Emmanuel Acosta (left) recalling his father Ericson during UP Diliman tribute. Right photo shows the trophy of poet Ericson Acosta after he won the National Book Award for Best Poetry in Pilipino a few years back.

I never though

t lightning would strike twice in a couple of years

As I write this, it’s been a month since another family tragedy struck.

On the day the country was observing Andres Bonifacio Day on November 30. I got curious about a news item about another alleged encounter between military and rebel groups in barangay Kamansi, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.

I immediately sounded off my media friends in Bacolod.

In another FB post on the same day, we learned that my son-in-law, Ericson Acosta and his companion, were arrested on the same day at about two in the morning.

I immediately asked my grandson to sound off his maternal grandmother, 90-year old Liwayway Acosta.

I took it lightly and hoped my grandson and I would still get to visit Ericson in a detention hall.

But before noon of the same on November 30, a friend confirmed another death in the family.

He wasn’t detained after arrest.

A witness confirmed he was made to walk around the house where he was arrested, then hacked and later riddled with bullets.

Meanwhile, the military fed local media with an alleged “encounter” story complete with photos of slain “rebels.”

When Ericson’s death was confirmed, I stared in my computer and let out a howl of grief.

I was only thinking of my grandson Emmanuel who was rendered orphan twice in a span of just two years.

He was with UP friends observing Bonifacio Day in Mendiola and got wind of the news ahead of me and his maternal grandma.

Somebody said he saw my grandson pause, seemingly stunned by the news and quietly walked on a street corner and cried.

I never saw him cry when his mother died.

One more time on the day we heard the news, we had to book tickets, fly to Bacolod and work on assorted permits before we could claim the body in a Kabankalan funeral parlor.

It is a two-hour ride to Kabankalan from Bacolod on an early morning trip.

First, we have to get an incident report from the barangay Camansi. Barangay head didn’t want to sign the incident report. With gentle prodding from our lawyers, he did sign but not before he made us aware that he is king of his turf.

My grandson knew it would be the same routine when he claimed his mother’s body in a Silay funeral parlor a year ago.

We need not just barangay clearance but police clearance, health clearance, city hall clearance and once done, we need an embalmer’s signature to see the body. We had a whole day doing that — running around various offices and got stuck with officers attending seminars elsewhere.

A doctor would be available to sign the health clearance on December 12.

We could not wait that long and it’s only December 1 when we arrived.

We decided that we would bring the body to Manila and cremate later.

The funeral parlor is in the outskirts of Kabankalan and it is surrounded by men in uniform.

We learned later that the owner is a traffic enforcer and a Christian pastor on the side.

This is the moment I feared: when my grandson would see his father lifeless in a roomful of dead people.

Some three years back before Christmas, he had a few days with his parents in Bacolod.

Just after my last concert at the Nelly Garden in Iloilo City in 2019, I met my grandson in an inn, gave him a room and breakfast before he headed to Bacolod by ferry boat.

That was the last time my grandson saw his parents alive.

Past reunions with his father included frequent visits to a Calbayog jail in 2012-2013.

When we finally saw the body of Ericson, I couldn’t help looking at my grandson.

I have never seen that face so devastated.

When his mother died, he took it all calmly. Or so I thought.

When he saw his father’s lifeless body, I thought I couldn’t bear it.

Then I made a quick look at my grandson’s face and saw loneliness of a devastating kind.

I retrieved the clothes of his father from the funeral parlor embalmer after which we headed back to Bacolod fast to get another permit to bring the body back to Manila.

“You like to see Tatay’s body before we bring him to the airline’s cargo office? We bought him new clothes,” said my grandson. “No,” I said. “I will see him in Manila anyway.  Let’s just have a quick dinner.”

We realized we missed our Friday lunch busy as we were getting all those required permits.

Grandson and his ninang went ahead to Manila with his father’s body to arrange for cremation.

We followed later in the afternoon flight.

Back in Manila, we prepared for last Mass before cremation.

Grandson received a metal rose from a mother whose daughter was also incarcerated for years.

Then grandson and I watched Ericson’s body as it was brought to the hot furnace.

I realized my grandson and I were witness to cremations of his parents the past two years.

There was a two-day tribute to Ericson before his internment in the Pasig cemetery.

Bibeth Orteza intoned in her own tribute to Ericson: “Was it coincidental that National Artist for Film Lino Brocka was also paid tribute in the same Gumersindo Garcia Hall where poet Acosta is being honored now? Was it coincidental that Ericson died on the day the country was commemorating birth of Andres Bonifacio?”

Others who offered songs and poetry during the 4-hour tribute were flutist Jay Gomez and pianist Katherine Asis, Dong Abay, Jess Santiago, Renato Reyes, Jr. Patatag group and many others.

In the final tribute to his father at the Gumersindo Garcia Hall of UP Diliman, my grandson has come to terms with another death in the family.

On a lighter note, he spoke candidly of his father as musician: ” I am my father’s worst critic. I am always critical of everything he does. I notice he plays the guitar with just one chord. So I called him The One-Chord Wonder.”

Laughter from the audience.

Emman with parents during happier times.


Then his final remarks which went viral on the internet and reached more than 5 million netizens: “I have nothing against my parents for spending more time with the poor and the oppressed than with me. I believed in what they fought for. There is no rancor in my heart that my parents have other families — the masses. That was made clear to me by Tatay and Nanay. When they were heartlessly killed, the more I believed in their cause.”

On the day Ericson joined his grave with my daughter Kerima, I can only react with another poem


We are done

With grieving

And wiping away

Persistent grief

Like my grandson

Who let it all fall

Where it should

On a street corner

Where his parents used to tread

Along the hollowed street of Mendiola


What were those tears for?

He expected to reunite

With dear father

In a detention cell

And perhaps make music


For the last time


The next thing he knew

His father was arrested

In the hinterlands of Kabankalan

Then made to do a few turns

With his companion

Only to meet their imminent death

In a sudden rain of bullets

And bolos tearing away

At their skin


Months back

I always request

Massenet’s Meditation

To remember

My late daughter


Now it is time

For that soulful music

To remember his father


I always ask my grandson

To seat with me in rehearsals

While Massenet’s Meditation

Floats eerily

In the auditorium



Music has a way with grief

Perhaps it is a good way

To confront death

Perhaps the gentle way?


Now tell me

How should music metamorphose

Into balm

For our weary spirit?


Perhaps music

Can guide us

Into the periphery of acceptance

Even if the labyrinth

Is oozing

With excruciating pain


I did carry that urn

With his mother a year ago

Now I am torn with grief

Seeing him

Carrying his father’s ashes.


Is it

Time to move on

And fly on the wings

Of song

And remembrance?



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