My brother Pete Roa died less than a week ago. In death as in life he was one who dared to be different. At his death bed he talked with Boots, his wife, and gave out instructions on how the last act of his mortal drama would be blocked, what scenery would serve as backdrop, the dramatis personae to be on stage as the curtains fell and the kind of music that would that would be scored in the grand finis. Pete did not rage against the dying of the light, he was thankful for having been made aware of its coming for it gave him time to prepare for his destined personal appearance with his Lord and Maker
Being the youngest boy in a family of five sons and three daughters I was volunteered by one of my sisters to do the eulogy on behalf of all of them. Ostensibly outranked it was seconded by a chorus before I could produce a suffused and dissenting whine.
It had been four consecutive late nights that we had gone through. All four nights have been spent chatting with friends and relatives and waiting for opportunities to sing for Pete accompanied by Arminio. Pete’s favorite piano player, Arminio had long years’ acquaintance with him, He played the piano at Auberge Philippines, an eating place in Washington which Pete managed during the early eighties.
On the day of the cremation I woke up feeling a bit heavy, a condition brought about by a pesky asthmatic grating in my chest and the tiredness that has began to assert itself after having only short sleeps in the last four days.
There wasn’t time to prepare a well thought of piece for my brother. I woke up at nine in the morning and the mass preceding the cremation was to start at eleven. I searched my mind for anecdotes which would be worth relating and some lines or a famous quote that would be appropriate for Pete.
Recalling the picture collage which showed photos of Pete during his boyhood and his early career in radio and television I picked up a few as starting points for my remembrances.
What follows is my best recollection of what I said in my Eulogy.
I am Eddie Roa, a younger brother of Pete. There are eight of us siblings three of whom are girls and five boys. Pete is the sixth in the family, a position in the family that would not bear any special psychological significance unlike those of being the youngest and the eldest. But Pete did not need any of these usual familial order advantage to be special. He was Pedro N Roa, God’s special child and in his youth a prince of a boy to our elderly relatives from Cagayan de Oro and Cavite
Being younger than him I would be the recipient of his generous nature as I was at the farthest end of a long chain of hand me downs. As the youngest the last buck stops at me. Kidding aside, Pete had been most generous to me specially at the time that he was reaping success as a young television personality and I was cutting my teeth in advertising.
I remember Tio Anton Cosin, mayor of Tagoloan, a town in the outskirts of Cagayan de Oro who was married to Tia Iling, my father’s older sister. Tio Anton is the stepfather of Dongkoy Emano, formerly congressman of Misamis Oriental and now mayor of Cagayan de Oro.
Every time he comes to Manila for a vacation the first person he would look for was Pete. Pete was his favorite nephew who would serve as his guide and factotum during his stay in Manila.
If any one of you would recall the photo of Pete in the collage that was set up during the wake you would have noticed the caption Senator Pedro Roa typed out on the picture. This was Tio Anton’s doing. He had the confidence that Pete, someday would become a senator of the land and had put his bold prediction in black and white.
They have had several capers together. An unlikely pair, Tio Anton almost sixty at that time together with Pete who was a preteener would get out of the house early in the morning and would proceed downtown to go to the Mayon gag-shop in Raon and pick up the latest booby contraptions such as leaking drinking glasses, hand shake shockers, fake animal and human droppings and others which he would bring home to Mindanao to bedevil his friends during parties.
One incident that would always be a part of his remembered capers with Tio Anton was the time that my uncle convinced Pete to accompany him to Inday theater, a place that was notorious for holding sleazy shows known as “burlesk” at that time. Pete stayed outside the theater and waited for my uncle by the Santa Cruz Church. There was a commotion at the lobby of the theater. People were rushing out of the doors by the hundreds. What had happened was the mayor of Manila “Arsenic” Lacson conducted a raid. What was remarkable was how Pete was able to get the old man out of scrapes and that he had taken him back home unscathed.
Another picture in the collage that brought back fine memories was that of my Mom pinning a medal on Pete. I recall how proud Mom was as she mounted the stage in the old Ateneo “sawali” auditorium in Padre Faura. My mother who was a stickler for discipline and a tireless nag on our study habits was seldom rewarded for her efforts and Pete having given her this honor could not do anything wrong henceforth.
The performing arts was Pete’s passion. He excelled in drama and in the course of his association with this artistic endeavor he had produced, directed and acted in several memorable plays. His being a student of speech and drama was just a convenient expression of what his school activities were. He never attended a single classroom but would have much more to say and do about drama than most of his professors. Sarah K Joaquin, the grand dame of Philippine theater at that time recognized his talent and fully supported Pete’s seeming casual regard and non scholarly practice of the art.
Less known to people was Pete’s genius in the art of the Dance. Pete appeared in several dance presentations at the CCCP. He was a prodigy of the master dancer,Lucio Sandoval. In his high school years he choreographed a full length musical drama which was successfully presented by the FEU Girl’s High School.
His terpsichorean skills resurfaced as he hosted the first Teenage Music Dance program in Philippine television, Dance-O-Rama.
The Roa family is better known in the blah world of numbers. Our areas of competence are in mathematics, statistics and actuarial sciences. My father together with my uncle and two of his sons were all actuaries. The actuarial society of the Philippines then only had seven members and four of them were Roas. Even I myself, to the surprise of my father, ended up playing the numbers game, so to speak, as a market researcher. I do not intend to demean this trade but even my father joked about its low key nature. A favorite joke was about the definition of an actuary and most people at that time would say that an actuary is a repository of dead actors. That's how obscure their trade was.
One significant contribution that Pete made to our family I think was his having put the family name from relative anonymity into something more memorable. He added a tag of glamour and excitement on the family name which was of course enhanced even much more with his marriage to Boots Anson.
Pete, us your siblings would like to express our love and our pride for having had you as a brother. Thank you dear one.
I would like to send you off with a phrase coming from your favorite Shakespearean drama, Hamlet. In the words of Horatio I quote…
“Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”