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My Last Letter to Daddy  

My Last Letter to Daddy


 


            Hello, I’m Myrna, the middle child of Joe Lardizabal.  I’ve been living in the States for the past nineteen years, and yet, Daddy and I kept in touch through phone calls or visits.  But it was the frequent hand-written letters we exchanged that kept our bond solid.  Dad would write to me, even if his writing was difficult to read.  Always, though, I could decipher words of love for his children and his strong faith in God.  Noemi encouraged me to keep writing because he kept my letters stacked beside his bed and he’d reread them countless times.  That’s why, I thought of writing one more letter before I say good-bye, one that Dad can reread in Heaven all he wants.


***



December 13, 2003


 


My Dearest Daddy,


 


            When Noemi and Belen called me to say you’re gone, all I could say was “I can’t believe it.”  After all, like Houdini, you’ve escaped death many times.  And you even survived four deaths in our family – your beloved wife, your two sons, and a grandson.  Every time you were rushed to the hospital, I’d hold my breath with dreaded anticipation.  But somehow, you always made it through.  You had one of the strongest, most stubborn will to live. 


 


            My earliest memory of you was your round belly that looked like a pillow was stuffed under your shirt.  I remember your friends joking, “Joe, ilang months ka na?”  And you’d joke back with a proud pat on your tummy, “Six months na.  The baby’s coming soon.”  Only five-years-old, I was convinced that fathers also got pregnant.  Then, I grew a little older and a little wiser and realized your paunch stayed the same way, and no baby would ever come out of it. 


 




But that’s how I want to remember you, Daddy, round and pudgy, full of life, your voice confidently booming across a room, your loud laughter rising above a crowd.  You were a whirlwind of work and activities, always off to either a civic event, to a board meeting, or a party with Mom.  Everywhere I’d go in Cebu, strangers would exclaim, “Imung papa ba si Joe Lardizabal?”   After I’d nod in assent, they’d go on to tell me how they knew you from Rotary, Jaycees, from SWU, or the MBA in UP, or the board of this organization or that. Eternally a Type A personality, you could never stay still except for your afternoon siestas or a night’s sleep.


 


            When Mom was alive, we could all sense how much you adored her. 



She was your center, your reason for living.  Through three years of Mom’s struggle with breast cancer, we witnessed your steadfast devotion and care for her, even when she’d be cranky from the pain of her illness.  After Mom’s death, how you grieved in silence!  Yet you showed us strength of character by moving on with your life.  You had to act as both mother and father to us, from making sure we’d do our homework, watching over us when we’d get sick, even guiding us with our choice of friends or boyfriends.  You took pride in our little accomplishments and our ventures to college, working life, and then married life. You’d let go of some control over us with your famous statement, “It’s up for you.”


 


            When you suffered a stroke in 1985, it was so difficult to watch you move around without your former sure step, or to listen to you speak in garbled words when, before, you were sought out for your eloquent speeches.  Instead of feeling sorry for yourself or wailing to God “Why?” you surged on with life, putting Ruben through Law school, and Belen and David through medical school.  You helped Noemi and I buy our first homes, and gave Oscar moral support for his business ventures and Lorna for her service-oriented activities like the Rotary.  You beamed with great pride and joy as you watched your string of grandchildren grow up.


 


            Then, in 1990, Ruben called me and told me to come home from the States, to cheer you up, because he said, we’d never know when your time on earth would run out.  We organized our first family reunion on May 1990. 



Ironically, only a month after that joyous reunion, Ruben passed away due to complications of the hepatitis-A virus, which had contaminated our water.  Again, with sorrow, you stayed strong and moved on with life.


 


           


However, in 1996, Oscar developed leukemia and had to be brought in and out of the hospital.  We couldn’t even tell you that he was seriously sick, afraid you’d get a fatal stroke.  After a series of treatments in Cebu and an intense clinical trial in Maryland, Oscar succumbed to the ravages of the cancer in his blood.  After his death in 1999, your frail body couldn’t take the repeated grief cast upon you.  You stopped walking and talking and had to stay still in bed. Belen brought you to Manila, away from your beloved Cebu, so she could care for you.

 


           



Did you know that six-year-old Luijoe died due to drowning on May 27, 2000?  Noemi couldn’t bear to tell you the tragic news because you were already so sick.  We were afraid you’d join him in death if you‘d ever find out, knowing how you doted on all your grandchildren. We couldn’t risk telling you because we were not ready to see you go yet.


