VIDAL’S LAST DAYS
For the past month, Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal opted to wear pajamas while he was at his retirement home in Banilad, Cebu City.
But not on the afternoon of October 10, Tuesday, when he was about to attend the daily 4 p.m. Mass at a small chapel inside his residence.
“Natingala g’yud ko. Nag-ilis siya og barong nga blue, ang color sa Mahal nga Birhen; unya gisapawan niya og black nga jacket, nagblack pants, unya nagmedyas (I was really surprised. He decided to wear a blue barong tagalog, the color of the Blessed Virgin Mary; put on a black jacket over it; wore black pants and a pair of socks),” said Celestino Tumale, who served the cardinal for over three decades.
“Bihis na bihis po kayo cardinal ah? (Why are you so dressed up, cardinal?,” he told Vidal.
The 86-year-old prelate replied, “Pupunta ako ng Maynila. (I will go to Manila).”
“I don’t know if he was just joking at that time or he just forgot that he did not have a schedule in Manila,” Tumale said.
Since Vidal’s health deteriorated, his household opted to ask priests to say Mass at the cardinal’s residence while the latter would just concelebrate the Eucharistic celebration every day.
On Oct. 10, Tuesday, it was the turn of Msgr. Ruben Labajo, the team moderator of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, to preside over the Mass at Vidal’s residence.
After the Mass, Vidal skipped dinner and went directly to his room, saying he was not feeling well.
When Tumale entered Vidal’s room at around 9 p.m., he said the cardinal was shivering.
“I told him ‘Anong nangyari po? He said, ‘Nilalagnat ako.’ So, akong gipatay ang aircon. Gikuhaan namo sa akong asawa og jacket, unya giilisdan namo siya og pajama (I told him, ‘What happened? He said, ‘I have a fever.’ So, I turned off the aircon, while we ask him to put on his jacket. We also asked him to wear his pajamas),” said Vidal’s 57-year-old all around assistant.
Tumale, his wife Frances, their five children and a nurse were among the members of Vidal’s household who took care of the elderly cardinal day and night.
He said they asked Vidal to eat even just a little food at around 11 p.m. The cardinal obliged.
Past midnight on Wednesday, October 11, Tumale said Vidal requested him to help him get up from the bed.
“Masakit ang dibdib ko. (My chest is painful),” he recalled the cardinal begged for help.
“I told myself, this is beyond what we can do. So we immediately brought the cardinal to the hospital,” he added.
Since 2014, Vidal has been in and out of the hospital due to pneumonia.
On the afternoon of the same day, Wednesday, Vidal, the country’s most senior cardinal, lapsed into a semi-coma state, prompting Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma to administer the Sacrament of Extreme Unction which is performed on a seriously ill person for spiritual and physical strength.
Vidal was later diagnosed to have sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by the body’s response to a severe infection.
A week after Vidal lapsed into a semi-coma state, at around 6 a.m. on October 18, Wednesday, Vidal was very weak and his vital signs were fading. Doctors tried to revive him but to no avail.
At 7:26 a.m., Vidal breathe his last, surrounded by his close aides.
Tumale said he was with his wife and children at the Archbishop’s Residence when they were informed by a nun that Vidal passed away.
“I was speechless. I just hugged my children,” he said.
“It was then when I realized why the cardinal chose to dress up in the afternoon before he was rushed to the hospital. Perhaps, it was his way of saying goodbye to us and everyone,” he added.