‘We were holding hands when he crossed over’By June Keithley-Castro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
(Editor’s Note: Angelo Castro Jr. died on Maundy Thursday, April 5. He will be interred Wednesday after a 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Peter Parish on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.)
Angelo would always say “don’t explain.” It wasn’t just because as media and PR he knew how the spin would play out, but because he really didn’t care. Everyone had his own agenda anyway.
But of course, this earnest Anne had great difficulty with that. I always felt that there was better understanding when people would have access to the truth.
Hence, I come, perhaps, begging and stretching, and “hay naku” maybe to his dismay, explaining.
I knew that I had a Friday night Lifestyle section deadline, but Letty [the editor] totally forgot that the PDI presses would shut down at midnight of Holy Wednesday, and that there wouldn’t be any staff at all in the office for the next few days. So this woman who expects miracles texted me past 6 p.m. to submit my column as soon as possible. Aaack. I texted back that I was so tired. Unfazed, she replied that they would wait.
In the meantime Jegs (our son Diego) kept crossing the hall [at St. Luke’s hospital in Quezon City where June was also confined at that time for brain cancer treatments –Ed.] to update me on how fast his dad’s heart was beating, the carbon content of his lungs, and I knew that I couldn’t afford to wait. This was for Angelo after all.
I made tuldok with one hand (still can’t use the other) on my Galaxy tab, dashed it off in one go (chos) and sent it off.
But afterwards I felt so guilty. Was it more about me than him? Was it too self serving? Why didn’t I write more about his pusong mamon? How he took care of his brothers and sister? How his mom was such the center of his life, that I would lie in the darkness pretending to be asleep hearing him sob and sob in the bathroom in the wee hours of the days and weeks after her death.
He was a good man and tried to hide it under the tough exterior of a Godfather.
He never expected or asked for favors for himself, for me or the kids. When Erap (Joseph Estrada) became President, all the more he stayed away, never wanting it said that he used their friendship. So President Erap would often send his aide to pick him up and at times even ask my permission, promising that they would be “good boys, no hanky panky.”
That friendship started because I was making a movie with Erap and his brother George Estregan in the depressed area near ABS-CBN. Angelo, of course, brought me to the set and was carrying my overnight case. Erap took this all in and mockingly said “make-up artist ka pala.” I thought AC would slug him. In the end they just got drunk together.
He never stopped me from doing anything (except attending the Edsa I rites when he would ferociously snarl that they would only trot me out and use me as at times the invitation and pass for the rites would arrive after the ceremonies had begun.)
But he was proud of my work for Mama Mary and I would hear from time to time how he would brag that “kung mahuhugut sya sa langit, ay dahil sa dasal ni Unju. So I would beg the Lord. “HUWAG PHOTO FINISH PLEASE.” To give us time as HE did to the husband and family of Sta. Rita of Cascia. And the Lord did.
I was even able to drag him and his best friend, Jess Yabes, now Philippine ambassador to all the “Tans” (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, you get the drift?) to Medjugorje. They saw the cross on Mt. Krizevac lit up in flames and when we did the way of the cross, he saw this old lady make the climb on her bare feet and in shock saw his entire life flash before him. I didn’t know this then. A year later we were at RJ’s disco and as Angelo was drumming out a Ventures’ solo, RJ told me about it.
He could watch the same movie literally for a year on end. The Godfather; the next year it was Top Gun; the year after it was Doc Holiday. In the last two years it was Perry Mason and Charlie Chan. Yes, even in the hospital.
He loved to cook, or should I say make “timpla.” Everyone else would be in a tizzy cutting, chopping, setting, serving. Aaand, woe to you if you served toyo with kalamansi when it should be patis!
His mom was THE best cook, and every, EVERY Sunday we would all be present for lunch—sinigang na bulalo (simmered several hours the Saturday before, floating in all that thick delicious guck) paired with—hold on, crispy pata or inihaw na lechon! The occasional rare departure from this, which more often than not would be served for dinner was kare-kare with adobong manok and BABOY of course.
When someone would gift us with a lechon, the dila (tongue) was always his.
The month before we were married, he and Jess were in Japan on a study grant. We didn’t have much money. He would eat ramen just so he could buy me my wedding gifts—teacups and bowls that had fish on them for my Pisces collection. The manager of the hotel came to check why they were using so much toilet paper and when Angelo told him that he was using the rolls to protect the breakables, enthusiastically sent more!
After Edsa, I knew it was his time to shine, so I deliberately refused all offers—which internally was painful. I gained weight and a friend said: “Alam mo June, dapat mag-affair ka! Mamamayat ka pa and you will feel good about yourself and know that you taught Angelo a lesson.” Something within me said you can’t right one wrong with another. I went to many priests, looking for justification for separation.
Fr. Dave Clay of Worldwide Marriage Encounter-Philippines was unrelenting: “Would you leave him if he was sick and in a wheelchair?” I ran to Fr. [Catalino] Arevalo: “How could I see Jesus in Angelo? Fr. Rev said if that was it, he couldn’t help me, that I should just sit in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I went and sat. I heard a voice say in my ear and in my heart: “Lord, teach me to Love him the way YOU want me to Love him. Not the way he thinks he needs to be loved, or the way I want to love him. Give him the grace to accept Your Grace.”
We were holding hands when he crossed over. He took off the respirator and said “No more. No more.”
He even made it easy for us. It was his decision. He took it out of our hands and gave us his heart. We all held on to him, and this is the postscript.