Pen Strokes

November 11, 2008

A Hundred Thousand Swans

Cancer could not rob Jette of Life!

Cancer could not rob Jette of Life!

September of 1988… It must have been around 5:00am when we heard it; loud thumps and banging coming from my sister, Jette’s room! Noise loud enough to wake up everybody in the household! Naturally, we all rushed to Jette’s room to see what was happening; and what we saw would send a chill down my spine…

Jette was banging her head against the concrete wall of her room! Blood was oozing out of her ears and nose! Blood was everywhere! She had been complaining about migraines and headaches for the past several months but the doctors we consulted with found nothing wrong with her. But if there was nothing wrong with her, why was she banging her head against the wall?

Without wasting anytime, we carried Jette, screaming and kicking, to Dad’s car and took her to the hospital.

At the hospital, doctors ran several tests and procedures on her but found nothing. Finally, the MRI Result came out and indicated that Jette had a tumor the size of a one-peso coin wedged between her skull and her spine! She had Cancer! She had cancer? What? I started to worry about a lot of things! I worried about Jette! She was so afraid of pain! She would cry at the slightest hint of pain. And what about Mom? How would she cope with this? She worries about everything! And me? I didn’t want to lose my only sister! But in the midst of all my fears, one thing worried me the most… My Dad!

Jette in her cancer-free days.

Jette in her cancer-free days.

Jette was my Dad’s entire life! She was the reason he got up every morning. She was the reason he worked so hard!  Jette could make my Dad do things no one else could get him to do. I remember once when she was in the 2nd Grade; she made my Dad promise to give up smoking if she got high enough grades. This might have seemed like some small request, but let me tell you, nobody; and I mean nobody comes between my Dad and his cigarettes! But Jette dared; and Jette got high grades too! So, my Dad took out an entire ream of Marlboros and placed them on the dining table. He then took out his best gold-plated lighter; polished it and laid it on the table beside the ream of Marlboros. Then, he sat in front of those objects and stared at them as if to say “Let’s see who’s tougher, you (the smokes) or me…”  And he sat there staring at his vice all night long! The very next day, my Dad gave up smoking and never touched a cigarette again… ever!

My Dad was also very protective of Jette. I sometimes pitied the boys who tried to court my sister when she grew to become a beautiful teenager. They had to be either very brave or very stupid to even try to court her! I mean, how could any boy attempt to get near her when she had this big pit-bull hanging around her all the time? What pit-bull? My Dad of course!

Jette meant the world to him; and now she had cancer!

But Dad loved Jette so much that he couldn’t let her go! Dad wasn’t going to give up without a fight! He’d beaten the odds before and this… this cancer was just one more hurdle he could overcome! He would not give up! He could not lose Jette! He would fight this ‘til the bitter end! Yes, he would fight this; at my sister’s expense.

One year and 8 operations later, Jette was worse than ever. She began to deteriorate. At first, she was confined to a wheelchair. Eventually, she would be bed-ridden. But Dad would not give up! Jette would undergo 5 more operations… 13 operations in all in a matter of just 3 years!

I once asked Jette why she allowed Dad to do this to her? Why didn’t she just say “enough”? Jette looked at me and smiled lovingly and said “Because Dad needs to hold on to something…” Imagine that! She loved my Dad so much that she was willing to take all the pain thrown at her just so my Dad would have something to hold on to. We might think it’s illogical, but that was Jette! She had so much love in her that logic lacked an explanation for it! She loved unconditionally! And if she was here right now, you would have loved her too!


A paper swan

One time, a group of her High School friends visited her and started making paper “origami” swans. They had heard of an old Japanese tradition stating that if they would be able to make 1,000 paper swans a wish would be granted for them.  Jette was amused at their tale and asked them what they would wish for. They replied “…for you to get well, of course…”  Jette smiled at them and said “Don’t pray that I get well. I’ve accepted my fate. Tell you what; write a prayer on the pieces of paper that you use to make swans and leave them here. I promise to take them with me when I meet God…”  Jette’s friends were hesitant at first; but they soon obliged.

