, its terrifying material sunder, that grieves me so. But it is in greater part the commonality of humanity so often quoted from the articulation of John Donne that makes me weep. The verses have been so often quoted that I cannot bring myself to even point to them.

“Grief too sad for song.” Who was it that coined that verse and in which poem? There is an aspect of death which cannot be addressed in any kind of notes. Nothing can be said. This is especially true of violent, sudden, senseless deaths. I live in terror of those words, of pain which cannot be assuaged by any human intervention. Only madness follows.

WH Auden wrote:

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


Even that death, cataclysmic as it was for the author, had the grace to be put into song. They used it (the song, the poem) in a movie.

The one who grapples with words in the face of death grapples with the difference between truth and art. Which is which, what is what? If I had the answers I would charge you for it.


Written exclusively for TheSwankStyle.com. Carlo Tadiar is the editor of Metro Home & Entertaining.

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