Joe Sulit receives the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal from then-federal Minister for Veterans Affairs, Dr. Rey Pagtakhan, 2002
What? I exclaimed to myself and to my wife as I, for a moment, refused to believe Joe died last Friday, January 4th. And I did not even hear about the wake – the lamay – held a few days later at the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba (PCCM) to joyously celebrate his life. Indeed, I missed the news, I missed the celebration to honour his life, and I missed paying my respects and sharing his loss with his family and friends. I missed the funeral service. Belatedly, my wife Gloria and I now publicly convey to his wife Alma, adult children Aaron, Luisa, Mary Ann, Michael and other members of his family our condolences and prayers.
Greatly taken aback at missing the news and events of his death and the community celebration of his life, I only recovered from my disappointment when I remembered that it was also on the same Friday January 4th when my wife and a son drove me to the St. Boniface General Hospital Emergency Room where I stayed overnight for intravenous fluids and antibiotics and for close monitoring of oxygenation and vital signs. With gratitude to His Grace – Our Great Physician – I have just about fully recuperated at home from my acute pneumonia and influenza.
While this particular issue of the Pilipino Express was to feature the concluding third part of my series on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it has to wait for the next issue. I will not pass my first opportunity to pay tribute to Joe Sulit through this column.
Joe, with now-Pilipino Express Editor-in-Chief, Emmie Joaquin and fellow columnist Rey (Kaka) Pacheco, are synonymous household names with the CKJS prime show Good Morning Philippines and the numerous examples of public good it has rendered for decades. Through the years until his retirement, Joe’s voice is a reminder of news and commentaries current and relevant. His professionalism never wavers. His objectivity as a broadcaster never surrenders to partisanship and pettiness inside and outside the soundproof room of the CKJS station. His fierce loyalty to the Filipino Canadian community and to our common cultural heritage never takes a second place. His friendship and fellowship with kababayan always a priority. His soul always manifests love, kindness and goodwill – fundraising for the victims of natural disasters and for the PCCM, championing the well-being of seniors and youth alike, and showcasing the Filipino musical talents via the Tuklas Talino – all rendered without expecting or thinking of returns, except that which go back to the community, the Filipino community in particular.
His good sense of humour is palpable and makes one relaxed, listen and understand. Joe – and I know you can hear me – I must say that I have truly enjoyed the many interviews I have had with you as CKJS host. They have been learning experiences for me.
My last direct community involvement with him on the PCCM Board – when I once agreed to serve as Acting President for 40 days following an emergency meeting to help resolve an organizational crisis – reminds me of his calmness and clarity of mind in the midst of challenges, of his sense of community purpose and leadership in the face of opportunities. Board members listen when he speaks. Joe, we still need your wise counsel in the community.
The reader would have noticed by now that I have used for the most part the present tense, not the past, when speaking of him. Deliberately, yes, because Joe will always be a living reminder of a community good for a long time to come. Our community has lost a great communicator and a truly great friend.
Indeed, we can continue to draw inspiration from his life lived in the fellowship and service of others. That during his sojourn with us – short as human life is on earth in the context of eternal life – he has shown us in words and in deeds what our essence for human existence ought to be.
Joe, we salute you in your new Home closer to our creator where we all long to be someday.
Dr. Rey Pagtakhan