Soon, everyone we knew… and some we didn’t know… were giving Jette paper swans with prayers in them! There were so many people giving swans that after 3 years she had nearly 100,000 swans in three big boxes! The only one who didn’t give Jette a swan, however, was Dad.

Then, one day, Jette started to convulse violently! She couldn’t stop shaking! So, Dad prepped the car to take her back to the hospital. As I carried her to the car, she reached out for my Dad and whispered “Get the swans.”  Dad acknowledged her request and took the 3 large boxes with the paper swans to the car. When we got to the hospital, I immediately took her to the emergency room while my Dad and brother, Yaki, parked the car and tried to convince the security guard to allow them to bring in the boxes. The guard eventually allowed them to bring just one box in.

When my Dad and brother finally entered Jette’s cubicle, she was dying; but you could almost see her struggle to stay alive. Perhaps she did this so that my Dad wouldn’t be sad. Dad then told the doctors to step aside. He approached Jette and hugged her tight and whispered to her ear “It’s okay, baby. Go. You can go now, Jette. It’s okay…”  And as he hugged her, Jette gave out a deep breath and passed away…

As my Dad stood up and laid my sister’s lifeless body back to bed, I noticed he had something in his hand. It was a paper swan.  Dad then turned away, placed the paper swan in the box and, finally, said “Goodbye.”  He loved my sister so much that he would, now, let her go.

As for Jette? She’s in Heaven now! And with her… A HUNDRED THOUSAND SWANS!

A Speech by:
Enrique Salvador E. San Agustin

Though this event, its characters and the emotions manifested in this post are true, several details have been embellished to convey the strong emotions felt during this event.



  1. i’ve heard this speech numerous times, and yet, reading it again now, still brings tears to my eyes. i feel for you and your family’s loss.

    Comment by sheila — November 11, 2008 @ 10:11 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Sheila. I actually re-wrote this because the original copy was corrupted by a virus. As I typed this, I still cried. 🙂

    Comment by boom8088 — November 11, 2008 @ 10:32 pm | Reply

  3. very beautiful poignant story – a story of hope and pure love. thanks for sharing this, tito boom! your family is indeed very lucky to have had an angel touch your lives, and who now is touching more lives with her endearing story.

    Comment by Jenny — November 12, 2008 @ 12:18 am | Reply

  4. Jenny! Thanks for visiting my blog! Yes! Angel is the right word. 🙂

    Comment by boom8088 — November 12, 2008 @ 1:46 am | Reply

  5. tito boom….. i cried a river while reading… i know the feeling… i just lost my tatay last May cos of cancer..

    Comment by tau — November 12, 2008 @ 6:27 am | Reply

  6. Tau! Did you mean May this year? OMG! I’m really sorry to hear that! My prayers go out to you and your family…

    Comment by boom8088 — November 12, 2008 @ 11:37 pm | Reply

  7. Oh Boom …. what a heart-rending yet beautiful story about your sister. The Swans – I don’t know what to say. How wonderful that she was so loved; and so loving. And she and your father’s relationship: being an addicted smoker for over 50 years I know how much he loved (and loves) her….and she him. It’s such a bitter-sweet recounting.

    What I related to so well (and still relate to for I still have cancer although it’s under control at the moment) were her words:
    “Don’t pray that I get well. I have accepted my fate”….do read ToC if you have the time and inclination; it may help you understand her. In that, I have said “If we open up to it there is a kind of peace in this for us; but our families cannot know that peace…………” “I truly believe it is much harder for our loved ones” God bless. Jean

    Comment by jean Charity — November 14, 2008 @ 6:22 am | Reply

  8. Thank you so much for this comment, Jean! And yes… I will be reading “Touch of Cancer” soon… 🙂

    Comment by boom8088 — November 15, 2008 @ 12:58 am | Reply

  9. ur bad tito boom! for the first time, you made me cry!

    this is truly an inspiring story.

