MANILA -- (UPDATED) “Ang last thought niya ayaw niya akong iwanan.”
This was the heartbreaking sharing of Gigo de Guzman to ABS-CBN News on the unexpected demise of her mother, OPM icon Claire de la Fuente, on Tuesday, 7 a.m., at the Pope John Paul II hospital in Las Pinas due to COVID-19 complications.
“I could not be beside her in the hospital," rued de Guzman who also tested positive for the coronavirus and is currently on his seventh day of home quarantine. “Pero kakayanin ko ito. My mom and my late father who passed a decade ago prepared me for this.”
While showbiz reels with shock at de la Fuentes’ sudden passing, her son pieced together the last crucial days of his mother.
“Thursday last week she already had symptoms,” de Guzman related, citing the possibility that they contracted the virus from household help. “Friday, initial test showed it was COVID. I was asymptomatic, she had mild symptoms.”
Earlier on March 20, de la Fuente even posted on her Facebook account her concern about the surge of COVID infection in the country. “Tantanan nyo na po ang paglabas pls!!! THIS IS SERIOUS!!!" she wrote.
The 63-year-old singer was eventually brought to the Las Pinas hospital. “She was monitored for three to four days at the hospital’s waiting tent area and transferred to Pope John Paul II hospital yesterday," her son recounted, adding that her mom’s second COVID confirmatory test results stressed her out.
“I told her you’re overthinking kasi. But it got the best of her plus the fact that she had diabetes and hypertension. Her oxygen level was constantly low and in her sleep, her heart stopped.”
Counting the days,de Guzman said he wished that her mom could have overcome the virus in the crucial one-week period. “Pareho kami, we’re both on our seventh day. While I’m here on quarantine, she didn’t make it,” he said.
Imelda Papin told ABS-CBN News she was shocked and deeply affected by De la Fuentes’ passing. Together with another OPM icon Eva Eugenio, Papin and de la Fuente formed the Jukebox Box Queens triumvirate with their long-running series of live concerts here and abroad.
“Unexpected ito talaga. Siya pa na pinakamalakas ang loob sa aming tatlo, matapang at parang kayang kaya niya lahat,” Papin said. “And yet siya pa ang tinamaan ng COVID. Hindi ko na alam kung ano ang pinapakita ng Diyos dahil kahit sino tatamaman ng COVID. Mabait siyang kaibigan, mami-miss ko siya -- sobra!”
Along with Papin, Eugenio hopes to mount an online memorial service for de la Fuente this week with her family. Eugenio paid tribute to her colleague as a “good friend and strong willed woman who has full command of her life, family and business.”
Eugenio told ABS-CBN News she is still in shock at the tragic turn of events. “Nangangatal pa ako, I cannot stop crying because it’s all too sudden for us.”
Meanwhile, OPM stalwart Ogie Alcasid started his own memorial for de la Fuente by asking his followers on Facebook to remember with fondness the singer once billed as the “Karen Carpenter of the Philippines."
“Maari po ba nating bigyan ng sandaling pagpupugay ang isa sa mga pinagmamalaki nating haligi ng OPM na si Claire De La Fuente,” Alcasid stated. “Salamat sa lahat ng iyong ambag sa musika nating pinakamamahal. Hindi ka namin malilimutan.”
As the tributes continue to unfold for de la Fiuente, her son said he is grateful for the outpouring of love and sympathy for his family.