But what kind of music? The funeral corteges I saw in my childhood were always accompanied by a disembodied soprano voice singing Ave Maria. That was how opera became associated with death and earned its tugtog pangminatay (funeral music) tag among people in our town.
Papa loved opera--the lite kind, by Mario Lanza, but what I remembered of the late singer's repertoire didn't lend itself well to requiems: The Loveliest Night of the Year, Be My Love, Arrivederci Roma. The default soprano recording, now wobbly and scratchy from wear and tear, was out of the question from the outset, so my brother mentioned that a friend of his buried a parent by playing his old man's favorite tune.
What was it, I asked.
Matt Monro's Born Free.
Deep breath. That goofy scene in Gus Van Sant's To Die For unreeled in my mind--of Nicole Kidman's ravenous, fame-chasing character sending off the husband she had deep-sixed by lugging a cassette tape to his funeral and playing All By Myself.
My father's favorite singers, in any case, were Engelbert Humperdinck and Shirley Bassey. By my brother's friend's example, my playlist would have to be... Release Me and Diamonds Are Forever. DEEP breath. How about This Is My Life? Grand, but a dead giveaway. Everyone would know it couldn't have been Papa's choice but his son's, the diva-loving, curiously unmarried event orchestrator. Scrap Engelbert and Dame Shirley.
The only alternative to Ave Maria in the hearse's stereo was that reliable tearjerker, Hindi Kita Malilimutan. Nononono--and this one on grounds of karma. I should confess now: For years when I was part of the seminary choir, whenever we sung in funeral masses we loved milking the scene dry by rendering the most exquisite, heart-tugging Hindi Kita Malilimutan you ever heard--as the wailing kin collapsed one by one in the foreground. We were kids, we loved pandemonium. But, no sir, this time this unshowy family would keen privately, but keep their composure in public.
No music, I told the undertakers in the end--despite the quizzical looks and whispered queries from some kin. We walked to church and brought Papa to his resting place in silence, with only the late-afternoon cacophony of the small town he had loved to his last breath serving as his requiem.
Music to his ears, no doubt. And for this irretrievable moment, much preferable to, say, Quando Quando Quando.