The Eulogy

Good afternoon, everyone.  I am Evelyn Rodriguez, the eldest child of Vicente Redondo Rodriguez III.  On behalf of my sister Vicky, our puppy Nala, and the rest of our family, I offer my deepest thanks to all of you, for joining us today to honor my father’s life and legacy.

On October 22, 2010—42 days ago today—the friend, kumpare, ninong, mentor, neighbor, and shipmate we have all gathered to remember and celebrate today, my dad, “Chief Rodriguez,” at last allowed himself to be liberated from the limitations of this earthly life, so that he could be reunited with my mother, Editha Ibatan Rodriguez, and the rest of our family’s dearly departed.

There is no doubt in my mind that, in that small moment, my dad was also returned to his Maker—to the mighty God who dreamt up this universe, and made Vicente Redondo Rodriguez III an inimitable adventurer within it.  And I am pretty sure that Dad wasted no time in finding an audience of angels to talk story with, and to impress and delight.  Because Dad did this with everyone: with our family, with people with fancy titles and “important” positions, with the ordinary folks who helped us keep our cars running, checked out our library books, sold us pandesal, and helped watched our mother's crypt; with strangers in waiting rooms and in-line, as well as with all of you: his dearest, closest friends and your families.

This ease with people from all walks of life is one of the things that always amazed me about Dad.  And the intelligence, charisma, and humility that enabled him to connect with so many people, so effortlessly, never ceased to astonish me.  Because, while I have come across other smart, charming, and humble people, I have seldom seen all these qualities come together in the remarkable, magnetic way they seemed to in Dad. 

For instance, I’ll never forget the time our family was invited to a special reception, to recognize and honor my father’s cousin, and her decade of diplomatic work with the United Nations.  As her closest family in the area, we were bestowed VIP status by the reception’s organizers.  So what did I find Dad doing after his cousin delivered her address?  Helping our waiters pour wine and champagne for all the guests.  Bemused, I remember telling Dad that he didn’t need to do that, and that he should relax.  But he replied that we were hosts, and that he wanted the chance to really meet and talk to the people who had come to recognize his cousin.  Only Dad.  This was one way Dad showed me that real greatness comes from serving others.

Dad passed along another lesson that has stayed with me, during my 30th birthday trip to Italy.  At some point during our vacation, Dad and I began arguing about his overpacking.  During one quarrel, I got on Dad for packing all these ballpens.  And sooo many suits.  And I remember telling Dad he didn’t need all those “junk” things….   Finally, he explained that he wanted to be prepared—in case anyone invited us over for dinner.  I was totally dumbfounded.  In that moment, I realized that Dad and I didn’t just pack our luggage differently—we also thought differently about travel, the world, and the people in it.  While most of my travels have taken place since 2000, as a lone scholar, Dad’s international travel experiences had mostly taken place decades earlier, while he was in the Navy.  So, while, at best, I hoped people would just leave me alone during my travels, Dad expected, and still believed that, most people around the world were not just respectful, but inviting--literally.  Realizing this five years ago, I remember being kind of saddened by what I thought was Dad’s naivete.  He still had these romantic, sweet ideas about what the rest of the world was like.  But three years after that trip I finally was able to appreciate how extraordinary Dad’s thinking actually is:  Dad really thought it was possible that Italians we’d just met might welcome us, strangers from continents away, into their homes at Christmastime.  And, he believed we always should be ready to graciously accept their welcome—in our best clothes, and with gifts. And, this wasn’t due to naivete; it was because Dad never abandoned his beliefs, and one his most fundamental was in the goodness of people.  This is how Dad taught me that: 1) no matter how old I grow, or how many degrees I collect, there will be something for me to learn (especially from my parents!), and 2) that as I grow and continue to learn, I should always hope for and be prepared for the best in humanity.

Actually, this is what and how Dad taught my sister and me our whole lives.  Through his example, he challenged us to explore worlds beyond our home and what we thought we knew.  Perhaps more importantly, he inspired us to bring our best selves to the people we meet on our journeys, and to expect that this can and will bring out the best in others. 

