Remembering Don Ryan Batayola

A Cebuano frontliner’s legacy: Selflessness, humility

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram April 20,2020 - 10:40 AM
Don Ryan Batayola, a licensed Cebuano OT based in New Jersey who fought COVID-19 at the frontlines | Contributed Photo

Don Ryan Batayola, a licensed Cebuano OT based in New Jersey who fought COVID-19 at the frontlines | Contributed Photo

CEBU CITY, Philippines – To his loved ones and the people whom he had worked with, Don Ryan Batayola’s legacy as a worker at the frontlines combating coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is marked with selflessness, humility, and devotion in taking care of others. 

Fondly called as Batz, the 41-year-old Cebuano occupational therapist (OT) succumbed to COVID-19 while working at the frontlines in New Jersey last April 4, 2020. 

Batz’ passing came as a shock, and even a painful one since his friends and family couldn’t be by his side during his last moments – an agony shared among those who lost their loved ones to the virus. 

But everyone from different parts of the world came together in one teleconference meeting on April 18, 2020 (PST) to remember not only his legacy as a frontliner, but also as a nurturing husband, father, and brother, who loves listening to reggae music. 

New Jersey is located approximately 80 kilometers south of New York City, which is considered as the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States

During the online funeral service organized by Batz’ loved ones, Bernard Batayola, who is based in Cagayan de Oro City, shared how his younger brother would never cease to smile. 

“We will always remember Don as someone who will make everyone’s day brighter by giving you that sincere smile he always has,” Bernard told over 200 individuals who were paying their last respects to his late brother viewing through their laptop or phone screens. 

Beyond the carefree, Bob Marley-loving demeanor, Batz’ siblings said their brother’s genuine act of kindness towards others will always shine in their memories. 

“He was a generous giver, and a brother that always shared his blessings not only to his family, relatives but also to his friends and loved ones. He has always been a selfless man who thinks of you and ensures you are okay,” added Bernard.

Caesar Ian Real, Batz’ childhood friend and classmate in Don Bosco in Cebu, also said that his pal would always bring books, toys, and clothes for kids in need.

“Indeed, he was selfless… while living life as he lived,” Caesar said. 

Grace Avila is one of Batz’ closest colleagues in New Jersey. Their bond can be traced back to when they were still in college in Cebu. 

Grace, who is also an OT like Batz, was among those who witnessed Batayola not only as a co-worker who loved traveling and experiencing new things, but also as a loving father to his two children. 

Thus, it came as a big blow for her and the members of the OT community in New Jersey when the pandemic they have been fighting claimed the life of one of their fellows.  

“On March 19, disorientation began in our normal lives as the pandemic has seeped in,” said Grace.

It was on March 31 when Nina Batayola, who is also a frontliner like her husband, called 911 to take him to the hospital after showing symptoms of the disease.

In her eulogy, Niña said Batz was admitted to the hospital for 10 days and at one point, the doctors had advised to put him in intubation. 

On April 4, Niña received news on what she had feared all along. 

“During his last moments, we were even able to see each other through FaceTime. And he looks so much better. I was waiting for him to call me back but by then, my mind and heart are racing,” she added. 

But what hurt Niña and the rest of the Batayola family was how COVID-19 had hit their grief in a strange, difficult way. 

“It was hard enough accepting he will no longer be with us. And the thought that his family had to be away from him during his last moment…he died alone, without any loved ones to hold his hand, to let him know he is loved,” she added. 

Friends and family of Batz may no longer get to bond with him in their future travels, occasions, and experiences. 

But they all vowed to treasure the fond memories they had with him, and find comfort in the thought that he has brought them all together in these challenging times and that he is now in God’s paradise. /bmjo

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