    Comment by sushi — November 16, 2008 @ 1:13 am | Reply

  10. Thanks Sushi! I know that you’re very hard to please when it comes to things like these; so I am truly honored by your comment! 🙂

    Comment by boom8088 — November 16, 2008 @ 1:55 am | Reply

  11. Ganda ng story Boom. God Bless.

    Comment by Kit — November 17, 2008 @ 11:56 am | Reply

  12. Hi Sir Boom:

    Thanks for sharing with me your website. Truly, it was very inspiring to read your writings. I am so touched also about the relationship of your dad with your sister. Will read more of your writings.. and hopefully get an inspiration.

    Comment by Delia — November 17, 2008 @ 1:42 pm | Reply

  13. Boom, this “stroke” a string in my heart.

    Comment by ed — November 18, 2008 @ 10:21 am | Reply

  14. Kit! Wow! Thanks for visiting! How’s my favorite Quantum Physicist? Have you checked out Flashforward yet? Just click on the link in Pen Strokes… 😉

    Comment by boom8088 — November 18, 2008 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  15. Delia! Thanks for the comment! More stories to come! 🙂

    Comment by boom8088 — November 18, 2008 @ 12:03 pm | Reply

  16. Ed! Are you being serious??? Someone call a doctor! 😀

    Comment by boom8088 — November 18, 2008 @ 12:04 pm | Reply

  17. Hi Boom, this is the second time you made me cry…. remember the frog story??
    I wish I was blessed with a good talent in writing so I can write my strugles (and the strugles of other filipinos) here in America.

    Comment by marissa (bluebacon) — November 19, 2008 @ 3:25 am | Reply

  18. Hi Marissa! Yeah, I remember “Of Mice and Frogs”. It was my first attempt at writing… and that was ages ago!

    What do you mean you can’t write? I’ve read your posts on the old K-Lite Forum and you can write well! Give it another shot, girl! 🙂

    Comment by boom8088 — November 19, 2008 @ 3:38 am | Reply

  19. How blessed you have been. How gracious of God to allow someone who would share such beauty with the world to experience it. May God continue to bless you with an abundance of graces.

    Comment by Theresa Hartman — November 28, 2008 @ 1:11 pm | Reply

  20. Thanks for your comment, Theresa! It truly warms my heart. 🙂

    Comment by boom8088 — December 3, 2008 @ 2:53 am | Reply

  21. My God, if only this kind of love was contagious the world would be a much better place! God bless you and your family.

    Comment by Opal — January 13, 2009 @ 1:14 am | Reply

  22. Thanks Opal! I agree with you; and I’m sure Jette does too. 🙂

    Comment by boom8088 — January 13, 2009 @ 1:22 am | Reply

  23. Poignant yet inspiring. The death of your sister is tragic, but through your words, her tragedy becomes a triumph of the human spirit.

    Comment by junroy — January 14, 2009 @ 11:03 pm | Reply

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Jun! I sometimes wonder how many lives Jette has saved or is saving by her passing away. 🙂

      Comment by boom8088 — January 15, 2009 @ 12:06 am | Reply

  24. omg!!! last year? im so sorry…im so nahihiya…how are your parents? how are you?

    Comment by rachelle — January 21, 2009 @ 7:31 pm | Reply

  25. Rachelle, Hahaha! No!! Not last year. Jette passed away in 1992 pa. That was 5 years before we met. But thanks for the outpouring of emotions! That really touched me. 😀

    Comment by boom8088 — January 21, 2009 @ 10:46 pm | Reply

  26. hi boom. i remember these as if it was just yesterday. i know she is in a better place. please keep in touch.

    Comment by dick falcon — January 28, 2009 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

    • Hi Dick!

      Long time no see, hear or smell, Bro! What are you up to now?

      Yes, bitter sweet memories! I’m glad you still remember those days… 🙂

      Comment by boom8088 — January 29, 2009 @ 12:21 am | Reply

  27. Boom,

    Thanks for sharing this story. We may not know the reasons why the Lord allow this things to happen this side of eternity to your family; but sure glad that your family knows that Jette is with her Maker now enjoying eternal bliss.

    Great Blog site you have!