Before another trip that I took—on my own—to study Tagalog at the University of the Philippines for several months, I remember Dad and I had another packing feud.  It was going to be my first trip to the Philippines alone, and I had been instructed by my program’s organizers to pack lightly.  But, in true Dad-fashion, Dad gave me an old sea bag, and after I thought I’d packed everything I could into it—he proceeded to pack more.  Flashlights, a military-issued first aid kit, a French press so I could brew my own coffee (seriously).  You can ask my sister: I nearly had a breakdown.  I was already so stressed out about going on my own, especially with my crazy-making malaria medication, and all the stories my parents filled my head with about kidnappings and men who might try to propose to me to come to the United States.  Then, on top of everything, Dad was adding kilos of stuff to my luggage.  We argued about it, with me crying, then leaving the house, then coming back.  But when I returned, Dad apologized, and helped me sort through my luggage, so that I could take out anything I didn’t think I’d need (like a coffeemaker).  Interestingly, everything “extra” that Dad had stuffed in there (like antibiotics and a police whistle) ended up being really useful during my stay in the Philippines.  But the most powerful thing Dad gave me that day was actually a small travel mirror.  Because, as he gave it to me, I remember that instead of giving me instructions about how to use it if I got lost during a hike or some other practical advice, he told me, “Everytime you look in this mirror, I want you to see me.”

Even in that moment, in my weird state, I recognized the significance of what Dad was saying. 

Maybe it’s because I am my mom and dad’s first-born, so before I became anything else in this world—a sister, a student, a dancer, teacher, friend—I was their daughter.  Maybe it’s because most people don’t immediately see the Rodriguez in me, but that afternoon, I heard Dad say he saw himself in me, and that he wanted me to see this too.  What I know for certain is that, ever since Dad spoke those words, I have been more aware of how everything I’ve done and everything I am really is because of the kind of extraordinary people my parents are, and the exceptional way they have raised my sister and me.  This, of course, includes bringing and allowing all of you into our lives, to watch and support us grow.  We have been so blessed.

Before I wrap up, I’d like to share one more Dad-story with you.  The last 4th of July Dad, Vicky, and I were together, I found Dad outside working on my old mountain bike in the garage.  I helped him pump the tires, then headed inside to find some Aleve for my tendonitis.  Then, I thought I heard Dad calling me, so, I looked out the laundry room door into the garage.  And next thing you know, I’m watching my 59 year-old dad bike down the road in front of the house!  I call Vix, and she makes it in time to see dad ½ way down the block, then making a left.  He was away for like 10 minutes, so we presumed he biked to the store or something.  Turns out, he was biking the whole time, because he forgot that the brakes were at the handlebars :)  Anyway, when he came back, we had a good laugh, then we all went to my mother-in-law’s house.  The next day, I wrote in my journal:

I can’t help but think that any moment could be his last; his health is so unpredictable.  Anyway, if that were to be one of the last living memories of dad, it’d so perfectly capture his life’s spirit:  always wanting to build and repair things, risking and learning along the way, always moving, wind in his hair, and eyes like a child: just constantly taking in the world and letting himself be amused and fascinated by it.  I hope Vix and I can be that way.  I hope that, among the other things we’ve inherited from dad (my thirst for knowing, Vix’s follow-my-heart attitude), that we’ve also inherited his spirit—the Vicente Spirit :)  It usually worries the heck out of me, but the honest truth is I admire it; and I know it’s why dad’s such a survivor, such a charmer, such a… smart man—most of the time.

I hope you all will continue to pray with our family, for the peaceful repose of my father’s soul—although Vicky tells me she doesn’t think he’s resting at all, that he’s super-excited, because he’s already enrolled himself in “spiritual school” with my mom.  And I hope that you will all continue to help us live Dad’s legacy here on earth—not just as a college professor and a program officer, but as people who seek to be our best in this world, so that we can use our talents, abilities, and resources to help our world be its best—a just, healthy, balanced place where everyone is able to recognize each other’s common humanity.

Thank you for living your life the way you did, Dad.  We miss you and love you, and promise to continue trying our best to approach our lives with the same courage, exuberance, and passion that you did everyday, for sixty years and seven months.  Please visit us now and again.