During the wedding, we exchange vows and it always ends with “Till death do us apart.” In my parents’ case, their love continues beyond this life. Read about the story of my Papa and Mama who recently passed away from complications due to Covid-19. Yes, we were not spared from the grief of this pandemic.
The Story of Wilmar
William Lo was born and raised in Bacolod City. I was not able to clarify if Mama was born here, but what I know is she studied here and the classmates she is close with are the ones she had here at Bacolod Tay Tung High School. So most likely, she grew up with them.
However, Mama’s family migrated to Manila after a few years, then eventually settled in Cebu. She was already living there when they were “introduced” to each other. In Chinese society, we call that “Kay Siao“, where a matchmaker would introduce two single people. It is some sort of a traditional betrothal, but in modern Chinese culture, the couples still have the choice to pursue each other or not.
Needless to say, Papa and Mama liked each other, got married, and settled in Bacolod to have a family.
Bacolod Wilmar Enterprises
After they got married, Papa and Mama opened a store called Bacolod Wilmar Enterprises. It was named after their Filipino first names—a combination of William and Mary.
Wilmar Enterprises became an institution at Capitol Shopping Center, where it has been serving clients for over four decades.
More than what he was selling, suki would come to Wilmar merely to talk to Papa or even ask for free coffee. He was well-loved because he was honest and trustworthy. People valued his opinion. He would fix things that just needed fixing, without minding if he got paid or even made a sale. That is what endeared him to his long-time customers.
Papa and Mama lived simply and opened the store six days a week, until 7 pm, because Papa wanted to serve those who needed our services after office hours. More than a business, Papa used the store as a means to help people.
But on Sundays, they reserved it for church and family. We all went to Trinity Christian Church, where Papa served until he got sick. He helped those who needed a ride, families or missionaries who needed financial support, physical support to those who have sick family members, comfort to those who are mourning, and the like. When church members would die, he was among those who carried the coffin–sort of his final service to the deceased. He was always like that, helpful in every way.
Meanwhile, Mama would religiously prepare clothes and food every time the church had a donation drive for outreach. She would cook and order food for meetings and church gatherings and always supported Papa’s activities. They were very faithful, reading the Bible every day, going to church, and praying conscientiously for the entire family and those who are sick.
We had a family pictorial several years back. Papa and Mama and their portrait taken and they look so happy here. They were very faithful to each other.
When They Got Sick
My uncle, Papa’s younger brother, passed on August 28 (non-Covid case) and we buried him August 31. The following day, Papa got sick, followed by Mama.
We didn’t know that was going to be the start of the hell-ride that Covid-19 would bring to our family. Despite the difficulties of Covid, we cannot help but be amused with Papa and Mama. When one had fever, the other would follow suit. When one felt better or responded to medicine, the other would show improvement as well. They continued to do this even in the hospital, where the nurses have noted how they seemed to check on each other even in Critical Care.
This seeming tag-team game of my parents, however, lasted till the end.
Mama breathed her last in the morning. That same day, we were already supposed to bring her to the crematorium after lunch when we got a call that Papa’s systems suddenly failed so the doctors tried to resuscitate him. After a few minutes into the call, we were informed that Papa just passed.
In that same afternoon, wifey and I drove to the hospital for the final papers then unceremoniously went to the crematorium. Both furnaces were free that time, so even in passing, they were together, almost hand in hand. For them, love continues beyond this life.
My First Birthday Without my Parents
Papa and Mama were almost together in everything that although it was not surprising that they left us together, it is still very hard to accept. Everything still feels surreal.
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Marking my birthday for the first time and losing loved ones just a month before that is not easy. But when there are people God sends to bring comfort and at the same time give gifts remind me to celebrate life. I greatly appreciated family and friends who took their time to bring comfort and gifts throughout October. Your reaching out means a lot.
The entire month of September had been hell for our family as my parents and sister were infected with Covid-19. Papa and Mama passed at the end of September and we were forced to “move on” with the business and life.
But their memory remains in our hearts and we cherish their legacy. Our only consolation as Christians is that we believe that death is not the end. Papa and Mama are now worshipping the Lord and walking on streets of gold in heaven, devoid of all hardships and sickness.
We will also continue Bacolod Wilmar Enterprises for as long as we can.