Tony was a loving husband to his wife, Rose.
An untiring provider to his children – Bobit, Toti, Jojo and Mira.
And a caring grandfather to Shaira Mae and Clint Nathan.
His wit and laughter will melt everyone’s hearts.
His work ethic earned respect and admiration from his peers.
His faith in God unyielding.
His family is forever grateful for the extended borrowed time.
Tony lived a full life, he is now on a grander journey with his Kuya Ben, Ate Mameng, Nanay and Tatay – enjoying the magnificence of God in heaven.
A man with a thousand stories.
It was one of those boring uneventful days at the hospital, it had been two weeks as we waited for my father’s left foot surgery. A nurse came in with a sullen face to check his vitals, out of nowhere my father asked, “Are you a Mexican?” The nurse replied, “No, I’m Brazilian.” Anxiously she followed up, “Do I look like a Mexican?” My father quipped, “Oh no, you look like a prettier Mexican!” The nurse burst giggling. This was how my father chose to live his life – he easily warm to people and lights up the mood, despite his own dire situation.
Antonio Montegrejo Godes or “Tony” was born on November 28, 1946 in Manila Philippines to Manuel and Eulalia Godes. He was the youngest of three (Ben and Carmen were his siblings). The story that Tony kept telling us, his kids, was that he was born during the American-Japanese war (WW2) exactly when the American forces where liberating Manila. He said he was born while bombs were being dropped at the Intramuros church inside the “walled city”. Tony’s story was that his mother have to cover his mouth at night so the Japanese soldiers will not hear his cries. That one day, while he was playing he saw eyes in the tall bushes and out came an American G.I. who scooped him up – that was when his family realized they were finally free and safe – war has ended.
As a young teen, Tony was a boxer and he would brag he’d won matches easily until his mother asked him to stop for fears of him getting hurt and instead focus on his studies. He did so as told and concentrated with school. His grades were at par with the best in his class he’d say. While watching “TV Patrol” a news program in the early 90’s, we saw a lanky man talk about the weather and gave out trivias. My father said the guy on TV was his classmate, Earnie Baron – a famous TV weather man who was once called a “walking encyclopedia” in the Philippines. Tony said, “Nah, there were much better kids than Earnie.” The wink after says who he was referring to!
He was an endearing uncle to his nieces and nephews, there was one occasion when his niece Susan was having a tantrum and wouldn’t stop crying while they were at Luneta park. A nearby police saw them and thought Tony was kidnapping the child. Tony cried and pleaded to the police, only when Susan spoke that he’s her uncle when the police stopped. He took pride in taking care of them when they were young. His other niece, Lolit used to have difficulty with Math, Tony would sit down and teach her and noticed, “Bakit pudpod na ang lapis mo? Ibibili nga kita ng mga pencils!” (Why are your pencils worn out? I’ll buy you new ones!). This was Tony, he was generous and sees opportunities to be a bigger person. To this day, (Ate) Susan still wondered why a police tried to handcuff his uncle Tony and (Ate) Lolit is still waiting on the promised pencils 🙂.
Tony supported himself through college, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Commerce at the Far Eastern University (FEU). He worked as an insurance agent while also supporting his own family. Whether it rain or shine he seldom/do not miss classes and work, he would walk on waist-deep floods of Manila to his school or work. This was something he mentioned to his sons often – sort of a challenge and to inspire us to always find a way and not let life’s challenges beat us.
One day, Tony noticed a girl who worked on the office across from theirs, instantly he was smitten by her. His friends egged him to get the girl’s name and for days they’ve been banging on the women’s restroom door every time the girl and her friends use it. Not long after, the girl and her friends got fed up, sure enough the door knocks came, that time the girl was prepared. Right after hearing the knocks she immediately opened the door to see Tony standing outside – she slapped him in the face! She asked why he was disturbing them. She saw the rest of the men on the side laughing while Tony stood there who said, “I just wanted to know your name.” She said, “I’m Rose” and in hindsight thought Tony was handsome.
Tony was always clean and neat, you will see him with his pants completely ironed (“baston” by Lola), his hair meticulously slicked back with pomade, and his shoes all shiny. He used to measure even the length of his shirts by hands (“dangkal”). His niece recall how she gushed every time she visits her Uncle Tony at his office with a big table and thought he was dashing and was proud of him. Rose’s brothers would tease her every time he visit their house. “Oh Rose, nandyan na si high waist!” (He always wore his belt up high by his tummy). Rose would later tell us, her strict father liked Tony and never gave him hard time compared to her other suitors.
