Mystery lingers over man who burned himself to death
Family in barangay Lorega says 76-year-old retiree was loving, jolly, not mentally illBy Tweeny M. Malinao
Cebu Daily News
After his fiery suicide inside the Magellan’s Cross kiosk, 76-year-old Exequiel Geneston left behind many questions.
He was a loving grandfather with no terminal illness, vices, mental problem or personal trouble, said family members.
Lourdes, his widow, was still in shock over losing her spouse, who poured gasoline on himself and flicked a lighter early Thursday morning inside Cebu City’s most famous landmark. The widow said she doesn’t know why he took his life.
Lourdes, 74, told Cebu Daily News yesterday that her husband left the house that morning to visit friends out of town.
“He said that he would just go to his friend and then to Bohol, and to Leyte,” she said, recalling his last words.
“I even told him to be careful of the big waves.”
He didn’t eat breakfast, which was unusual, she said because Exequiel would usually stay by her side helping cook and joining the family meal at home in barangay Lorega, Cebu City.
Earlier reports of security guards in the Plaza Sugbo said they recognized the elderly man as one who would go to the Magellan’s Cross daily to pray or to the nearby Sto. Niño Pilgrim Center, usually dressed in the same clothes, giving rise to the suspicion he was mentally imbalanced.
This description was vehemently denied by family members, who said Exequiel usually stayed at home and was still alert.
A 13-year-old granddaughter said Exequiel had high blood pressure, which is normal for his age, but was not sickly. He also had glaucoma, a serious eye condition that could lead to blindness.
“He would only ate vegetables and fish,” she said.
The girl said her grandfather was affectionate and generous: “Kon naa mi pangayuon, mangita siya’g way para mahatag niya,” she said.
A 17-year-old grandaughter recalled that when they would come home from school, Exequiel would crack jokes with them.
At mealtimes, “we would debate about current events.”
The middle-class family lives in their own house in a fully-paid government lot in banrangay Lorega, San Miguel.
Lourdes, a public school teacher for 27 years in Zapatera Elementary School, retired in 2001. Exequiel was a former customs agent. Their modest pensions were supplemented by financial support from two daughters living abroad.
The couple, who has six children, lived with two daughters and two granddaughters in the house where they settled in the 1970s after marriage.
The 76-year-old senior from Bohol province was described as calm, jolly and affectionate.
Exequiel’s 13-year-old granddauther recalled seeing her lolo leave the house about 6 a.m. before she went to school.
They found out that he had torched himself in the afternoon.
Lourdes was so upset she didn’t visit her husband in the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) where he succumbed on Saturday afternoon from complications of his second degree burns in his head and upper body. She said she was afraid she would collapse on seeing him.
Asked what could have prompted the suicide, the 17-year-old grandchild said “We have a speculation but we prefer to keep it to ourselves.”
She said Exequiel was “a man of his word.”
“When he decides on something, that’s final.”
Widow Lourdes said her husband had no known vices.
The couple used to be Roman Catholics until they converted to Dating Daan, a born again Christian group in 2005 after Exequiel got captivated by the preaching of the group televised on a local channel.
This is why the family finds it hard to believe reports that Exequiel went to the Magellan’s Cross daily to pray or spent his last minutes there on his knees praying.
She said Exequiel was no longer active in his new religious group and preferred staying home helping with household chores.
He would cook, wash laundry and pamper his wife with a body massage when she felt aches and pains.
Exequiel’s body lies in St. Peter’s Mega Chapel in New Imus Street with a burial tentatively scheduled on Saturday.
Lourdes said she didn’t want to cremate his body.
“Nasunog na sunogon pa gyud,” she said. (It’s already burned, why have it burned again.)
She said she wants her “loving” husband to rest in peace and for people to just forget the way he ended his life.