That’s my younger brother , Reuben who died on June 11, 1990 due to fulminant Hepatitis A. He left behind a young wife, a three year old and a three week old infant son. There is more to his death than just an illness. This feature article written by my sister Belen thirteen years ago explains it more. (Read here and here)
Reuben Veloso Lardizabal, 28 , was a young family man, a writer, a labor ogranizer, and a law graduate student. He was in other words, full of promise and conviction. But death spares no one. He is the Hepatitis epidemic’s first casualty.
Last May 1-4, 1990, our family helds it’s first reunion in Cebu City, including our children, husbands, and wives. Little did we know that this joyous occasion would also lead to one of the saddest moments in our live.
Three weeks after our reunion, I, my brothers David and Reuben, my sister Lorna , and niece Lauren were struck down with Hepatitis A, a viral infection of the liver transmitted through fecal contamination of ingested food or water. We were unaware initially that several other residents and neighbors in the Lahug district, Cebu City had also been suffering from hepatitis since May. Surprisingly , most of the victims were from middle to upper income bracket.
On June 11, 1990, my dear brother Reuben succumbed to the ravages wrought on him by acute viral hepatitis. Our family held a second reunion- this time , for Reuben’s funeral. (Continue reading here and here)
The family photo taken during that fateful reunion in May 1-4,1990. It was a reunion for my dad who we thought was dying (dad died 13 years later though)
Shock, disbelief, and anger wrecked my whole being. How could a family reunion indirectly cause the death of my brother? Ruben was not only a brother to me. He was like a son too. Coming from a large family, the eldest sisters took charge of the younger siblings. Losing a sibling is losing part of my past and future. It must have been excruciatingly painful for my sick and disabled father . To lose a son is not the natural order of the universe . (Dad lost another son , Oscar in 1999 and from then on dad’s health deterroriated until his death in December 5, 2003.) How ironic it is that my father used to serve as an MCWD director a few years before his death.
I created Reuben’s memorial site for Pael and Daniel, my dear nephews who never got to know their biological father. They are now blessed with a step-father who loves them like his very own. It wasn’t an easy journey after Reuben died. He was an upcoming lawyer, a labor leader, and activist. We knew that truth and justice needed to be served just like how our brother espoused it. The Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) who provides the water in Cebu didn’t think they could be sued. But the Lardizabal Family filed a suit. My sister , Lorna and Belen, brother, David and my own daughter, Lauren who was only 4 years old at that time got ill of [tag]Hepatitis A[/tag] . After 12 years, a decision was handed by the court and the surviving victims were awarded. Though my brother Reuben or his heirs never received monetary awards, the water system in Cebu City is so much improved and provides the cleanest water in the Philippines. His death focused our attention on our deplorable basic services – unsafe water, poor sanitation, and inadequate health services. It had taken a barrage of media coverage, community initiative and a legal suit to move the MCWD into action. Reuben’s death was not a waste after all.
I often wonder if a veritable unknown from the squatters area died of hepatitis A or some other illness, would it have generated the same publicity or attention as the death of my brother?