Tony and Rose were together five years before they got married on December 19, 1973. Like any couple they strived to live a good life making both ends meet. They were blessed with three sons, Jojo, Toti and Bobit.
My father was loved at work and knew how to level with anyone. When he was a security officer at the port area near Baseco island (where thugs and the most-wanted lived), they would salute at him. I was amused the first time I saw that, my father said, “Alam mo anak, mahirap na ang buhay nila, kapag mababa pa tingin natin sa kanila sino pa rerespeto sa kanila?” (“Son, they are already living a hard life, all we can do is to treat them with respect.”)
There was that time when I was already in college my father lost his job, I saw that he was troubled. He had always been busy. He had always been the provider. His daily routine was waking up early to go to work, and coming home late to eat dinner with us then do the same thing the following day. I asked wether I should stop from school, he asked why and that there was no need, he assured, “Okay lang tayo, anak.” (We’ll be fine, son). He was right.
But don’t get started with basketball. Tony was a pretty decent baller when he was young and a big fan of the sport. He told us his father often brought him to watch games at the Rizal memorial stadium. He spoke highly of the great Philippine basketball players like Caloy Loyzaga and Carlos Badion. He would excitingly tell us play by play how great our players were when facing much taller US or China teams. And if watching and cursing a fumbling Ginebra team on TV could kill, Robert Jaworksi and Marlou Aquino would have been long dead by now. He was a Lebron James fan through and through.
Tony always wanted to come to America. When he was younger he applied but failed to make it as a US navy. Looking back, he always felt he gave a wrong answer when the officers asked why he wanted to join, to which he responded, “Because I wanted to do sight-seeing in America.” He said he should have stated it “differently” and just said what the officers wanted to hear – that he wanted to serve the US navy in protecting its borders 🙂.
When Tony and Rose finally migrated to the US in 2001 (his children had to be repetitioned for later), he realized how difficult it was to start afresh. He would wake up in the wee hours of the morning or came home late. He would assure us that he and mom were just fine. Although he also told us stories of him almost getting mugged at a bus station or that time while biking late at night he fell on a road under construction, he got help from a homeless man. “A good heart is a good heart,” said Tony.
In 2005, before being pulled to the operating room for his quadruple bypass surgery, I was over the phone with him and I asked if he was scared, he said he was. We read a bible verse and prayed together and assured him he will be fine and that God was on his side. A couple hours of surgery and in the following day he woke up asking if the operation have started. His nurse told him, it’s all done and successful, he smiled.
Tony had other health bouts from then on, he lost sight on his left eye and a chronic diabetes forced him to a thrice-a-week trip to the dialysis facility. In 2012, a mild stroke forced him to spend Christmas and New Years at the hospital. The first time he had to use a cain he never liked it and felt insulted, soon however he realized it was also an advantage. He would gladly walk in front of long lines and when crossing streets, he would say (to the cars), “Let them wait!” and walked even slowly as if further teasing the now honking cars. It was fun for him.
He loved movies, when “Titanic” came out Tony belittled it to “The Poseidon Adventure.” “Saving Private Ryan” was a bore compared to “The Great Escape.” He loved war movies and would even watch by himself. His cain gave him more power cause when he’s done watching a movie, he casually walked to the next theater. One time a crew caught him and just remarked, “You’re the man!”
He loved music. We grew up playing his vinyl collection the likes of The Four Aces, Jackson 5, Matt Monroe and loads of tapes of the Beegees, The Lettermen, the Beatles and so on. He would hum along Whitney Houston and Celine Dion songs. He always looked forward to watching “Tawag ng Tanghalan” (an amateur singing show on TV). Tony would always say, play the “amateur” on TV and he’d be content watching it all day long.
In 2015, an infection on Tony’s right foot required amputation of the leg. At first my mother and I thought the sight of him unable to walk would depress him. But when after surgery we first heard his laugh calling his amputated leg “putol” (cut), we knew he’d be fine cause his humor was still intact. Years later, he was so happy when he was able to walk again using his prosthesis leg. Proudly, he announced he was ready to go back to work!
2020 was a messed up year for many due to COVID, to his family it felt like the beginning of the end when we learned this time, his left leg caught infection and had to be amputated (he would soon be a double amputee). I was with him at the hospital for a whole month (I got an exemption/forced myself to be with him). We fought with doctors and nurses, when we’re not confident on their assessments. Tony’s family was very much involved. At night when he was confused, agitated and hallucinating (perhaps due to the pain/medicine), I just slowly massaged the back of his ear, he recognized and smile saying, “Kilala ko yang haplos na yan, anak ko yan.” (I know that touch, it’s my son).
