Blessing to nurse a good dad: Jovy Salonga
“The spirit of the old Jovito Salonga is gone.”
This was how Steve Salonga, 62, one of the five children of the man who was a staunch fighter of corruption and a most outspoken opponent of martial rule, described his ailing father.
The lawyer-statesman, now 92, is afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for the last two years. He’s now being fed through a tube after he suffered a stroke and lost the ability to swallow.
“You know how to nurse a child? This is close to that,” said Steve, a practicing lawyer, on how he and his family attend to their bedridden father.
He said the older Salonga could no longer speak, move, or understand the people around him. He has practically stopped talking with the people around him after his stroke in February this year.
“His body has shrunk,” Steve said of his father, who is unconscious most of the time. “Sometimes while hallucinating, he utters gibberish but the only word we could understand is ‘Amen.’”
Wife died in 2010
Salonga is now confined in a room he used to share with his wife, Lydia, before she died from complications of diabetes in 2010.
Steve said his father himself did not expect to live a long life. After his mother’s passing, Steve said his father said goodbye to them, telling them he would be gone soon.
“But we did not mind it. We continued to take care of him,” he said.
Steve and three private nurses work in shifts to attend to the former senator in the family’s Valle Verde home. Steve said he and his wife had to move out of his farm in Antipolo City to keep a tight watch over his ailing father.
“I inherited the responsibility by force of circumstances. I am the only one living close to him,” he said, noting that his brothers and sisters have settled abroad with their respective families.
But more than the duty of a son, Steve said it has been a blessing taking care of a good father in his remaining days.
The former senator’s private nurse confided that Steve would always say hello to his dad even if he knew he wouldn’t be getting a response.
What was apparently a close call was when his father was critically injured during the Aug. 21 Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971. His family thought his father was not going to make it.
“We thought he was already dead. It was a miracle that he survived,” said Steve, showing the Inquirer the scars of the shrapnel that hit Salonga’s body.
Steve said that decades later, the older Salonga, a son of a Presbyterian minister, asked in jest, “Why has God not taken me yet?”
It was, he said, in his father’s character to take problems lightly.
That was why when a warrant of arrest was issued by the Pasig Regional Trial Court against father and son for estafa, Steve said his family just dismissed it as a mere nuisance case.
The court allowed Salonga to stay put in his house for humanitarian reasons.
Salonga, Steve said, was good and generous yet a disciplinarian to his kids. “At this age, we realized that he raised good children,” he said.
“But he loves the country more than he loves us,” he said, explaining that his father’s passion for politics took him away from his family most of the time.
Salonga was detained during martial law without charges.
But it was a fact, he said, that they accepted a long time ago when they were still children.
“We were proud because many people told us he was an exceptional person. If his life were a book, he had finished writing it,” he said proudly.
Steve said a highlight of the career of his father, who consistently topped three senatorial elections, was in September 1991 when he led a group of 12 senators in rejecting the RP-US bases treaty.
He said it was an important decision that led to his ouster as Senate president. It was also believed to be one of the reasons he lost the 1992 presidential election.
The former senator was responsible for a number of significant legislation, notably the State Scholarship Law, the Disclosure of Interest Act, the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and the Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder.
Salonga continued to work in public service through civil society groups. “It was only after his retirement from politics that he had more time for us,” Steve said.
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