Life in the Fast Lane


Everything Was Awesome with Goyito

By 7:32 AM , , , , , , ,

Because I couldn't sleep (I still struggle with this, days later), I wrote this at 2am. Please bear with any incoherence you may see along the way. I just had to get these words out before I could forget anything.

On August 28, my family's world tilted on its axis when we learned that our dear Goyito passed away in his sleep early that morning. He was alone, his fingers still holding onto his videogame controller, when it happened. It was only hours later when he didn't come up for breakfast that it was discovered that he had been called Home to Heaven.

Not many people probably knew Goyito or knew of Goyito. Unless you happened to be invited to a lunch or dinner celebration of any our family members, or you'd seen him in CCF (our church), or met him while he did his routine morning walks in my uncle's neighborhood (Goyito lived with my Tito Alex, after their dad, my grandfather Gregorio Araneta II, passed away), you probably wouldn't have known or encountered him.

Goyito wearing his "DIY" Mario cap.

You see, Goyito didn't really have friends (both "offline" and online). Because he was different. The youngest sibling among my dad and his siblings, he was born a "menopausal baby" and had intellectual challenges from the very beginning. He even had a few physical ones in his earlier years of life. And as he grew up, the differences between him and everyone else became more apparent.

Especially if you grew up alongside him.

He and I had an almost twelve-year gap, making it seem like we were more like siblings than uncle and niece. In my earlier years, we were playmates and I didn't think that there was anything different about him. Until I started to grow up, go to school, join a swimming team, meet friends, and spend time with them.

Goyito and me, as a baby.

In the meantime. Goyito's "friends", really, were his family members. All his life. And his world continued to revolve around videogames, LEGO, and Ghostbusters — year after year after year. He didn't grasp "adult" concepts like the value of money, he didn't seem to mature in ways others would've, he wasn't concerned about things most people were concerned about, and he remained like a child in many ways.

Goyito and his childlike smile.

Despite all these, though, my siblings, cousins, and I continued to get to know and appreciate him for who he was and what made him unique and even superior to others. We realized how, in his simple way of seeing the world and living his life, he exuded contentment and peace. We also came to understand how deep his faith ran and how secure he was in his personhood because of his relationship with God.

The Araneta boys and our Caparas cousins several Christmases ago.

But that's us; this appreciation we had of him and the close relationship we developed with him were born out of years of spending time with him and getting to know him. 

Now let me give you a glimpse of how it would be like if you got to know him for the first time.

If you were to meet him, from afar, you might not notice anything out of the ordinary in his appearance. Unless, on that day, he happened to wear his Ghostbusters jacket (which is actually a khaki one with cut-outs of the Ghostbusters logos from notebooks, taped onto the sleeves and pockets), or a Super Mario get-up (with denim over-alls and a red cap).

Goyito and his DIY Ghostbusters jacket, with his favorite gift in one of his birthday celebrations.

And then you'd begin to notice, if you came closer, some of the cues that would make him different: how he didn't always make eye contact; how sometimes, he ate his words or spoke softly; how he wouldn't want to talk about a vast range of topics, unless they were things that interested him; how he didn't have the typical social skills needed to form a friendship; how he would walk by swinging his hips, his feet turned out, head looking down; how, while eating, he'd sometimes stare off into space, immersed in his own world.

But if you decided to push forward and really get to know him by playing a videogame he liked, or taking him to the movies or Enchanted Kingdom, you would see how beautiful and smart he was, in his own way: how disarming his smile could get; how boisterously he would laugh if something amused him; how animated he would be after watching a movie or a play and how he'd talk endlessly about which one was his favorite character; how he wouldn't want to be a bother to people; how he would ask if you're feeling okay and if you needed prayers; how excited he would be to invite you to his birthday party (because every new face he'd meet somehow wound up on the guest list for his next birthday); how thoughtful he would be by wanting to buy you a LEGO set; how giving he would be by wanting to share his controller so you could play a videogame with him, even if it'd be easier to retreat into his own world.

At Enchanted Kingdom in 2012.

I wish I could continue to ramble on and on about how amazing he was, but really, I would run out of bandwidth. However, I guess the best picture I could "paint" to give you a glimpse of how "awesome" he was, to borrow a familiar movie term, would be to talk about the Titanic LEGO ship he built.

In the early 2000's, he managed to get a DVD of the movie Titanic for the first time, and after watching it several times, he was hooked. But he took his fascination with this ship to a different level.

Using LEGO pieces he had accumulated through the years from different sets, he started recreating that 1912 beauty from memory, with only his imagination guiding him. He didn't use any instruction manual to "steer his course" (pun intended); he instinctively knew which piece went where, and what all the dimensions needed to be.

I only managed to see the finished product once, and I regret not being able to take a photo of it (years later, it was disassembled, presumably for the fun of rebuilding it or to make something different). It was at least two feet long and one foot high, and it was incredibly detailed, considering that the colors weren't on point (remember that the pieces came from different LEGO sets).

Just like Goyito's life, not every piece or aspect of him necessarily came together and made sense. At least from the world's standard. But God knew what He was doing when He designed Goyito. And the finished product, everything that made Goyito truly Goyito, was beautiful in his own way.

In his element, assembling away.

A gentle soul, a faithful follower of Christ, a staunch prayer warrior, a skilled LEGO Master Builder, a videogame expert, a playmate for keeps, a bottomless pit especially when it came to lasagna, a loyal member of the family, our Peter Pan — our beloved Goyito.

I wish he didn't have to leave us so soon, but he's definitely in a much, much better Place, filled with infinite LEGOs of various shapes, sizes, and colors. I'd like to think that he's giving Heaven a LEGO-fied touch, and preparing to welcome each of us in the family to an eternal party one day.

And until that time comes, my family and I will continue to celebrate his differently beautiful life and be inspired by the way he lived simply, peacefully, contentedly, and with so much faith in the Lord. 

The Araneta family. Our last photo together in his memorial service.

Thank you, Goyits, for inspiring us in countless ways. Truly, everything has been awesome because you made our lives much, much richer.

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