Galdino “Gal” Varona Sr.
(This is part of the eulogy I delivered on the eve of the interment of my friend, Galdino Varona Sr.)
Ladies and gentlemen, friends, good evening. Who is a senior citizen? A senior citizen is a person who remembers events that took place many years or even decades ago but cannot recall incidents that happened quite recently like weeks or months. I remember Galdino Sr., as a funny, profound, and emotional person in incidents that occurred decades ago.
Pare Gal was brilliantly funny. He had a peculiar way of injecting humor without really trying.
I, as an old man, remember Pare Gal led a team of Toastmasters to Bacolod City for an annual speech competition. He was area governor then. This was in 1986 just few months after the EDSA Revolution. The night after the contest, jubilant Cebuano Toastmasters gathered in a virtual round table celebration and we had bottles of Johnny Walker Black and just one glass passed around. When the first glass reached Pare Gal, he stood up and said something like: “To the Cebuanos, the best Toastmasters” and gulped the wine bottoms up. I was seated behind him, not by the table because my body composition and liquor are incompatible. Yet, when the next rounds of glasses reached Pare Gal, he held each, turned to me and mumbled something I didn't comprehend. As we appeared to huddle, he quickly poured the wine to the flowerpot ledged between us.
Indeed, the flowerpot drank all the wine in the glasses. When we checked out of the hotel the following day, I saw the plant wither. I pointed it to him and said: “Please ask Johnny to pay for killing that plant” and he winked at me and whispered “Johnny Walker.”
Ladies and gentlemen, Pare Gal was also emotional. One day in 1991 my phone rang. When I picked it up I heard the caller saying “Pre.” But he paused for the longest of times. I knew it was my dear friend, my Pare Gal. I could sense he was trying to control himself. The man I knew to be cool, calm, and collected seemed to be lost, distressed. The seconds that followed, when silence between us reigned, unsettled me. I felt something terribly wrong happened. If only to fill the void with corny laughter, I wanted to ask my compadre how was the weather. But I held my mischievous tongue because it was inappropriate. When finally Pare Gal composed himself, he said: “Pre, patay na si Papa but I don't know what to do. Please, help me.”
A virtual big brother asking the help of a kid brother? That would have been unimaginable! But as the situation called, I had a golden chance to demonstrate how I valued his friendship. I rushed to his side and aimed only by the desire to comfort a compadre, I took control of the situation, did what was to be done and managed the occasion. When my work was finished and the remains of his father, Sir Crescenciano, were placed in a spot appropriate for the succeeding ceremonies and public viewing, Pare Gal showed the rarest of his smiles and gave me the tightest of hugs.
Today, Mare Raida, Christie, my goddaughter Chinky, Jun, Eugene, Glenn, Dr. Eugene and Ma'am Angelina, your beloved Gal and my dear friend no longer walks with us. We will miss his company and lose his leadership but I am sure the Lord, our God, has a special place for him. Godspeed, Pare Gal!