“Nanay, I can use my tools (to fix daddy).”
The words pierced Nina Malanay’s heart, but she struggled not to break down.
Three-year-old Tyrell Gerald, or “Tyger,” had been told his father, Erwin Malanay, had been “broken” in a bomb explosion in a restaurant in Cagayan de Oro City last Friday.
Tyger thought his father just “broke apart” and he could use his toys to repair him.
“I’m sorry, but I think you cannot fix him,” Nina Malanay, talking to the Inquirer at Evergreen Chapels and Crematory in Pasig City on Wednesday, said she told her eldest child.
Erwin was a doctor, and he went to Cagayan de Oro last week for the national convention of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians.
Nina said she had a “difficult” time telling her son that his father was gone, as the boy was looking forward to playing with him when he returned from Cagayan de Oro.
“(He) made a promise to Tyger. He said he would make it up to him, because he’d been so busy,” Nina said.
The couple have another boy, eight-month-old Blake Zaiden, or Blaze.
Erwin and Tyger were “very close,” Nina said.
The four of them slept together in one bed, but Erwin and Tyger slept beside each other, sharing a blanket.
“They were really close. They bonded a lot,” she said, adding Erwin and Tyger played soccer and basketball, among other games, and went swimming together.
Although Tyger seemed “receptive” when she broke the news to him (but not after doing extensive research on how to handle children in those delicate situations) she said it seemed now that for the boy everything was “starting to sink in.”
When she asked Tyger whether he was ready to see his father “in a box,” he said, “No.”
She asked the boy many times before he agreed.
“And when he saw the body, he kissed it and said, ‘I hope you’re OK there,’” she said.
But Tyger’s behavior seemed to have changed, Nina said.
“He can’t explain how he feels. I ask him, ‘Do you feel angry?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you feel sad?’ ‘No.’ ‘How do you feel?’ ‘I don’t know! I don’t know! … I’m not sad, I’m angry!’” she said.
“One time he’ll say, ‘Nanay, I don’t love you anymore.’ And then when I turn to leave, he comes after me,” she said.
She said Erwin’s death had left a permanent mark on their son.
She knew that at some point she would have to look for a job to raise her children, but she said she was “still focused” on giving Tyger and Blake “continuity” so that they could “adjust.”
“That’s where I am at this point,” she said.
Mourning in Cavite
In Imus City in Cavite, another family is grieving over the loss of another bombing casualty in Cagayan de Oro.
Dr. Marciano Agustin III, another doctor who attended the convention in Cagayan de Oro, was supposed to return home on Sunday.
Instead, his body was flown to Manila and taken home to Cavite on Monday.
Agustin was among the eight who were killed in the bomb attack. Forty-six other participants in the convention were injured, and police still could not say on Wednesday who perpetrated the attack.
It was one of the rare times that Agustin went on a trip alone. But by doing so, his family was spared possible injury, even death.
Marciano’s wife and two children, a boy and a girl, both teenagers, would usually accompany him on his trips outside of their hometown of Imus, but when he went to the Cagayan de Oro convention his family decided not to go “because the children happened to have classes that Friday,” said Willy Taliwaga, a brother of his wife, Imelda.
“If they did, they could have been killed, too,” he said.
“He was always excited whenever he would go to conventions and learn new literature (in medicine),” said Marciano’s younger brother Marcus Agustin, who is also a doctor.
Marcus, a math and statistics professor at Southern Illinois University, arrived on Monday, two days after learning what had happened to his brother.
Marcus said going to conventions was part of Marciano’s job. But dying in a place like Cagayan de Oro came as a surprise.
“(Cagayan de Oro) was one of the more peaceful places in Mindanao so I was really surprised,” Marcus said.
From family to friends to colleagues and to former patients—everyone demanded justice for Marciano, who was known for his “smiling face.”
One of Marciano’s patients, a man in his 70s, came to his wake at Samson Funeral Parlor in Imus, Marcus said.
The man recalled how Marciano would laugh with his patients during checkups to help ease their pain.
Meant to be a physician
“I always knew he was meant to be a physician,” said Marcus, who shared a room with his brother at home until they went to college.
“He always helped our relatives, the neighbors, even the friends of friends,” Marcus said.
He said he knew Marciano was never after money, “but what always came first to his mind was how to cure a patient.”
“By that, I believe he made a difference even in small ways,” Marcus said.
Marciano’s remains will be brought to De La Salle University in Dasmariñas City, Cavite, on Friday evening for a memorial service to be offered by his former classmates and friends in the College of Medicine.
He will be buried on Saturday in Dasmariñas City.
“You ask why (this happened). But we will survive. We just have to let justice take its course,” Marcus said.