 


            For four long years, you stayed in bed, under the close scrutiny of Belen, and diligent care of your midwives.  Every time I’d visit you, I noticed that one or two or more of your bodily functions were deteriorating.  Your weight started diminishing, and your loose flesh hung around your bones.  You stopped laughing and swallowing food.  All you could do was to clutch my hand and allow tears to slip down your face. I can only imagine what sheer torture that was for you --- a man who had led a full life with a flurry of activity was suddenly trapped in a failing body.  I wondered why God allowed us to witness such suffering.  I often asked, Did you linger on just to make sure we were strong enough to go on without you?


 


            David kept forewarning me that your body can’t take the repeated aneurisms and seizures.  He tried to prepare me for your loss.  Still, I prayed hard you would live on.   And then, other times, I prayed you would be released from your pain.


 


            As Noemi cleaned out our Lahug home last August, she found my Grade 6 Composition notebook, wherein I wrote this about you.                     


***


I Remember Daddy


            I remember how it was the day Daddy left for Japan.


            I remember that he was standing in front of the dresser


            With his baggage, all ready, and his clothes on.


            I remember how tall and straight and handsome he looked,


            with his tie, with his hair combed.


            And I remember how Mommy was trying to keep from crying


            because he was leaving.


            And how little David, who was only six years old


            and didn’t know much, wasn’t trying to keep from crying at all.


            In fact, he was howling his head off;


            Not because Daddy was leaving,


            but because he couldn’t go, too.


***


            Daddy, good-byes, separations, departures, they’re always tough. Like David, I want to howl my head off with sorrow because you’re leaving.  But like Mommy, I hold back my tears, grieving that you must leave, but knowing I have to let you go.  You surely must be in a happier place, in Heaven, where your soul is free at last from the encumbrances of your frail body.  I imagine you’re singing the song “The Falling Leaves” as Mommy plays the piano.  Are you discussing with Ruben about the coming Presidential elections?  Or exchanging ideas with Oscar about business strategies?  Maybe you’re romping around with little Luijoe as God smiles on. 


 


            Lorna asked me what kind of legacy I think you’d left behind.  I told her, you were always an example of strength and perseverance to your seven children and eighteen grandchildren.  I learned by watching you suffer, that I should never give up on life, and to hold on to every precious moment with my loved ones, fully aware that, like a candle’s flame, life can flicker out in an instant.


 


            Above all these, the best thing you’ve given me is your legacy of true love.  Even though you’re gone, that love and your strength of character will live on as I now pass these to my sons, to your grandsons’ children, and so forth down the generation line.   


 


Thank you, Dad, for every moment we’ve shared.     


 


            Like you told me twenty-six years ago after Mom was buried, I’m telling you now, “I’d like to imagine you’ve gone on a long vacation.”  One day, we’ll meet again.   Till then, enjoy Heaven.   I love you.


Myrna    


 


Civic Leader & Businessman , Loving Husband & Father  

    

          Jose P. Lardizabal, civic leader and businessman of Cebu City, passed away on December 5, 2003 after years of battling the effects of a series of debilitating strokes.  He was seventy-two years old.  

           
Mr. Lardizabal, known to friends and relatives as “Joe” was born to Ruperto and Victorina Lardizabal in Sariaya, Quezon province on February 19, 1931.  He was orphaned in his young teens, and grew up with his brothers, Fermin Lardizabal and Florentino Lardizabal, and sisters, Paulina Lontoc and Gregoria Alcance (+) in Sariaya until they enrolled in the universities in Manila.  

       With hard work and headlong determination, Joe graduated Magna Cum Laude in Bachelors of Arts, Business Administration at the University of the East in 1952.  That same year, he placed Second Place for the Certified Public Accountant Examination.   

            He moved to Cebu City in 1954 to work for William Lines Inc., a passenger and cargo shipping company.  He started out as the Comptroller and through three decades of loyal service to the company, he moved up to Vice-President of Finance, then to Director.

        
In Cebu, he met Salustiana “Sally” Veloso, who was working as an English teacher at that time.  After a whirlwind courtship and engagement, they were married in June 4, 1955 

        
Joe and Sally had 7 children and 18 grandchildren:

       
    Lorna Dietz (BS Hotel & Restaurant Administration, UP Diliman), married to Erik Dietz and residing in San Francisco, California;

         
Noemi Dado (BS Food Technology, UP Diliman) married to Luis Dado and residing in Makati; children: Lauren, Marielle, and Luijoe (died, May 27,2000)

         Oscar Lardizabal (AB Economics, Ateneo de Manila),  (died, April 3, 1999);  Nicere Sarmiento;   Children: Jose Lardizabal, II and Carlos Joseph.
 

        Myrna de Vera
(BS Architecture, UP Diliman), married to Manuel de Vera, Jr. and residing in Hercules, California; Children:  Mark, Christian, and Emmanuel.

