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Remembering the ‘gentle giant’ named Ernie

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita November 06,2016 - 10:46 PM

SISTER TALK. May Roxanne Antigua sits beside the grave of her older brother Ernie Jr. at the Manila Memorial Park in Liloan, Cebu.  The family has never spoken publicly about Ernie since his suicide in 2014.  (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

SISTER TALK. May Roxanne Antigua sits beside the grave of her older brother Ernie Jr. at the Manila Memorial Park in Liloan, Cebu. The family has never spoken publicly about Ernie since his suicide in 2014.

He quietly went up to the 12th floor of a building at the Cebu IT Park in August 2014, after posting a lovelorn message on Facebook.

The call center agent then leaped to his death, leaving friends and family appalled at how such a jolly man would choose to end his life by his own hands.

Over two years after his controversial death, the still grieving family of Ernie Antigua Jr. decided to speak up for the first time.

It’s about time to break the silence and for Ernie’s story to be told, said his 23-year-old younger sister May Roxanne.

Ernie was a dependable older brother, she said.

“He was most supportive, even more than our parents were. He was there in my every step, quietly guiding me. He kept encouraging me and was always the first to rejoice and appreciate my accomplishments.

He was, is and will always be my first hero,” she said.

Roxanne described the sibling bond that she and Ernie shared as something even more than the world’s closest twins have.

Ernie was a big guy but always sociable, earning him a monicker “the gentle giant” from his friends and family members.

He was also always had a smile on his face, protective, loyal and responsible. “A man of word and honor” and also very helpful, she added, seemingly unable to stop pouring praises for her deceased brother.

“He has such a big heart for kids and people who needed his assistance and help. I was also to affirm how big a heart he had when during the last Mass on the day of his burial, the whole St. Joseph Parish Church was filled,” Roxanne said.

To Roxanne, the big number of people who came to her brother’s wake and burial only proved that he was a good person loved by so many other than his family.

Ernie’s remains were laid to rest in the Manila Memorial Park in Liloan town in northern Cebu. He was 24 when he died.



The Hulk

But while Ernie was gentle, he also had a temper that would sometimes explode similar to that of The Hulk, according to Roxanne, who often was the one who could pacify him.

Thus, it remains doubly painful for Roxanne that her brother ended his life the way he did.

“I was the only one who could best understand him, that’s why we’re the closest and that is the very reason as well why it hurts. I am the closest to him yet I didn’t see it coming,” she said.

Their parents and their relatives were also as shocked and devastated.

It was hard for their parents to accept what happened. Their father, Ernie Sr., couldn’t even bear to visit his son’s wake at the Cebu Rolling Hills Memorial Chapel. It was only during the last day of his wake, when Ernie’s remains were brought to their home in Mandaue City, that his father saw him.

Last October 29 was Ernie’s 27th birthday. They celebrated it alongside with Roxanne’s passing the psychometrician board exam.

They also offered a Mass for Ernie and visited his grave on October 30.

Happy but sad guy

Ernie’s close friends did not also fail to visit his grave during important occasions like his birthday.

Among them was Wendel “Spike” Dotillos, who was Ernie’s immediate supervisor in the call center.

“He was a happy guy. He smiled a lot. He was concerned (with what happened) to pretty much anyone. He got offended easily, but usually said sorry after,” Spike told Cebu Daily News.

Spike recalled that days before Ernie died, they had one of their usual conversations over bottles of beer, talking about things they liked: motorcycles boxing and travel.

Ernie also talked about killing himself but Spike said he did not take it seriously since unlike in their previous conversations a month earlier when Ernie was very troubled and kept saying he was going to commit suicide, he did not sound desperate this time.

“I thought I talked him out of it. He was so calm,” Spike said.

Shortly before he jumped to his death, Ernie poured his heart out on Facebook about how heartbroken he was that his girlfriend left him for another man. He then requested his family and friends not
to blame the woman for his decision to end his life.

He also thanked and asked for forgiveness from his family and friends for failing them despite their unwavering support and guidance.

Speaking against the stigma

Suicide is widely considered a stigma and taboo in the Philippines, a country whose people are known for their deep-rooted faith, natural resiliency with generally sunny dispositions and gregariousness.

Thus, while a lot of people sympathized with how Ernie’s life story ended, there were also those who blamed him and shamed him for his decision.

It was hard on his family, especially for his only sister Roxanne who agreed to share her brother’s story in the hope that people will try and be more understanding of his decision.

“It’s about time his story is heard, the truth behind all the speculations and judgments. I just hope he is no longer going to be seen in the shadow of condemnation for what he did,” she told Cebu Daily News.

And as they celebrated All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day this year, Ernie’s family wanted nothing more than for his soul to rest in peace.

“Up until now, I still want most eternal peace for his soul. I know he is happy where he is now. I was able to dream of and communicate with him. It is not necessary though, but I would appreciate all those who judged and bashed him to pray for his soul and peace instead,” she said in closing.

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TAGS: Cebu City, it park

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