"Ang gago mo talaga."
"Sira ulo ka talaga."
And with these expressions partnered with that hearty laugh, she made her mark in our lives.
That was her name. Short. Sweet. But a name that definitely packs a punch. I should know. I've been a victim of those punches from her. They hurt. But not as painful as what she went through. Not even a bit painful of what she felt in her last battle.
But with those punches came a certain sweetness. A genuine care. She wanted you to know how tough she was, but she also wanted you to know that she only inflicts this kind of pain to people she loved.
We fondly called her "Rambo" because of her husky voice and masculine demeanor. She was "angas" even before that word was coined. She didn't back down from anything. She was tough. One of the strongest people I know. And like John Rambo, she fought till the very end. She didn't pull any punches. She went down fighting. Because that's who she was and because that was how she was brought up.
And she was one of the most generous people I know. She always welcomed us into their home. Always asked us what we wanted her to cook for dinner. Always offering that last bottle of wine from their cooler. Always giving. Rarely taking.
She was the type of friend that if she considered you her friend, she would do anything for you. She would fight anyone for you. Whether you're right or wrong (but expect constant scoldings when you're wrong). She lived up to the true meaning of friend. That was Cla.
She didn't only fight for herself too. She fought for us. Her friends, her relatives but most especially for her husband and son.
"Dinj, am I selfish?" she asked, when she called me one time.
I would often get these calls from her during her battle.
"Am I selfish for giving up? For not wanting treatment anymore?" she continued, also thinking about the two boys she might be leaving behind.
She hated the hospital. Eversince. And she didn't want to go back anymore. She had a scary and dangerous episode during her first chemo session and she was afraid something similar would happen again. She dreaded the thought of doctors being called into her room. She was very afraid.
But was she thinking of herself? No. She was more concerned about our reaction to her sort of giving up. She did not want to disappoint her loved ones. She did not want those who truly cared for her to think that they wasted all their time and effort praying for her and taking care of her only for her to tell them she couldn't take it anymore. But she was tired already. She was drained.
I do not want to remember her lying down, lifeless, on her last resting place. I want to remember her smiling. Intently listening to everything I was saying while I was telling her about the latest chismis in our batch. Slapping my arm when I say something offensive. Leaning her head back and with her eyes closed as she laughs whole-heartedly at my joke. When she laughed, Cla laughed. She also never held back. This is probably what I will miss most about her. Her genuine laughter.
And that husband of hers. Wow. I could never truly imagine someone so in love with another human being than when I saw how Otet took care of Clarice. He was by her side literally and figuratively. I salute this man for making the last few months of Clarice full of love and affection and as easy and painless as possible. She was his queen. And did he shower her with love and care only reserved for royalty. Otet, I salute you. You were a good partner. You, Raj, Cris, Gelene and everyone always by Cla's side. You guys are one hell of a troop. I'd take you guys in any war.
37 short years, you say? Not at all. She lived life to the fullest. I'm sure she'd take 37 full years than 70 years of loneliness and emptiness. She touched a lot of people. She opened her heart to many. For me, that was still a full life. That was how many years God gave her and she did okay. She did better than okay. She did it.
Thank you, Cla.
For all the laughter, the food, the tears, the hugs, the wines, the smiles, the scoldings, the reminders, the love, the beers, the stories, the advices, the gifts and for your time spent with us.
This one will definitely sting for a long time but that was how Clarice was. She wanted us to feel something. To care. To love. And boy did she care and did she love.
Rest in peace, our friend. We will miss you deeply.
Clarice Averille Mia-Dumlao
October 19, 1978 - May 28, 2016