        Ruben Lardizabal
(BS Fisheries Management, UP Diliman and Bachelor of Laws, USC Cebu), (died, June 1990); married to Ma. Vida Inocian.  Children:  Rafael and Daniel.

      Belen Dofitas
, M.D. (BS Psychology, UP Diliman; Medicine, UPPGH), married to Rodney Dofitas and residing in Quezon City; Children:  Anthony, Cristopher, Joby, and Matthew.

    
 David Lardizabal, M.D. (BS Biology, UP; Medicine, Cebu Institute of Medicine ) married to Janet Pepito and residing in Cleveland, Ohio.  Children:  Dorothy, Dominic, Jaynelle, and Joshua.

      
With his savvy for entrepreneurial pursuits, Joe helped Sally build the lucrative business of Sally’s Home Bakeshop, which supplied the city of Cebu with her delicious cakes, bread, and pastries.  


      Tragically, Joe was widowed when Sally passed away due to breast cancer in July 25, 1976 at the young age of forty-five.



        Joe was a well-known academician. Called to the noble profession of teaching, Joe was a Vice-President and Dean of Commerce of Southwestern University, and a professorial lecturer for the MBA program at UP College of Cebu.  Many of Cebu’s bankers and businessmen remember Joe as their former professor who always managed to make subjects like Human Behavior interesting and interactive.  He was a much sought-after lecturer or speaker especially on topics of leadership.




Joe established himself, not only as an accountant and businessman, but also as an active civic leader. 




 His children remember how Joe was always on the go, accepting several other positions such as Treasurer/Director of Fast Cargo Transport Corporation and CDFI Marketing Corporation, and Chairman of the Board of Sacred Heart Hospital.  From 1981 to 1987, he was a Director of Metropolitan Cebu Water District.  He also became the President of PICPA Cebu Chapter 1960, Chairman of the Board of Cebu Accountants Development Center, and a member of the Advanced Management Association of the Far East.


      But his involvement in various civic and charitable affiliations was what Joe was well-remembered for.  At the peak of his Rotary years, he took the distinguished position of District Governor for Rotary International District 386 in 1984 to 1985 and President of Rotary Club of Cebu West.  Joe was also admired and recognized for achieving a 100% attendance record in Rotary meetings since his induction in 1972. 


         Joe was also active in Cebu Jaycees as its President and National Vice President, and became the President of Cebu Jaycees Senate and National Director of Philippine Jaycee Senate.  He also held positions on a volunteer basis such as Chairman/President in the Time to Care Foundation, Inc., Special Child Association of Cebu, Enercon Movement of Cebu Regional Directorate, Cebu City Mayor’s Infrastructure Special Team (INSPECT), and SOS Children’s Village, Inc. 


        Joe was credited for the success of the first Sinulog Festival in 1984, acting as Chairman, a position he held until 1986.


             A man of deep faith, Joe devoted much of his time and talent to religious organizations.  He was President of Lahug Parish Pastoral Council, Chairman of the Board and President of Cebu Caritas, Grand Knight and District Deputy of the Knights of Columbus. 

      
His efforts for his leadership and volunteer work did not go unrecognized.  Joe received several major awards during the years of 1961 to 1986:

  
1986        Leadership Award, Special Child Association of Cebu, Inc.


1985        Most Outstanding Past Member of Philippine Jaycees


Rotary International President’s Award (Presidential Citation)


1984       
Who’s Who in the World, 1984-1985, The Marquis Who’s Who Publication




1983        Most Outstanding Rotarian, RC of Cebu West 1982,DISCON-Davao

1982        Honorary Life Membership Award for more than 20 years of meritorious service to PICPA National

1982        Most Outstanding JCI Senator in the Philippines in the field of Community Service (PICPA)

1981        Most Outstanding JCI Senator in the Philippines in the field of Humanitarian Assistance


1979        Papal Award, Knight of St. Sylvester, Pope John Paul II

1976        Most Outstanding CPA in the Philippines in the field of Community Service (PICPA)

1975        Rotarian of the Year (RC Cebu West)

1970        Distinguished Alumnus in Community Service (UE Alumni Ass.)

1969        TEYC (10 Exemplary Young Citizens of Cebu) in the field of

Community Service – Y Men’s Club


1968        Most Outstanding Jaycee of the Year (Cebu Jaycees)


1967        Most Outstanding National Officer (Philippine Jaycees)

1964        Most Outstanding Jaycee of the Year (Cebu Jaycees)


1961        Best Article (originality) Accountants Journal, PICPA National


         
Joe enjoyed the hectic life of being a father, an academician, a businessman, and civic leader.  However, his health suffered in 1985 during the peak of his career in Rotary.  A brain stroke forced Joe to take a leave from his duties but he willed himself to recover his muscle strength and speech, returning to Rotary activities within the year.  Unfortunately, recurrent strokes that impaired his speech forced Joe into early retirement.


