‘Heart-touching letters: One from heaven; the other from a little boy’

Panny is survived by his wife Arceli; oldest son Ryan, wife Mae, and children Russell and Celeste; daughter Aileen, husband Jerry, and children Jerry, Isabelle, and Tommy; youngest son PJ, wife Kat, and children Bianca and Stella; and Sister Bella Rosa, a Mother Prioress of the Carmelite Nuns in Jolo, Sulu in the Philippines.

TORRANCE, Calif. – Family and friends of Epifanio Javellana Gagajena Jr. remembered him on January 13, at a prayer meeting commemorating his first death anniversary and hosted by his wife Arceli and daughter-in-law Aileen. They recalled with delight a surprise the deceased sprung on them and other mourners during his interment on January 11, 2018.

When he knew his days were numbered, according to his wife, Panny expressed a deep concern:  “Who’s going to deliver the eulogy for me? All my friends are gone.”

So, on his death bed, he wrote his own eulogy, “unknown to his family,” Arceli added, “except for our oldest son Ryan, whom he asked to deliver his letter to his relatives and friends during his funeral at St. Margaret Mary Church in Lomita, Calif., presided by Bishop Joe Sartori.”

Precocious Tommy was 6-years-old when Panny died. “I was sad at first when Lolo died,” he said, “but I’m not sad anymore because Lolo will see his Daddy (whom he met when he was 2-years-old).


As I write this letter to family, friends and loved ones to be read at the conclusion of my funeral Mass, I may still be in Purgatory for my final cleansing before I face the Almighty in that glorious, incomparable, indescribable home we call Heaven, our final home… for all eternity. What a great comfort for all of us to know this! We must believe in the promise of eternal life! Otherwise our short stay on earth would have been futile and meaningless… no purpose at all!

Looking back at my just concluded life on earth, and gazing at all of you from where I am now with much love and longing for your friendships and caring love, I can only say a prayer of utmost gratitude to the Almighty for His unending fidelity and love for me… ever guiding me to the right path, to walk “the straight and narrow way” whenever and every time I would go astray to take the “wide road to perdition” because of my human frailties and weaknesses.

I thank God for my family… my grandparents, my parents, my siblings and all those wonderful relatives who made me what I am, I thank God for raising me in those places and environments that shaped my character. I thank God for the best education He gave me… my teachers, my classmates, my schoolmates, my friends.

I thank God for the family He gave me… especially my wonderful wife Cely, the co-pilot of my life, whose loving hands helped me steer the boat of our life’s journey on the right path, most especially during the “turbulent days of our journey.” She was the strength and the responsible co-captain to steady our course. Without her, I would have lost control of our journey’s course.

I thank God for our children and grandchildren. They were the inspiration and purpose of our life’s journey. We constantly prayed that with God’s help we shall be able to reach our life’s journey with them intact and safe in our boat. Together we prayed hard we will see each other again in Heaven for all eternity, enjoying the promised Heavenly bliss and happiness of eternal life. Our promise to each other in the Sacrament of Matrimony should end like this… “Death shall not part us… we shall continue to be with each other as husband and wife in Heaven for all eternity.”

I was a Jesuit “in formation” for about seven years. I consider those years as the happiest days of my life… to the very end. God in His own “life plan” for me did not want me to be a Jesuit priest. But He raised and planted in me the “life of a Jesuit” without the habit, but in layman’s clothing. That was my “vocation”… to be trained as a Jesuit and a son of Ignatius Loyola and placed in his world as “layman to fulfill the Ignatian purpose of life…“To be a man for others… for the greater glory of God.” That is really my life story.

My lifelong involvement had been with our Ateneo Alumni groups in America, the Filipino Pastoral Ministry in Los Angeles and the Filipino Cursillos of Christianity; our Prayer Groups and Couples for Christ Movement, our Filipino Parish Community at Saint Margaret Mary Church in Lomita, Calif.; Philippine Women’s University Alumni Association of Southern California (as an adviser), and our Davao Association, USA. I helped raise money to aid our aged and ailing Philippine Jesuits, my own little way of giving back to the Society of Jesus for making me what I am.

I thank you all for a great, love-filled life. I thank God for giving you all to me.



Born on March 2, 1942, in Buenavista, Guimaras, a small island near Iloilo, Panny grew up in Davao. He finished high school at the Ateneo de Davao and college at the Ateneo University in Manila. He then entered the Jesuit Seminary at Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, Quezon City, but left after seven years.

“Is it because he fell in love with Arceli?” Lolly asked.  “No,” answered Exal, “they had not even met yet. He left for health reasons.”

A mass media sales representative in the Philippines, Panny authored historical articles about the motherland. He was the ghost writer for the Malacanang press office of the late Pres. Diosdado Macapagal and a consultant/adviser in the Helena Benitez for Senator Political Movement. He taught English Literature at the Philippine Women’s University and Arceli Go Chua was one of his students. They got married three years after Arceli graduated from nursing school. In the United States, Panny worked as a sales manager for the Gardena Valley News and was also a realtor.

Asked what she likes about Panny, Cely said: “His letters, his poems, his strong faith and his dancing skills.”