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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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with Maté Espina

A farewell fit for a queen

It was a “royal funeral” – or so members of the “Royal Family” believed so.

This was of course in gay parlance as members of this colourful gay community came in droves to bring their “queen”, Ian De Ramos, 44 to his final resting place last Monday.

Ian, known to many as Mamita, was one of those who had an early “coming out party” when gays were still frowned upon in the community and was readily accepted even in a very conservative setting as in government service.

From day 1, Ian never hid the fact that he was gay and used his gayness to make the provincial Capitol more creative in its hosting of events.

He has left a mark in the Panaad Festival having been part of the festivities when it was first hosted at the Capitol Lagoon during the time of former Gov. Lito Coscolluela, until its transfer to the Panaad Sports Complex which he headed for over 15 years.

His family was proud of the fact that hundreds came and condoled with them during the weeklong wake till he was laid to rest Monday, a testament that he was greatly loved and admired.

There is hardly any event in town where politicians, artists, government employees, gays and the media gather together until Ian's funeral where gayness was freely celebrated.

His coffin was adorned with a crown, a symbol of everyone's recognition that Ian was and will always remain the Queen of the Lin-ay sang Negros search, an event that he holds dearly to his heart and has always lorded over, ever since he joined the Capitol.

Along with it was a Patis Tesoro fan that I gave him last year. For those who know Ian, he does not go anywhere without his gigantic fans. It has been his trademark and when he saw my Tesoro fan that was given by Claudine Calima, a former media friend, he immediately fell in love with it and asked for one.

As many have attested during the nightly eulogies for him, it's just impossible to say no to Ian and so I gifted him with one. Normel, his assistant, told me, it was super special to him that he would only take it out of the box during special occasions and that truly made my heart swell.

With the crown and the fan was a single yellow rose that symbolizes his favourite song, “The Rose,” by Bette Midler that we sang during the eulogy last Friday and which was sung again by the Provincial Capitol Choir, which he also managed and institutionalized, at the funeral.

Really gone too soon. At 44, Ian was at the height of his success having surpassed and survived the many trials he has had in his life.

Ian had liver cancer. He found out late last year but it was in advanced stage and only told a few souls about it. Capitol employees though had an inkling that he had some ailment as he did lost a lot of weight, seemed sallow, and was quite sluggish when he joined department heads in a strategic planning in Clark, Pampanga, the weekend before he passed away. But despite the obvious, they respected his decision not to inform them of what he was going through.

I was among the few people that Ian confided to about his illness along with Toks Lopez and Noel Iligan. He later on created this group chat of us who knew where he would post sayings and prayers of hope. I am not acquainted with some of those in the group and the only thing we had in common was Ian – we were his friends whom he knew would be by his side in this trying times.

When we finally sat down to talk about his options, he was so casual about it and had made arrangements for treatments. When some of us offered him help though, he simply said, he can still manage and will let us know when he can't anymore.

He never got to that point. Till the end, he survived on his own, Ian-style. And perhaps, it was best that way. He never got to suffer much and still managed to make it home from Pampanga to bid his farewell, surrounded by his loved ones, Tita Cen and Baby Lou.

When the funeral cortege left Acropolis, it passed by the Capitol grounds, Ian's other home for over a decade where white sheets and flower petals dropped from the social hall where Ian's office is located. It also passed by the Panaad before proceeding to the Sanctuario in Alijis. Truly a fitting tribute to a queen.

Though a lot of us shed tears knowing he will not be around anymore, most of us, particularly the gay community, celebrated his life post the funeral believing that this was what our Mamita would have wanted us to do.

And so, it is with cheers that we sent Mamita off to his Maker and leave us with words of thanks for having been bestowed the gift of knowing him, of being a part of him.

Rest in peace Mamita. You will forever be remembered. *


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