        Despite the fact that he had physical disabilities, Joe insisted on being independent and productive. With the help of his children, he kept himself busy by involving himself in the bakeshop business that he and Sally had built.  Joe was able to support his two youngest children through medical school and a son through law school despite his stroke.  All throughout, Joe remained a devoted father and doting grandfather. 


         He established a daily routine of walking to the St. Therese Parish Church and attending the 6 AM mass.  Joe earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues for still regularly attending meetings, conferences, and activities of his civic organizations especially Rotary, Jaycees, and PICPA. 


Thanks to his true friends in various organizations and institutions who always invited Joe to activities, he enjoyed a social life and found real purpose in overcoming his disabilities.  Joe would commute around Cebu City, travel to different cities or provinces, and even go on trips abroad in the care and company of his colleagues or family.  At times, Good Samaritans would bring him home if he needed assistance or had a fall.


         But in 1999, Joe had to undergo an emergency surgery for a subdural hematoma that was pressing on his brain. His family eventually decided that Joe had to be in the direct care of his daughter Belen (a physician) who resided in Quezon City.


          
Joe spent his last four and a half years in Metro Manila in the company of his children and grandchildren.  Joe still managed to be a shining example of endurance and will-power even when bedridden. Although beset with serious medical problems and hospitalizations, Joe would manage to recover, much to the amazement of his physicians.  One of his doctors used to say to his daughter Belen, “Your father has nine lives yata.” 


        However, all his physical afflictions took their toll on Joe last December 4, 2003.  He was rushed to the National Kidney Institute due to low blood pressure.  A serious infection was suspected, and metabolic and kidney problems were causing his deterioration.  


   At around 4:30 pm that day, Joe suddenly awakened from his stupor and appeared to be acutely aware of his surroundings and his situation. Tears filled his eyes as he looked ahead of him.  For a while, it seemed like he was on his way to recovery again. This lasted for several minutes before he fell into a sleep from which he could not be awakened despite the best efforts of his physicians. 


  On December 5, 2003, Jose “Joe” Lardizabal peacefully returned to the Lord.




The family of the late Jose P. Lardizabal acknowledges with grateful appreciation your kind expression of sympathy and for condoling with us during the hours of our bereavement.



      In lieu of flowers, you may give donations in the name of Jose P. Lardizabal to his beloved  St. Therese Parish Church, Lahug, Cebu City (Tel. No. 6332-2334964/ 2314380).


To a great man I never really knew  
The thing that really saddens me is that I never really got to know him. Even though I know what a great person and father he was through the stuff my mom told me, it’s still not the same as having an actual conversation with him. Before I was born, or when I was too little to remember, Lolo Joe (which is what we grandkids call him) suffered a serious stroke that left his speech impaired. I never got to ask him questions about his life and he never got to give me grandfatherly advice on school and life in general. I think I might have gotten along well with my grandpa. He loved kids and didn’t mind loud noise and laughter; during my mom’s high school days they would always hold parties at their house, and unlike most parents he didn’t ask them to keep the noise or the music down. My mom said that when we were little, Lolo Joe used to visit us a couple of days before Christmas and buy us a lot of presents. He did that to my cousins and his nieces and nephews as well, like the family Santa Claus. He also bought us a piano when we were kids–he was a genuine lover of music. I bet if he were still unaffected by the stroke, I could ask him to buy me a bass guitar or another acoustic and he wouldn’t mind as long as I play for him (which I would gladly do, of course).

Friday afternoon our jam session got cancelled because Caloy (our lead guitarist) couldn’t make it. I was disappointed but at least Ponci and I got to hang out at my dorm for an hour and play a few songs. Then my mom arrived and she was in a big hurry because apparently, my grandpa was dying and we had to go to the hospital now. For the first time, my mom drove the car faster than usual, ran a few red lights, and let out a longer stream of cusswords at the other cars on the road. When we arrived at the hospital the doctors just finished their last attempt at resuscitating Lolo Joe. There was nothing they could do for him anymore and just like that, he died.

I cried because I never got to know him, because he was reduced to only skin and bones and I didn’t want to remember him that way. The image of Lolo Joe that I wanted to keep was a memory from my childhood. He was standing in our living room at the house I grew up in and he wanted pictures taken. He always wanted to have pictures taken of us with him.



by Lauren Dado (granddaughter) on December 8, 2003 a few days after his death

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