    Comment by Rudy & Dottie — February 3, 2009 @ 10:09 pm | Reply

  28. Rudy and Dottie!

    Thanks for your comment! Is this Dottie Ilagan? If it is, then it’s been a loooooong time! How’d you locate my blog? 🙂

    Comment by boom8088 — February 5, 2009 @ 4:34 am | Reply

  29. Great story and yes … certainly motivation for the day … thank you so much for sharing!

    Comment by Jennifer — March 5, 2009 @ 1:04 am | Reply

    • Glad you liked it, Jennifer! I hoped this helped you to do what you had to do. I’m sure Jette’s glad she could help too! 🙂

      Comment by boom8088 — March 7, 2009 @ 12:11 am | Reply

  30. Hello!

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!


    Raiul Baztepo

    Comment by RaiulBaztepo — March 30, 2009 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

  31. Hello !!! ^_^
    I am Piter Kokoniz. oOnly want to tell, that I like your blog very much!
    And want to ask you: will you continue to post in this blog in future?
    Sorry for my bad english:)
    Thank you:)

    Comment by PiterKokoniz — April 8, 2009 @ 5:04 pm | Reply

  32. Hi Piter,

    Yes. I will continue posting on this blog. If you notice, I just had a new post on this blog entitled “An Open Letter to Chip Tsao (The War at Home)” last April 4.

    I think that the reason you only see “A Hundred Thousand Swans” on the cover page is because I pinned that post to the front because I wanted everyone to be inspired by my sister’s story. Anyway, I’ll probably unpin this story now.

    Thank you very much for your comment!


    Comment by boom8088 — April 9, 2009 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

  33. hi boom…rhona here…. i nominated you for the top 10 most influential blogs….and you really made me cry with this one. I hope, when somebody I love is nearing his/ her end, I’d have the strength to let go

    Comment by kikayness — May 17, 2009 @ 5:14 am | Reply

    • Hi Rhona!

      Wow! Thanks for your comment and your endorsement! Don’t worry about Death just yet… Live your life; that’s all that matters. 🙂


      Comment by boom8088 — June 18, 2009 @ 1:28 am | Reply

  34. Hi Boom,

    My heart just sank after reading this wonderful story. But it makes one feel stronger though. I’ve known Jette way back in high school (SHS). Your writing sums up, sort of, Jette’s entire life. She’s truly a remarkable person. Thank you for sharing. My prayers are with you and your family.


    Comment by Nova — November 4, 2009 @ 4:38 am | Reply

    • Hi Nova!

      Thank you so much for your comment! Whenever I feel like giving up I always think about Jette. She was happier in dying than I am in living. I guess she makes us all feel stronger.


      Comment by boom8088 — November 4, 2009 @ 11:01 am | Reply

  35. Thank you so much for sharing your story. The exclamation points were a turn-off. How unsensitive is that? Sorry. I’m rude. Uhm… I’m embarrassed now. Sorry about your sister. Beautiful story.

    -pickle (the name I can never get rid of D:)

    Comment by pickle — January 5, 2010 @ 2:41 am | Reply

    • Hi Pickle!

      Interesting name. 😉

      Hahaha! Don’t worry about your “exclamation point” comment. Come to think of it, there are quite a few out-of-place exclamation points in my story. Thanks for pointing them out. And you’re not rude at all.


      Comment by boom8088 — January 5, 2010 @ 2:53 am | Reply

  36. Hi Boom…to those of us who loved Jette, we appreciate the way you wish to remember her. It must have been pretty difficult to see her in such state for 3 long years since she was naturally bubbly and full of life. When I try to look back and think of Jette, I’m always left with a smile on my face because of the many happy memories that come back. She had a certain light about her, and her humor and wit were what drew me to her. She was also always brutally frank and had no qualms about giving you a piece of her mind…..somebody who didn’t sell out to please but was indeed a wonderful friend to us. This is how I wish to remember her…..
    To all of us whose lives she’s touched, jette has left us all these memories for us to recall and retell the way we choose too.
    Kudos to you Boom….a wonderful brother and a great friend!

    Comment by Joanne — January 15, 2011 @ 1:20 pm | Reply

    • Hi Friend!

      I’m really glad you got around to reading this. Yes, we choose to remember those we love in the best way possible. I choose to see my sister this way… surrounded with love and changing people’s lives.

      Comment by boom8088 — January 16, 2011 @ 1:14 am | Reply

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