Goodbye Sir Rene Deypalubos, I'll be missing you so much :-(

How would you know when death is coming? When that day would be your final journey in this world?

No one knows. Not even the most gifted psychic we have around. For death comes like a thief in the night, most often without warnings. It never measures one’s physical strength and weakness. It has its own pace, own timetable. 

We can never tell what life awaits us in the future, even if we carefully plan it, who will come to us and gone from us but one thing is very certain, we all have to die. It's everyone's destiny, nobody can escape it. But why it comes as a surprise when it finally happens? The emotion that flows seems impossible to imagine. Sad. Remorseful. Tormenting. But do we have the right to ask God why?
My immediate boss in the university for six years
Engr. Reynaldo Deypalubos. A truly inspiring and amazing man.

Sir Rene was full of life, very vibrant, active, physically fit 
and with an incredible sense of humour.

Last Friday, June 14, I became a vivid witness how unpredictable life in the world is, how volatile our existence and how surprising death knocks people. It was more like a beautiful day that turned pretty bad, sort of stuff I wish never happened.

That day was just another ordinary day in the school campus, calm, peaceful, warm. I reported to work with an unruffled spirit, delighted with the fact it was already Friday. The little storm that was about to come did not squirt rain so I was  unprepared for its influx, it was like I went outside then suddenly the storm burst in and the fine weather turned horrible and ghastly.

I’ve been with UIC for 10 years now and able to serve the engineering program under three deans (Engr. Rene Deypalubos, Engr. Ben Yap and Engr. Emma Fuentes), but I spent the most number of years with Sir Rene (6 years), so I developed this very strong bond and easiness with him. I was able to know him better too. I admired him because of his ability to remain calm and level-headed during stressful days, he was a very positive person and would always look things on the brighter side of life.

In 2010, he retired from the service as associate dean, six months later he came back to work as a full time faculty so I saw him more often, almost everyday, spent hours talking and sharing stories. He was so generous with his knowledge, with his time, sharing whatever worthy and important information he got somewhere. He had this great wisdom I pondered on throughout the day.

But on June 14, 2013, I never thought everything would end so drastically. I never had any inkling it was the last day I would be sharing a little laugh and a little talk with him.

The day just started so good. We met at the quadrangle in the morning before the 7:30 am class, Sir Rene had a wide smile while calling my name (he fondly called me “ate”, that’s how he called us --- me, maam Emma Fuentes and Rose Alegada my former office mate), I smiled back and greeted him then went upstairs together. We talked about Philippine Standard Time and how it became an executive order then separated at the second floor, I entered the office. Later, I went to the faculty room to get hot water for my oatmeal, I asked Sir Deyps if it was already hot enough to be mixed in my oatmeal  and he nodded. Sir Noel Laud was already there too.

Nearly 10:00 in the morning, he went to the office and told me he won't be meeting his 10:30 class because he will go out for his massage appointment near San Pedro Hospital. He was complaining a back pain and that the discomfort already gone down to his left arm. I saw him gave an expression that looked like he was in great pain but I did not mind that much because when he was still the engineering dean, he would go out for a massage once a month due to his back pain, that day, it was more like a routine.

At 12:00 noon we went to the canteen for lunch, when I saw him at the faculty lounge section, I immediately came over bringing our food tray and asked him about the pain he complained. He told me it was okay, he was relieved with the massage, he also mentioned one thing --- he should not suppose to take it for granted because it was one of the symptoms of heart ailment, again, I let it passed because it never occurred in my mind, he was ill or something. Maam Emma and Cara Cabargada followed and we seated in the same table with Sir Rene.

We talked for almost one hour sharing so many things as usual, about his classes, his students, about the massage, about Singapore. I also asked him the manner of the body massage he undergone and we even laughed when I shared my own massage experience at the Metrolifestyle. He told us that massage is good because it helps the body released tension and stress.  

But during our conversation, I never saw any sign of bad things to come. He was on his normal shape, sprightly active, physically well, no panting of breath, no frailties, no sadness in his face and voice. Everything was normal. We stood up at nearly 1:00 o’clock and went upstairs, Sir Rene went to the faculty room to prepare for his 1:00 pm class.

At 1:05 pm, I passed by at the lobby to go to the guard house and saw Sir Rene standing outside the faculty room, staring at the upper floor. I was supposed to tell him for his room assignment of his next subject but decided to just wait for 10 minutes before approaching him. I went to the OSAD to get the Monde samples then came back to the office.

