Arman Agustin can’t come to Oilersnation, so I’m going to bring it to him, even if that means jumping a jet Monday night and flying for 15 hours to get to Guimba, a little city in the province of Nueva Ecija, half the world away in the Philippines.
Seeing as Arman’s little sister, Analyn, made her way to Edmonton via Amsterdam 21 years or so ago, then had the good fortune of meeting a grizzled hockey writer and the good sense to marry him, even if he was schlepping around the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, making the return journey to where she was born is the least I can do.
I was getting ready to pack my Wayne Gretzky jersey from the Heritage Classic for Arman, but my better-looking and smarter half suggested maybe our four-year son Sam might want that one day, so big brother will have to make due with an Oiler hat, a T-shirt and a fistful of Oilersnation stickers.
However modest the swag, at least by our standards, Arman, who thinks all he’s getting is a new pair of Nike shoes, will be thrilled. He will soon boast the only Oilersnation stickers, and maybe the only Oil Drop gear of any kind, in Guimba, which is about a three-hour car ride north of Manila.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
Of course, that’s not the real purpose of this three-week visit to the Philippines, which is the first for Sam and I. This is about Sam meeting his grandmother and his many aunts and uncles, especially Arman, for the first time.
It’s about perspective. It’s about where he comes from, about roots. For me, it’s much the same. Analyn has told me all about Arman, and I’ve had dreams about him, but we’ve never met. Likewise her mom, who still lives in the same tiny house Analyn and older sister Anna grew up in with brothers Arman, Alfred, Arnold, Arcadio, nicknamed Junior, and Alvin.
Maybe I should bring an armful of Oilers jerseys for the Agustin clan, all with the letter "A" stitched on the front. There isn’t a "C" in the bunch — Analyn’s mom is Adelaida and her father’s name was Arcadio.
For all the millions of miles I’ve flown with this hockey writing scam I’ve somehow made a career of, I’ve never looked forward to a trip like I have with this one. I won’t take my laptop and I won’t write one word about hockey until I get back June 13 and start preparing for the Entry Draft in Minnesota.
THE TIME HAS COME
Two years ago, readers here at Oilersnation raised money to send me to the Entry Draft in Montreal after I wised-off at Wanye about being a cheap screw who didn’t have the financial wherewithal to run a "real" hockey website. Our readers raised the money in the blink of any eye. I’m still amazed by that feat. Really.
You might remember that, at the time, I said I couldn’t go because Analyn was in the Philippines and I had to look after Sam and his older brother Michael. We sent Jason Gregor instead. He did a great job.
Analyn flew home in June 2009 because she’d received some terrible news about Arman — he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The prognosis was, to understate, not good. Sam was too little to make the long trip and Michael had to finish school, so she made the journey alone. Anna flew in from Holland.
In almost two years since, Arman, who always took it upon himself to look after his brothers and sisters and his mom after Arcadio Sr. passed away, has battled the cancer. With radical surgery and intense chemotherapy, Arman has beaten long odds to have this much time with his wife and three children. Arman left the hospital this weekend and is waiting for us at home in Guimba.
We’re told that everything that can be done has been done. Michael and Sam and Analyn and I will go to him now.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.