• Hanged in the mind’s eyes, Jolico continues to breathe in my summer

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    I’ve been running through rains
    and the wind that follows after
    for one certain face
    and an unforgotten laughter.
    I’ve been following trains
    and staring after ships
    for a certain pair of eyes
    and a certain pair of lips.
    Yes, I’ve looked everywhere
    you can go without wings
    and I found a great variety
    of interesting things.
    But it never was you.
    It never was any way you.
    —from the song “It Never Was You”
    by Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill

    While other bloggers are reminiscing about their escapades and other similar trips to sand and surf that defined their summer of 2013, I count without regret my losses, two friends who left for the next dimension, one on the last day of April, the other in early June. It’s my way of saying goodbye to them after their liberation from prolonged illness and suffering.

    Both times I couldn’t yet leave my seclusion to condole with their families, but the cell phone and the email have a way of remedying that, although they can never replace the immediate warmth of human presence.

    Allow me to remember one of the two with deep fondness and respect.

    Jolico, who later assumed the name A.Z. Jolicco Cuadra, had been called many things beyond his being a poet, artist and critic. ”Enfant terrible of Philippine art” and ”Byron of Philippine literature” were among those titles attached to him for he worshiped no sacred cows in the visual arts world.

    When he made a rare public appearance at a fundraising concert organized by Pablo Tariman and Church Cafe for him in 2011, sculptor Julie Lluch remarked how his good looks hadn’t faded despite the Parkinson’s that was slowly devouring him.

    If anything, the slight tremors, the voice that was barely above a whisper, the papery texture of his skin that I felt as I kissed his cheek only made him vulnerable and more lovable, at least to me. My heart opened up, and I wished that I could be a millionairess and miracle worker to do more for him.

    The empathy swelled when his long-time companion, the poet Auggusta de Almeidda (Chikki to us), revealed to the SRO audience that evening that Jolico had always been shy throughout his life and he needed a boost from the bottle to face and interact with people. (Earlier, his former boozing pals, the writers Erwin Castillo and Recah Trinidad, brought some liquor in a Mountain Dew bottle, and like mischievous boys, made Jolico smell the “vapors”.)

    At one point, he was persuaded to come up to the mic to speak. I couldn’t catch the scanty words he uttered, but very clear were these: “Without Christ I am nothing!”

    I often wonder how Chikki is doing these days in her own solitude. We have exchanged text messages now and then since 2011. She’d tell of how she missed the days when she and Jolico could just saunter off anytime they wanted when he was still hale. I had heard of stories, early on in their relationship, when he’d literally sweep Chikki off her feet and carry her.

    I could hear my own heart breaking again in a hundred ways when, in April, she sought help by way of prayers or petitions so she could accept” whatever eventualities there would be. I love him so much I don’t want him to suffer further just to make him remain by my side.”

    Now, no more fear, no more trembling, no more apprehension. I’ll keep the memory of Jolico alive, he and “his life-swaying years.”

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