But before I could put down the monde samples in my table, Engr. Juvie Relacion dashed towards the door catching her breath telling me Sir Rene was unconscious at his classroom. I was very nervous and immediately concluded the incident had something to do with his complaint earlier that mid-morning. I immediately notified his sister-in-law, Anaflor Sacopayo, at the main campus. There was a gap of almost 15 minutes before I saw the 911 vehicle wheeled sir Rene out of the campus.

Everything went hazy. I could not concentrate entertaining the students anymore, I went back and forth in the lobby and felt the raging of my heartbeat. But during those times, I did not entertain any vicious thoughts of death because I made myself believed it was not fatal but just another story of someone who had just fallen from his knees and became unconscious. I was confident sir Rene would wake up and would be back to the school and just be advised to take a rest or something. I had no reasons to entertain sinister stuff after all. He was in good shape and followed a very healthy lifestyle, I never heard him got sick and just this morning he was very active and lively.

For the next 40 minutes, my mind was anxiously craving for an update, the sensor of my brain became so absolutely sensitive that I bounced immediately every time I hear the door opens or if the telephone rings. I felt like holding my breath every time Maam Emma would talk to someone over her cellphone.

Towards 2:30pm, Sir Noel called up and Maam Emma’s face went pale. I got the message right away and broke in tears. For the first time since my paternal grandmother died in 2005, I felt the pain of losing someone so close to me, someone I admired enormously, someone who had been a great inspiration. It was incredibly shocking. The news of his death seemed like the most depressing information I ever heard in recent years, more like a damaging catastrophe. It came without warnings, without any cautions. It was so traumatic because we still had this beautiful conversation over lunch and earlier that morning but why I was not able to notice any hint of huge trouble underneath? Why it happened that way?

Until now, it's just too blurry to understand the whole thing and it's too disconcerting to refer him in the past tense. His death came as a huge surprise. I'd known him for 15 years and was my immediate head for 6 years, for all those times that we were in the same office, I never heard him complained about health, I never witnessed him taking a leave because of illness or something. I knew him as a healthy buff, physically fit and very bubbly, full of laughter and with an incredible sense of humor, very generous with his time and attention. But why so suddenly, those laughter and generosity were taken abruptly? He was only 52 and had very young kids.

With Sir Rene I came to believe that God played favoritism in me, providing me with someone as a head whose kindness was legendary. He was a type of a boss you only read in a fairytale book--- humorous, fun to be with, had a tremendous wisdom, generous in all aspects, down-to-earth, level-headed, very considerate to subordinates and never scared employees to death, because, you know, the reality is, most bosses are really terrifying, rude, scary, inconsiderate who almost made their subordinates’ lives miserable and mentally agonizing.  So I had this very relaxed feeling, no pressure, no tension in the working place, I could not relate to the whining of other employees against their bosses.

He never even pile me with paperworks. He just allowed me to work at my own pace. He was very concerned with my well-being providing me valuable tips about health, like a father who is very protective of his children. There were times that I got to volunteer to do stuff because it was so shameful to notice he did some of the workload. But he never complained nor stuck me with too much burden. He always made sure I observed the proper lunch break or the end of office hours, he kept reminding me that stress and pressure are the culprits of chronic illnesses. He was deeply religious, he never missed special masses at school and never failed to pass by at the chapel before going upstairs. He had a great passion to serve God and the community.

I never witnessed him thundered in anger or yelled at anyone. He never reprimanded the engineering faculty. I did not even hear him affronting me even if some things got on the wrong track, he just offered solutions what to do with it, how to reconcile the lapses. He was not pushy, he just gave everyone their complete freedom to exercise their sense of responsibility. He had this very big heart that glowed in all corners of the room.

When he retired in 2010 and became a full time faculty, my admiration to him did not diminish, I still considered him as my boss and would often ask important matters related to office works. He would talk endlessly about life, about health. He had full of wisdom. He was very down-to-earth and no insecurities in life. 

He abided all the rules implemented by the program, he  had faithfully practice all the responsibilities expected from a faculty. Sometimes I felt a bit embarrass approaching him to submit this, submit that because I was used to the idea of treating him as a boss. But it was not an issue to him, he complied everything and even submitted documents ahead of others. He was very punctual, he never came late. He was a great model to newcomers.

Last June 6, when I reported to the office after our Hongkong trip, he came over and lamented my resignation. For the first time since working in the engineering program, I heard him uttered words that sounded like he would miss me and would never see me again, you know the thing when you will be leaving and has no chance to say goodbye then suddenly you see each other in the corridor again? That was exactly what I felt with that encounter. I told him I would not leave the office until the 28th of June. He even threw a joke telling me that I must also train the one who will replace me to take good care of the faculty.

