NELSON has always been there in my life for as long as I can remember -- I was only two years old when he was born on June 14, 1959. Gwendolyn was the eldest daughter and Winston was the first son. I was the second daughter, Nelson was the second son, and the two of us quickly learned to follow the pecking order. Later on Byron, Marlon, Farla and Pablo John would come along.
Nelson loved to play outside which got him in trouble numerous times. He especially loved to climb trees. One day, he fell several feet from our tambis tree down to the cement, hit his head, fractured his arm and was hospitalized. A few months later while my younger siblings were playing, my little sister Farla’s doll was thrown over the hollow block fence, landing on our neighbor’s backyard. Winston ordered Nelson to climb the fence to retrieve Farla’s doll. He obediently followed Winston’s orders and as soon as he landed, three ferocious dogs attacked and bit him all over his body. He also got his foot run over by our family car. He had extended his right foot as Daddy was slowly backing out of the carport, waiting out of curiosity to see what would happen. Miraculously, he did not get hurt.
(Family of former House Deputy Speaker Pablo Paras Garcia and Cebu CFI Cooperative founder Esperanza Fiel Garcia)
Outlook on Life
I see Nelson’s childhood incidents as forecasting the subsequent years of his life: he was never arrogant, never a rebel. He was humble and knew his place while also facing life with an adventurous, fearless spirit. Having suffered several physical mishaps when he was a little boy, he was seemingly impervious to pain growing up. Nelson was kind, selfless, and had a gentle spirit. He loved to work with his hands, fixing cars and other broken things. He was quick to forgive and did not hold a grudge against those who hurt him. In his own unique way, he developed a network of friends and family who loved him fondly.
I will always remember the first time I left home to attend College at UP Diliman. Nelson made sure I had all the supplies I needed for my dorm, packing soap, toothpaste, shampoo, tissues, etc. in a big cardboard box. I vividly recall those moments one late afternoon when he lovingly taped the box and tied rope around to secure it. And I remember I had an ache in my heart knowing that pretty soon I will be in a distant land, away from family. I was 17. Nelson was 15. Soon afterwards, Nelson attended the University of San Carlos in Cebu to pursue a degree in Commerce.
(Wedding of Nelson and Yvette on June 12, 1997)
For the Love of Family
Family was everything to Nelson. He met and married the girl of his dreams, Yvette Lleva on June 12, 1997. They built a happy family of three beautiful children: Nelson Nathaniel, Raphael, and Yashmin. Whenever possible, he brought his family with him wherever he went, feeling incomplete without them.
This innate quality of love for family is reflected on his loyalty to our parents and siblings, extending further like a widening ripple to grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and all relatives near or far. My niece Angel Amador-Soliva, Canlaon Council member, recalls that when her Dad Julius Amador passed away, Nelson stepped in to help out in the family’s time of need and acted as their second father.
His beloved daughter Yashmin would later reveal to me that her Dad would always say, “Pamilya gud na” whenever he did anything or went out of his way for others. And out of his way literally he did. He made the time when he was in his 40s to seek out and connect with our Fortich relatives in Bukidnon. Needless to say, he had an amazing time.
Nelson almost always never missed family gatherings. Whenever I visited from the States, he was always present at family celebrations and Sunday lunches. When I visited Mommy and Daddy’s house in Buhisan, he would drop by and spend time with us, never rushing to head out to another appointment. Just being there to enjoy the moments with loved ones -- that is how I will always remember my brother.
Nelson was mayor of my father’s birthplace, Dumanjug, during the years 2010 to 2016. He loved the people and the people loved him. He was often seen riding his ATV through the streets of the town, stopping by to talk with the townspeople, listening to their needs and concerns. He instituted many programs to help the poor while working hard towards improving the town’s economy. Nelson demonstrated that he was a good executive, bringing in various businesses to Dumanjug which created a lot of jobs for the people. He also made vast improvements to the town’s plaza.
(With children Nelson Nathaniel, Raphael, and Yashmin)
Laughter and Joy
My brother found a reason for laughter in the midst of life’s perplexities and difficulties. He had the gift of speech, confidence and timing for punchlines. Nelson collected a treasure trove of hilarious jokes and stories that required the perfect execution for optimal effect. From an audience of a small family gathering around a table to an audience of thousands on the campaign trail, he performed his jokes much to everybody’s delight. And the joy and laughter he gave away came back to him many times over.
Nelson recounted this specific incident several times, but every time it seemed like it was told the very first time:
One day, while sitting at a restaurant in New York City, Nelson was sipping his coffee and the waiter approached him and asked, “Are you done?” Nelson put down his coffee cup, gave the waiter a perplexed look and answered, “No, I’m Nelson.”
After hearing that story once again, I would immediately burst into uncontrollable laughter, and Nelson would continue telling other jokes with the same effect until my stomach muscles hurt. Our cousin Dr. Zenda Garcia Lat especially enjoyed his jokes and told me that she and her husband Dr. Emmanuel Lat could write a book about Nelson’s jokes.
The Gift of Nelson’s Life
I will never be able to measure the extent of how Nelson touched so many other lives -- I can only describe it the best I can from my own sisterly perspective. He was dearly loved by his family and friends from near and distant places. They remember his smiling face, the giggles of his laughter, his acts of kindness, and his compassion. Every experience, every moment spent with Nelson is a gift and blessing from His Creator to every person who crossed his path while he was on this earth.