MANILA—Before Dennis Garcia passed away, he asked his youngest child, Isa, to write his eulogy.
Garcia, credited for pioneering the Manila Sounds sub-genre with his iconic band Hotdog, died Saturday, aged 69.
On Wednesday, Isa, one of his three children with wife Pam, shared on Garcia’s Facebook page the eulogy she had written for her father.
Isa, a writer and teacher, recalled Garcia as an artist, as a husband, and as a father, aside from what has been known about his valued contribution to the local music industry.
Here’s Isa’s eulogy for her father, as published on Garcia’s memorialized Facebook page:
Dennis Garcia was one of the creators of the Manila Sound. He played the bass. He wrote the songs. When I was a kid I had the unique and surreal experience of reading about him in textbooks. I agree with what everyone says: he was brilliant. But I wish you got to know him as a father. I am so lucky that I did.
Dad was such a character. He was an antisocial rockstar. He was notoriously outspoken on Facebook but a man of such few words in real life. He had built a legacy where he was known by many yet was also so wary of being in the spotlight. There are many things to be said about Dad but if there's one thing you can't deny it's that he was all kinds of interesting.
The man I am best acquainted with wore boxers and a paint splattered white shirt. I can see him so clearly in my mind right now: wild hair, glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, peering at his computer, music blasting from his speakers. My dad was funny; my dad was so incredibly funny and irreverent and offensive. It was my favorite thing about him. He laughed a lot. You could hear his booming laughter echo through the halls of our home. You wouldn't guess it but my dad loved to dance. When he was particularly happy, or when a really good song started playing, the man got up and grooved. Even when he lost his tendons after a major surgery in 2007, Dad got up and danced anyway. He might've appeared serious or austere or strict but the truth is that my father was a man marked by incredible affection and tenderness.
Dad was a romantic and there's nothing he enjoyed more than crafting a good love song. Whether it was about unrequited sentiment, the glory of finding The One, or an ode to a city like Manila, Dad found joy in weaving stories that captured the human heart. I think it's because Dad was such a sucker for love. It was his credo, his North Star; it was his loudest chorus. I've read enough of the letters he wrote to my mom to know that this is all unmistakably true. The idea that, no matter what happened, love would always win? That finds itself at the center of Dennis Garcia.
Dad opened infinite doors for us. First he gave us -- Pao, Anj, and I -- a wonderful birthright. We will, for the rest of our lives, carry the honor of being 'mga anak ni Hotdog.' With the exception of our cousins, George, Anna, and Kat, nobody else will ever know or understand what that means. Because we are Dennis Garcia's children, we inherit an entire band, a piece of OPM history, and the legacy of the man who got a whole nation to dance.
Next he gave us an education and it was one that went beyond the academe. My dad wanted us to learn from the world so he gave us experiences. He gave us a childhood in Malaysia. An open enough mind to try different food, different cultures, and, ultimately, different adventures. When one of us refused to try a certain dish he would chastise us and say we were boring. He never wanted us to be boring, which is to say that he wanted us to be so daringly unafraid of exploration. He always knew that this was the birthplace of genius.
Dad gave us The Beatles and Stevie Wonder. He gave us Basquiat, Keith Haring, and a little bit of Da Vinci. He gave us stories -- stories he would make up, stories he would live out, and stories that he loved. This is actually one of my favorite intersections with Dad: our shared loved for really good narratives. Every time he encountered brilliant writing he would tell me about it right away. The last time was not too long ago, when he excitedly messaged me (implored, really) to watch Marriage Story and Two Popes.
But the more important gifts that Dad gave us were intangible.
He was a fan of the road less traveled and he encouraged us to embark on it as well. He didn't want any of us to subscribe to a script dictated by popular opinion. No, Dad was not a fan of us living lazily, easily, or typically. From an early age he told us that we could be anything as long as we weren't mediocre. So whenever I'd joke about wanting to abandon my dreams in favor of settling down and getting married, my dad would react with such comical exasperation. He never wanted any of us to miss our destinies and he believed, with the entirety of his being, that Anj, Pao, and I were meant to do amazing things. For him, it was written, set in stone and clear as day. It breaks my heart in all the best ways to know that, til his dying breath, Dennis Garcia believed with certainty that his kids would do good on this earth.
Dad loved us and my mom so much. He loved his family, his wonderful siblings, so much. It was a fact so blaringly obvious that it colors the sorrow of his passing with such a heartwrenching sweetness. I am the youngest in my family and the youngest among the Garcia cousins so this is still something I am learning to embody. But here is what I know, as evidenced most clearly by my father: if you are ever lucky enough to be loved by a Garcia, as I have been, you will experience a love that is so relentlessly fierce and generous. It will spare no expense, it will give its all, and it will, even in death, persist.
Dad wrote the songs. He made music that made people happy. It was his joy. But beyond that, he had such a heart to lift people up and give them a chance at success. Any time he witnessed talent he would dream up ways to give that person or band their big break. So many of you tonight experienced that: my dad seeing something great in you and how he fought to help you carve out your own place in the world. I hope you know that was his joy, too.
Dad loved to celebrate. He was always the most excited person to see me whenever I'd come home. He'd exclaim then hug me and announce to the family that we would be eating dinner out to celebrate my homecoming. He did this same thing almost every week. The truth is that he just loved finding reasons to celebrate something, loved finding reasons to share good food and time with the people that he loved.
'Do it for the spirit' is something he would say whenever we debated whether we ought to splurge on a trip, a restaurant, or an experience. 'Do it for the spirit,' because he knew that joy wasn't for always. As long as he could seize it, he would. In the last year alone, Dad did so much -- gigged, traveled, painted, wrote, created endlessly, made memory after memory after memory, ticked off goal after goal after goal -- because he knew he was running on borrowed time. He did not want to be idle. He knew he was in the twilight years of his life and because he was Dennis Garcia, he was not going to go quietly.
Dad had all the accomplishments but he was the biggest fan of Anj, Pao, and I. For every project, album, book, workshop, or miniscule achievement we did, he celebrated it by posting all over Facebook. This is why some of you know so much about us even though we may have never met before. My dad's pride in us was legendary and his excitement for life was infectious.
I hope that's how you remember Dad. Not as a dying man, because the truth is that he was never an old dying man, as some would imagine. No, those of us who knew him well saw just how eagerly he wanted to live. Not just exist but live -- live fully, live bravely, live passionately. And he did.
At the start of 2020 I asked him what his goals for the year were. He said he just wanted to make more songs. The man with an entire catalog of songs just wanted to make more. Not because he was greedy but because he was generous. He wanted to tell stories. He wanted people to sing good love songs again. He wanted to get them to dance.
I am at a point in my life where I regularly find myself questioning who I am. But the answer seems pretty simple now: I am Dennis Garcia's daughter.
Dad, in our conversations about death - which you hated - you did ask me to write your eulogy. But it seems impossible to sum you up. Even my best words can't seem to measure the ocean of you. I'll keep trying anyway. Thank you for giving us everything you could. It was always enough. I really miss you, Dad, and I'll keep telling your story.