There were days he would cry asking God what wrong he did to deserve all the pain and suffering, saying he’d been a good man all his life! I couldn’t find the answer myself – he did not deserve these. Yet every time, I mustered encouragement and to keep the faith. We would never perhaps understand His purpose but we could always put our trust in God who is in control. I would like to believe this appeased my father.
Tony would often speak about his good old neighbors, on how he first learned to drive, or how he always wanted to win in lotto. He said he would go back to work. He worried how come I was with him and not able to work (looking after him). He forced himself up and show every time to the doctors and therapists that he was ready to go home. But most of the time he would make nurses laugh. He befriended a hospital cleaning crew who came to visit him almost every day to check and chat with him. He knew no color, race nor occupation – he just saw people.
Even after the surgery and coming back home, although physically diminished now, Tony still found ways to see good things in his situation. He would assure his family he was fine. He would still make fun of us. One day when I saw Tony and Rose fighting over him didn’t want a bath, frustrated I asked why do they always fight over very non-sensical things. He said, “Ganyan talaga ang mag-asawa!” (That’s what married couples do!) he then laughed. My mom laughed too. He’d advise my sister-in-law (Mira) in leading her own family especially with his grandchildren, Shaira Mae and Clint Nathan.
A new infection on his left leg prompted us to seriously consider bringing him back to the hospital and reconsider another amputation (this was around October). Tony did not want another surgery – he’d say he was already old that he was ready. He was provided with an infectious disease doctor and a wound specialist who were able to guide us control the infection, and his wounds partially healed. He’s strength have been reviving, we even dined out as a family when the social restrictions were a bit softened. Tony ate so much that day and said he was happy.
At the start of 2021, his antibiotics ran out and a new infection resurfaced, he was again in agony. This time per advise from his surgeon, he would be on hospice (to avoid COVID contraction) with nurses coming over and checkpoints with the doctor. Just like in the past, Tony and his family were still optimistic. However he had good and bad days from then on. Our family tried to comfort him as much as we could. When days that he wasn’t himself, our patience was at all time high. But when he was back to his self, he’d wake up with a smile and we say “Welcome back!” By January 19th, we woke up with his vitals not looking good. Nurses came that day and his vitals normalized, the nurse even told her, “Lalaban tayo ha?” (We’ll be strong huh?) and dad said bit garbled now, “Lalaban” (I’ll fight)… but at one point he also said, “Hindi ko na kaya” (I’m done).. It was the longest day of our lives. He had been deteriorating and by night time, I was holding his hand while mom and I saw him take his last breath.
This is how I will always remember my father – he was warm who’s endearing laugh melted everyone. He worked his entire life so we can have our chance for a good life. He gave up some of his dreams so we can have ours. He guided us to be the best men we can be. He fought amazingly against life’s tough battles that put Manny Pacquiao to shame. Love you Dadi, I know you’re loving us back from heaven. No more pains, just peace and love now. Thank you for the stories!
Nine-day Novena for the departed
A daily novena (‘pa-siyam’) is being streamed via Zoom app:
Topic: Tony Godes’ Daily Prayer (9 days)
Time: This is a recurring meeting (Novena starts at 6:00 PM PST)
Meeting ID: 717 3975 5948
“When Life gives you hundred reasons to cry, show life you have thousands of reasons to smile”
If you would like to send flowers, you may do so via 878 Compass Way San Diego, CA 92154 USA
Viewing and interment service schedule
When: February 6, 2021 Saturday PST (February 7th Manila/Tokyo/Sydney)
Visitation: 11:00 AM PST – 2:00 PM PST (Manila 3-6 AM / Tokyo 4-7 AM / Sydney 6-9 AM)
Mass/Service: 2:00 PM PST – 3:00 PM PST (Manila 6-7 AM / Tokyo 7-8 AM / Sydney 9-10 AM)
Interment: 3:00 PM PST (Manila 7 AM / Tokyo 8 AM / Sydney 10 AM)
The whole event will be streamed live via Facebook (TBD)
Address: Glen Abbey Memorial Park & Mortuary – 3838 Bonita Rd. Bonita CA 91902
You may leave a message to the family by clicking here or leave comment/reply below.