Father Built His Own Coffin

My father Ambrocio suffered from tuberculosis or consumption and malaria.  This disease was attributed to the lack of food and medicine during the World War II. Our town, Santa. Maria, Ilocos Sur in the Philippines was bombed soon after Pearl Harbor (early December 1941). The town was partly burned during the bombing, and further destroyed by the guerillas after that. 

Men were forced to cooperate with the local guerilla movements or the Japanese occupiers.  One could not please either side without invoking the wrath of the other.  And both sides were willing to torture or kill to get their orders followed. The guerillas would torture or kill anyone cooperating with the Japanese so Ambrocio spent many days and nights working in the fields and/or in hiding both from the Japanese and the guerillas.  The mosquitos, the lack of food, and the stress for him and his family wore him down.

By mid-1945, he knew the end was coming.  So he engaged the services of a local carpenter and together they built a wooden coffin and a wooden cross - simple, durable, and functional. The coffin was finished months before he died, so it was hung under our house. I was a young boy then, and I have vivid memories of the coffin hanging under the house.  I was always afraid to go into that room where the coffin was.

When Ambrocio died, it was convenient that the coffin was ready for he wanted to be buried "before the sun sets the day after I die."  He died Christmas Eve, a few minutes after midnight, so we buried him on the 26th of December.

My father had always prided himself in taking care of his family.  Getting his coffin ready when he knew the end was near was his way to minimize the burden of his death.  He was a very good man.

Muchas Monarcas!
A Nobel Prize For Footloose Forester


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