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What difference a pure poet makes

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In the wake for Jolico Cuadra in Biñan on Tuesday, the anguished Augusta Almedda said the departed poet, purest and most regal of his breed, would’ve surely scolded her over what she had allowed to be done to his face.

Erwin Castillo stood by wondering:  nothing seemed wrong with the quiet, handsome face under the glass.

Danny Dalena watched amused, obviously unaware of what was being discussed.

The three of us were the only guests around 9:00 p.m in that chapel where Cuadra lay in a simple but dignified coffin.

Cuadra, 73, who assumed the name Juan Jose Jolicco Cuadra later in his career, died early Tuesday in a hospital bed after a grim and lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

* * *

Almedda said her beloved partner would’ve surely rejected the powder poured  by the undertaker over the poet’s chiseled profile.

That could be an exaggeration. There was no hint of make-up, the poet looking in perfect natural repose.

“He just did not want anything on his face,” Almedda explained. “He was the same old rebel  until the end.”

Cuadra’s blood pressure dropped to 60/50 very early on Monday, while the fever remained at over 40 degrees.

Texted Almedda: “Argi arrives at noon today from Canada. Oh, pls let him wait for her or there’s a heartbreak.”

The daughter, heavy with her fifth child, planed in from Canada shortly before noon Monday.

Cuadra departed shortly after midnight Tuesday.

Text message: “Yes, our poet held on until she arrived.  Juan Jose Jolicco passed away at 12:10 a.m. , 30 April, 2013. His remains are at Biñan Funeral Homes, Biñan, Laguna.”

A two-day viewing was allowed.

* * *

Cuadra is set to be interred 8:00 a.m. Thursday at the Forest Lake Memorial Park, Biñan City.

Cried Almedda: “Only two days, then we offer him—ihanandog na sa Inang Lupa sa Huweves. I have to relearn living without him.”

Almedda said she has realized the number of people who truly cared for Cuadra after word went around about his death.

Cuadra had wanted to be buried in Calamba, birthplace of his idol Dr. Jose Rizal.

“I promised to do it for him later, this is all we can do for now,” Almedda explained.

“No one can write about him like you,” Almedda added.

But how?

You see, it had seemed truly routine doing a tribute to  Pacquiao’s magnificent boxing reign following his dismal fall last December.

* * *

The easiest—if not the  best—thing to say about the poet Jolico Cuadra was that he never tired staring death in the eye in pursuit of perfection in his art.

Of course, there’s a big problem in this assignment to write a sort of obituary, no matter how late.

I am faced with a blank page.

Unlike some self-proclaimed laureates hereabouts, Cuadra did not strut his literary wares, his achievements were all practically a secret.

He has been anthologized in Jose Garcia Villa’s Doveglion Collection of Poetry, easily the highest honor bestowed a few Filipino poets.

A respected, multi-awarded art critic, he was said to have linked up with Picasso during a European sojourn.

Just like national literary immortal Nick Joaquin, it was reported Cuadra had also met—and maybe got infected, too—with Robert Graves.

* * *

Of course, he seldom and hardly talked about his achievements.

If at all, he never tired pounding into the heart and soul of select poet- and-artist friends the tenets of purity and unshakeable dedication.

He never tired providing materials, mainly rare books, to those whose writing and art he competently tried to prop up.

Erwin Castillo was right when he cried: How do you know what goes in a poet’s heart and mind?

Cuadra was so rebellious be refused to chase his deserved  greatness tag until the end.

He preferred to be poor, obscure—but never even once miserable.

Farewell Master and Friend.

From Erwin: “Our blessing for Jolico:   ‘Deus escrive derecho con linhas tortas,’ quoted by Claudel whom God pardoned, as God pardons you.”

Amen!


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