Over-the-counter drugs could no longer lower the fever Ka Omeng was suffering for three days straight. It was getting unbearable for him and he badly needed medical attention. He called his employer to ask for financial assistance, and the request was granted. By Tuesday afternoon, Ka Omeng was confined in a nearby hospital.
Ka Omeng’s condition became better by Thursday afternoon and would be discharged by Friday morning. But then, Ka Omeng’s health came to a serious decline on Thursday night. He had difficulty swallowing food, he had low appetite and at times, he was gasping for breath. He also frequented the comfort room, dragging along his dextrose stand; and he was hard up in letting his urine out.
Way into midnight, Ka Omeng was tired and exhausted. He was profusely perspiring while shivering in cold. The attending doctors were alarmed but could not make the proper diagnosis. Various symptoms were going plenty and Ka Omeng could not be stabilized. At about 4:00 a.m. early Friday morning, Ka Omeng told his wife, “Steady ka lang. Pahinga muna ako.” (Be steadfast. I am just going to rest.)
Minutes passed and Ka Omeng was gone. The hospital was right, he was discharged that Friday morning. The hospital had to request for an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Ka Omeng had contracted leptospirosis.
Ka Omeng’s wake lasted a week and his remains was later interred at the Manila North Cemetery.
Two weeks after the interment, Ka Omeng was replaced as office messenger by Derick, a young lad from Tondo. Derick started work immediately after his interview with Sir Miguel Vasquez, the office manager. Derick had to take Ka Omeng’s duties and responsibilities; and he adapted well into his first job.
One Wednesday morning, Derick and Sir Miguel reported early for work. Derick was busy cleaning the office tables and furnitures when Sir Miguel called him to his office.
“Give these documents to Taribong for his review and comments,” Sir Miguel instructed Derick.
“Yes, sir.” Derick replied, and then, proceeded back to work.
About thirty minutes passed, Derick was reading the newspaper at his desk, on top of which were the documents to be given to Taribong.
When Sir Miguel came out from his office, he asked, “Derick, have you given the documents to Taribong?”
“Not yet, sir.” Derick answered.
In a booming voice, Sir Miguel further asked, “Why haven’t you given the documents to him yet? He needs to study them and we have to discuss them this afternoon.”
Derick, in a surprised tone, said, “But sir, Taribong has not arrived yet.”
Sir Miguel was near to getting angry, “No, I saw him with you this morning. He also entered the pantry area and I saw him walk into his cubicle.”
Derick was puzzled, “Eh, sir. It’s just the two of us here.” He walked into Taribong’s cubicle, and remarked, “Look, sir, Taribong’s bag is not here. He really has not arrived yet.”
Sir Miguel felt cold but sweat trickled his face. “Sorry, Derick, but I think I saw Taribong walking inside the office a while ago. He was clad in long-sleeved, white barong.”
Derick shook his head, “No, sir. I have not yet seen him today.”
When the two secretaries arrived. Derick told them about the incident. The ladies were dumbfounded. Lisa, the most senior office personnel, suspected that Sir Miguel saw Ka Omeng’s ghost in the office, because hwe was also wore long-sleeved white barong when he was laid to rest. Lisa told Sir Miguel about her thoughts and suspicions and Sir Miguel told her, he suspected the same thing, too, but he would not want to dwell on it anymore.
Around noon, Taribong arrived in the office. His officemates relayed to him what transpired. At one time or another, they said they felt some cold air in Taribong’s cubicle. They pointed out that, although he not admit or show it, Sir Miguel was scared because he now kept the usually-locked-door to his office partially open.
The day’s work went smoothly; and the employees began to leave, Sir Miguel asked Taribong to stay awhile to talk about the documents given to him. After their discussion, Taribong excused himself but Sir Miguel asked Taribong to wait as he was already getting ready to go home. There was tension in Sir Miguel’s voice.
Sir Miguel and Taribong rode the elevator at the fifth floor; Taribong pressed the 7th floor button before pressing G button. In Taribong’s mind, this was the opportune time to talk about the incident (hehehehe).
Taribong then curiously asked,” Sir, if you don’t mind me asking, what was it you saw this morning?”
Sir Miguel hesitated to talk and just glanced at Taribong. They were only two in the elevator which was going up when they should be getting down. The elevator opened at the 7th floor but no one got in.
As the elevator door closed, Sir Miguel said,” Let this be my last account of what happened. I’m getting goosebumps again. See, I thought I saw you as the man in barong, walking to and fro in the office, but you haven’t arrived yet. It was only Derick and I at the office then. Lisa said it may have been Ka Omeng, and I agree with her.”
Taribong only smiled.
Sir Miguel continued,” I also remembered when my family visited Boracay. Around midnight, my wife and I heard footsteps inside our hotel room. We did not mind the sounds but early the next morning, we found sand at the foot of our bed. There were no traces or tracks where the sand may have come from.”
Taribong was about to alight at the ground level when Sir Miguel requested him to hold some documents and to accompany him to the basement parking. Taribong’s smile grew even wider.
After Sir Miguel got to his car, Taribong’s smile was fixed in his face as he walked back to the elevator. Did Ka Omeng really visit the office?
(Ka Omeng, thank you for sharing your faith, your views, your dreams, your life. May you rest in peace. -Taribong)