Eulogy for Manoling de Leon by son, Dino

Good morning, everyone, and thank you for being here with us in bidding our fond farewell to Papa. I have been given the task of speaking on behalf of our family because, as everyone knows, I was his favorite son.

In fact, I tell Mama and my siblings that, among all of us, I contributed the most to his earning a place in heaven. He’s up there for the sacrifices he made here on earth, for me. Because if there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty about Papa, it is that he never gave up on me. Never. Not even when everyone else wanted to and was telling him to. He told my wife that he would forsake everything he had just to make sure that his firstborn, the fruit of his love with Mama, would be all right. He saved me, even when I myself thought I did not deserve it. What other proof could there be that God loves us all perfectly, when you have a father who does that here on earth for you?

My father wrote before that his life was like Forrest Gump’s: a box of chocolates, packed with unexpected excitement. By his own words, he lived a colorful life. He was a Pinoy pilgrim who ventured out into the world in search of the Filipino identity, and believed with all his heart in the greatness of the Pinoy. He was a self-taught and self-made man. People referred to him as the “guru” because of his profound wisdom and insight, sharpened over years of experience and even a few misadventures. What made him different from other gurus was his generosity of spirit. He had a remarkable mind, curious about everything, always ready to share his ideas freely. He could and would talk to everyone around him – in the malls, in church, in social gatherings – and people would gravitate toward him because of his ability to make every person feel special. He was the Pied Piper whom everyone followed, and he was leading us not to our death in the river but rather to a life with God.

My sister Leah, whom my Papa referred to as a champion mother and gave him 12 grandchildren, saw our father as a saintly rascal. Some of her friends initially thought of him as strict, only to become his dear friends and textmates as well. Papa was the BFF ng bayan. Rich or poor, young or old, he could relate to everyone and talk about anything in the world with his signature wit and charisma. He was both a spiritual soul and a practical man. He encouraged each person to think independently and to own their decisions. Whatever you did and whoever you were, Papa accepted and embraced you without judgment. He never imposed his views on anyone, and he showed by his own example that true freedom meant living his life according to the path he chose.

Leah said that Papa would say to Martin, her husband, “O, ano’ng pakulo mo ngayon?” or to any of his grandchildren, “Halika, bolahin mo ako!” That was his way of drawing you into a conversation with him. He could have episodes, lasting over weeks, with Leah’s young daughter Julia about building a treehouse. Not an ordinary treehouse, but a unique and wonderful treehouse built only in their shared imagination. That was our father. He had the sharp mind to advise leaders of business and government, and the creative imagination to paint a wonderland for a grandchild.

Guada, our youngest and the dancer in the family, said that she got her confidence and grace from Papa. Wherever she went in the world, she never felt fear or anxiety because she knew that Papa and Mama were always praying for her. That, plus the fearlessness and go-getter attitude of our father, taught Guada that lakas ng loob can take you far and push you to surpass your own potential.

She also remembers Papa for being swabe. He was a cool operator who could melt your heart with his smooth singing voice and natural dancing skills. All the ladies wanted to dance with him. We will all miss his presence at our family gatherings because no one was like Papa. Like the song of Russ Columbo, one of the many singers he enjoyed, Papa was “too beautiful for words.”

For Carlo, my favorite brother, I feel his pain over losing the best friend with whom he shared a special bond. Papa showed Carlo his truth and his sense of the most important things in life: God, family, friends, and work. He accepted his deteriorating health with dignity, and with total submission to God’s will. Carlo said Papa made us promise to love Mama even more when he has passed. Papa told him, “Mahalin niyo ang nanay niyo. Alagaan niyo siya not only financially but more importantly also emotionally and psychologically. Tangina niyo kundi niyo gawin yan, mamalasin kayo sa buhay!” Pardon me but there’s no other way to say it like he did.

So Mama, we are here to reaffirm that promise to you. I know you said you will never be happy the way that Papa made you happy, but we will give it our best shot. He was the boss of your life, and you are the boss of our lives. You and Papa taught all of us how to give unconditional love, and we will spend the rest of our days giving it back. Papa’s legacy lives on in us and in his grandchildren, and the best way to remember and pay tribute to him would be in the way we carry on from here.

Papa, I don’t know of any other person who followed his ambition and pursued new dreams and adventures as passionately as you did. In the end, I know your ambition was to be a saint as a family man. I think everyone here will agree when I say: Mission Accomplished. We have gained the best connection in heaven. I know you’re still watching over us and you will remain present in our lives. I hope you’re happy knowing that everyone is okay. You were right: everything happens according to God’s plans. We love you, Papa, and we will miss you. Thank you for everything.