My eldest brother, Philip, passed away on December 23, 2009. We buried him on December 30. I delivered the eulogy at the Catholic funeral Mass in his honor.
Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for joining us today.
It was difficult for me to put words together to describe Philip. He was my oldest brother and, when I was young, he interceded when I was being punished, he helped me with my homework, and he kept me company when I missed our parents. Our father worked far away when I was growing up, and he did his best to fill Dad’s shoes. So I’ve lost more than a brother, I’ve lost my champion.
We all knew Philip in different ways. To me he was an older brother who I looked up to and respected. To our other brother Albert he was a friend and an academic and intellectual sparring partner. To Rica he was a loving husband. To DJ he was an adoring, involved and caring father. To you he may have been a cousin, friend, classmate, or coworker who listened, cared and shared. So to each of us, he left unique and special memories.
So who was this person we all knew as Philip?
He was born in 1948, the firstborn son of Mariano and Dolly Yan. He received the name Angel because he was born on October 2, the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, and the name Austin, in honor of Father Austin Hannon, a close friend of our parents.
When he was just a baby, our parents entered his photo in a Coca-Cola photo contest. He won a PHP10 prize, and for a year was the poster boy for the drink that would be his life-long, number one favorite beverage. Later in life he could sit down with a family-size bottle of Coke and a can of shoestring potatoes, and finish them both off in one sitting. And when the doctor removed his respirator a couple of weekends ago, his first request was – you guessed it – “Coke.”
During Philip’s years at the Ateneo the Jesuits molded him into “a man for others” – a person who sincerely cared for those around him, an advocate for social justice and civic participation, a man whose first duty was to God. The friends he made at the Ateneo stayed with him through the years, around the world.
One of those friends, Rey Hidalgo, sent us a few of his memories: “I have fond memories of Philip — especially during our Ateneo Grade School days, when your Mom was a teacher in one of the Grade 2 sections…The Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels was particularly happy for both Philip and I, because Philip’s [birthday] was on the feast day itself (Oct 2); mine was the previous day. As you may well remember, those were days of no homework, no school uniform, no school bags and books, all play, carnival rides, cotton candy, cartoon movies at the Auditorium, and the candy shower.”
When Philip attended St. Louis High School in Baguio one of his closest friends was Sammy Flores, who today does us the honor of serving as our cantor. Philip and Sammy were part of a little clique that Philip coined PESO – Philip, Elaine, Sammy, Olivia. The four of them were inseparable and, as a child, I hoped I would have a similar, tight group of friends.
Right after high school and early in his years at St. Louis University, Philip was a hiker. What he saw on those hikes made him green-conscious before green was fashionable. In 1965-66, when he saw the growing desolation on Mt. Santo Tomas in Baguio, Philip and a friend, Nars Padilla, organized a reforestation effort called SHARE. Without the internet and simply by word of mouth in small-town Baguio, nearly 200 volunteers showed up at his first organizing meeting and more than 250 would trek to the mountain to plant 10,000 seedlings. To recognize Philip’s efforts and his genuine interest in civic affairs, the mayor of Baguio appointed him a Council member for Youth Affairs.
Philip entered the business world with characteristic enthusiasm. In Manila he worked at the Department of Public Information with then-Secretary Kit Tatad, Planters Peanuts, and several other high-profile companies. After he moved to Southern California in 1986, he took a job as a proofreader at the law firm of Hill, Farer and Burill. He was quickly promoted to manager of information technology. He later worked for Paper Graphics Inc., and then became CIO at the United Education Institute. He has been a consultant at Universal Studios, Universal Music Company, and Transamerica.
Philip’s last IT project was to design a donor database for the Fr. Kolbe Missionaries. He and the mission worked closely together to solidify the concept and form of the database. He worked on it between visits to the dialysis clinic, his way of offering service to the mission. Though it sits unfinished on his computer he had brought it to a point that will be easy to complete.
Philip did not face the world alone. He married Rica Lahoz in 1978 and they made their home first in Makati, then in West Covina. Together they became proud and happy parents when DJ was born in 1992. I remember that they always made a great-looking, happy couple. I admired how they stood by each other, worked out the issues that all married couples encounter, and raised a son in a caring, love-filled, God-centered home.
Philip was a gifted writer and speaker, and was on the speech and debate teams at every school level. His Ateneo classmate, Rey Hidalgo, wrote: “I think it was in Grade 2 (1955-56) that Philip had an elocution piece and I remember him telling me that to properly rehearse his delivery, he had to recite [it] outside at the street below while your Mom was at the second floor window coaching him.”
I remember the time he won his first major interschool speech competition when he was in high school. Our parents bought him a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder. We all recorded congratulatory messages, and I recall running into the bedroom when my message was playing because I thought it was juvenile and silly. If Philip thought that, he never said it and he thanked me for my share in his gift.
Philip loved cars and driving came to him very naturally. He could spend hours behind the wheel without feeling tired or bored. He was nine – the year before I was born, by the way – when he raced in the soap box derby on Quezon Boulevard in Quezon City. That same year, our father brought home a new car. In an effort to be helpful, Philip and Albert washed the car – using steel wool and cleanser. Our father’s new, shiny, dark gray car became a squeaky-clean, dull, light gray car.
When I was in 3rd grade, I would sit on his lap and steer the car while he worked the pedals. Later in life, when I had joined the workforce in Manila, he provided the cars that I drove. I understand that the very last car he bought, he chose especially for his son.
Philip took family and friendship very seriously. He was there when Albert and I got married, when Dad suffered his stroke in 1986 and when he died the next year, when Mom suffered through and died of cancer. He took great pleasure in seeing his son’s baptism, first communion, and confirmation. He kept in touch with his schoolmates from Manila and Baguio, and enjoyed the company of cousins and friends. I was touched by his gratitude for the time we shared last October, when we came together to celebrate his birthday.
Philip was unabashedly Filipino. Despite his years of residency in Southern California and his American citizenship, he never forgot his Filipino roots. He respected and practiced the culture and spoke fondly of visiting home just one more time. To him, the Philippines was a haven and forever his homeland.
I’m sure all of us has unique memories of Philip and stories to share. Life is short. I hope we don’t wait too long to share those stories. To each of us he was special, to each of us he was different, to each of us he was himself.
One of my high school classmates lost his father this year. He sent me a poem that brought him comfort, titled My First Christmas in Heaven. A couple of stanzas stand out to share with all of you:
I know how much you miss me;
I see the pain inside your heart.
But I am not far away,
We really aren’t apart.
So be happy for me, dear ones,
You know I hold you dear,
And be glad I’m spending Christmas
With Jesus Christ every year.
Please join me in bidding Philip Godspeed, and applauding a man the Jesuits at the Ateneo successfully molded into a man for others.