Almost everyday since June 6, he would repeat the same sentiments that I’ll be leaving the program soon but I was not paying attention to it as a sign of an impending doom, I thought it was just normal expressing some degree of yearning because we have been in the same office for  many years and he already felt very comfortable asking some assistance from me. Sir Rene was a type of person who was a bit shy asking favour from acquaintances. It  will take years before easiness sets in.

But on that fateful afternoon of June 14, I never thought he was the one who would leave first. It was so hard to understand. Until now, his death did not sink in my mind. It felt like I was trapped inside this bad dream. But this is now the reality. Sir is already gone and no matter how I  deny it to myself, the painful truth is quivering before my eyes that he is already gone. 

My regrets triggered my angst that I never stopped crying since we were informed of his passing.  I had so many regrets, why I was not able to ask him about the degree of pain he was feeling that day? Or maybe I could have suggested he would go for a check-up instead of having a massage.

But what am I holding on?

Everything happens for a purpose. Maybe God has His own reasons why He took Sir Rene very early. Dr. Leo Buscaglia, an Italian born American psychologist. once said "Death is a friendly word because it reminds us that we don't last forever".

So maybe, I will just look on the positive aspect of life, like what he had taught me down through all these years. I will just be very grateful with the fact that he chose to spend the last two hours of his life with us, talking, sharing and laughing. It was a beautiful memory seeing his face in a very happy state while preparing for his eternal journey. All I left now is just a memory of sir Rene, all the good times, all the laughter, the humor and the sharing. 

Just a while ago, I went to visit his wake, it was a sad feeling seeing his name on the flowers. I hugged his wife, Maam Rose, I cried again, then she ushered me to his coffin to see his face. 

For the last 30 years of my life, I never got a nerve to see a dead person inside the coffin. I did not view the faces of my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother on the glass of the casket, not even my friend Grace Rosello who died in 2011, I easily chicken out with the notion of glancing a dead person's face, it terrifies me to the bones. But when I visited his wake, I wanted to see his face, I wanted to have one last memory of him. When I moved closer, I saw an almost smiling face, felt like he was just sleeping there. He was lying peacefully as if someone had lifted the burden of pain from his face. He looked so calm.

But no matter what he looked like in that casket, I am still in great shock, the reality still cannot be drilled in my mind, I still refused to believe that it was all true that Sir Rene already gone. His smiling face was still very fresh to me, I could still hear the tone of his voice when we had our last conversation 2 hours before he passed away.

I still need enormous amount of convincing that he was not here anymore. It was just so sudden and unexpected. He will be laid to rest on the 19th of June and I want to be there, I want to witness the beginning of his journey to another dimension of life, to a place where happiness and peace reign forever, to a place where there’s no more complication, no more pain, no more sufferings. Someday, everyone of us will be in that beautiful place too.

Sir Rene wherever you are, your memories will live forever, I will never forget you. 

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Fattimae Baliad said…
Rest in peace Sir Rene Deypalubos ;(
My condolences to the family and friends of our beloved Physics Teacher.

He was one of the best, and my Idol! One thing I will never forget about him is his smile. Glad that I've met a person like him.

Ma'am, would u mind if i ask what was the cause of his death? Dahil lang po ba sa back pain nya or may iba pa po? We never expect kasi mam.ang healthy naman po ni sir.

Thanks & regards,

Uic - batch 2006
Efren said…
Salamat sa pag-share, ma'am Joyce. naa mi sa convention sa CDO, sabay ni sir Sombilla, sir Banzuelo nila Tobias ug uban klasm8 nku, pgkabalo sa balita gikan kay chan. dili pud mi katuo ato.
Joyce Lamela said…
Hello Fattimae,

Actually wala po talagang ibang cause ng death ni sir..infact unknown yung cause ng death na nakalagay sa death certificate daw nya parang aneurism lang yata nakalagay doon...related sa heart ailment ang conclusion din ng iba kasi ang numbness daw sa arm isa sa symptoms ng heart ailment yun lang kasi nireklamo talaga ni sir that morning...

Shocking talaga yung nangyari kasi very active pa sya that morning...wala din kasing ibang illness ni sir since nakilala ko sya nung 1998..very sudden yung nangyari and very sad kasi super mabait talaga si sir..
Joyce Lamela said…
Hi fren..welcome in unbelievable jud ang death ni sir until now dli pa jud mag sink in sa ako mind na wala na sya...maayo pa kaayo iya aura that morning..wala jud symptom na naa siya illness or something..shocking kaayo ang mga nanghitabo huhu!